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31 December 2013

Local MSP Urges Retailers and Consumers to go Scottish on Poultry

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is backing efforts by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead to promote the Scottish poultry sector with the new Scottish Poultry Plan.

Mr Lochhead is writing to major supermarkets, catering companies and fast food chains to find out where they currently source their chicken and what their future intentions are. Other work being taken forward includes examining the options for creating a premium brand for Scottish chicken, identifying opportunities for poultry farmers to work together to cut costs.

Local MSP Mr Stevenson is also urging consumers in the North-east to think Scottish when buying poultry and check labels on products to see where they are being sourced from.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The poultry sector has been under immense pressure of late with recent announcements by major processors adding to the uncertainty.

“I am therefore very pleased that the Scottish Government recognises the importance of this vital sector to the rural economy and is taking steps to support and promote Scottish-produced poultry.”

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead said:

“In the wake of the horsemeat scandal, people are even more aware now than ever before of where their food comes from. For our local producers in Moray and for Scotland as a whole, where we have a reputation for high quality premium product this has the potential for significant benefit to our vital agricultural sector.

“People want to know what they are buying and Scottish produce has impeccable quality and provenance. The sooner we move to a position where the poultry consumed in Scotland is produced in Scotland, the better for us all – for consumers, for food companies, and, above all, for Scotland’s poultry sector.

“I have no doubt that when consumers are served chicken or purchase chicken at their local supermarket or in a fast food chain they would prefer it to be sourced as close to home as possible.

“Whether on poultry or other meat products the closer to home it is produced the more likely it is to support local farm jobs, hauliers, feed suppliers and other supply chain jobs.

“I am writing to major supermarkets, food service companies and fast food chains to ask where the currently source their chicken, including whole birds, chicken portions and the cooked ingredients used in their meals and sandwiches. Consumers need to know the facts and need transparency.

“Earlier this year Tesco made a very welcome commitment to source 100 per cent fresh Scottish chicken in its stores and I would like to see that replicated elsewhere.”

Scotland Food and Drink Chief Executive James Withers said:

“For any sector to have a future, it needs clear demand from customers. We know there is strong demand from shoppers in Scotland for high quality chicken. A number of supermarkets have a strong track record in sourcing their chicken from Scotland and, clearly, they will have a pivotal role in the future of the sector. We’ll need their support to underpin the poultry plan.

“When it comes to the catering industry though, the picture can be much more mixed. It will be hugely helpful to explore further how the big catering firms might source chicken in future. I’ve spoken to hotel chefs myself who would be interested in sourcing high quality Scottish poultry and switching away from imports. It is these kinds of opportunities we now need to grasp, at the same time as developing a more sustainable processing structure.”

30 December 2013

Concessionary Travel Brings People Together for Christmas


PROGRESSIVE POLICY WILL BE MAINTAINED BY THE SNP

Scotland’s National Older and Disabled Persons Concessionary Travel Scheme runs year-round but is especially important over Christmas and New Year, helping bring families together from across Scotland at a special time.

The concessionary travel scheme - which has been rolled out for injured armed services veterans too – has been hailed as “a service Scotland can be proud of and one that will be protected and maintained by the gains of independence” by Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson.

The average saving per year is approximately £232 to each of the 1.27 million people holding a National Entitlement Card. 145 million journeys were made by card holders in 2012/13.

Labour’s Cuts Commission has raised the prospect of cuts across Scotland’s public spending, warning that “nothing is off the table”. In January 2013, Labour’s then Transport Spokesperson Elaine Murray raised the prospect of cuts to the current scheme, stating “we will be looking at the most effective way to provide support, including whether to raise the age to 65.”

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“This progressive policy enables people to get across Scotland to be with their loved ones; it encourages well-being and helps strengthen family and community ties.

“Funding for concessionary travel has increased every year since its introduction and in the last year has benefited Scotland's older bus users by an average of around £232.

“With the scheme helping older and disabled people to make 145 million journeys last year, it is the height of irresponsibility for Labour leader Johann Lamont’s Cuts Commission to have the policy in their sights.

“All of the Westminster-led parties have threatened Scotland with billions of pounds of cuts to the money Scotland gets back from Westminster.

“This universal service is one of the gains of self-government – and an indication of the kind of country we want to be – and we can do so much more with a Yes vote.”

24 December 2013

Stevenson Urges People to be 'Fire Safe' This Christmas

People are being urged to be extra vigilant over the festive season at the end of a big year of change for the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service.

Fire deaths reduced by 23 per cent last year, and fires in Scotland are also continuing to fall, with house fires dropping by 41% since Scottish Government records began and the lowest in a generation.

But in Scotland, most fatal fires are started by smoking and many are started by people who have also been drinking and are sleepy.
The Fire and Rescue Service recommend:
  • Taking extra care if you’ve been drinking alcohol
  • Never smoke in bed
  • Don’t smoke in your chair if you’ve been drinking or you’re feeling sleepy
  • If you do feel sleepy, smoke outside, standing up or at a window or outside door
Commenting, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast Stewart Stevenson said:

“This year the single Fire and Rescue Service was launched to ensure we reduce unnecessary duplication and cost and making sure maximum funding is channelled to the front line.

“We have seen fire deaths in Scotland continue to fall over the long term and we want to continue that trend but this can only be done if everyone takes the necessary precautions to keep their homes fire safe this Christmas.

“The success of our fire service underlines what Scotland can achieve when we are in control of our own affairs – just imagine what we can do with the full powers of independence that a Yes vote next year can deliver.”

“As we enter into the festive period I urge people to be extra vigilant and keep homes safe.

“One way we can do this is by taking extra precautions to ensure house fires are not started recklessly – many of which are caused by drinking.

“Our fire-fighters put their lives on the line every day and we must pay tribute to the outstanding contribution they make to our communities.”

23 December 2013

Stevenson Welcomes New Arrangements for GPs

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed new contract arrangements for GPs which will mean more time available to spend with patients after changes to were given the green light. The changes, agreed with BMA Scotland, aims to reduce bureaucracy and give doctors more time to focus on the needs of their patients.

Under the contract there will be a review of patient access to GP services across the country. The results will help Health Boards make any necessary improvements.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“The Scottish Government has worked with BMA Scotland in making these changes which will now see a new focus on quality and safety and have GPs more involved in the integration of health and social care as well as the existing anticipatory care plans and patient safety.

“Our local GPs are valued and respected members of our community and, while things have changed greatly from the days when my father was a country GP, being able to see the doctor in person and without too long a wait is still of great importance to patients. I hope that the renewed focus on cutting down admin work and bureaucracy will help achieve that.”

Health Secretary Alex Neil said:

“I am delighted that we have been able to agree this contract in partnership with GPs. It is only by listening to them that we can understand the pressures they feel and crucially how they can best meet the needs of patients.

“There are over 16.2 million GP consultations every year in Scotland, with patients having contact with their GP an average of 4.4 times in a year. We have a great opportunity at this time to make things better, and I believe this contract will benefit patients across Scotland.

“We recognise that GPs are at the heart of our vision for health care in Scotland, ensuring people are provided with quality care in their homes and communities and helping them live longer and healthier lives.

“This is further evidence of our move towards a more Scottish GP contract, reflecting the needs of patients in Scotland. I am pleased that we have been able to agree this direction of travel with GPs and look to build further on this specifically Scottish approach in the future.”

Currently the vast majority of the GP contract in Scotland is negotiated on a Scottish basis. This has allowed key elements of the contract to be tailored to respond to the public health needs of the Scottish population. The contract is worth over £500 million.

Stevenson Launches 2013 Parliamentary Report

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has launched his 2013 Parliamentary Report.

The report will be distributed across towns and villages in the constituency in the coming weeks and is an opportunity to give constituents an update on issues their MSP has been involved in throughout the year, as well as a note of how to get in contact with their MSP.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I’m delighted to be able to launch my 2013 Parliamentary Report. While this year saw me reach my 850th constituency surgery, I feel it is important that I make an effort to engage with my constituents who may not have cause to contact me from one year to the next and to let people know how they can get in touch with me and some examples of the things I’ve been involved in.”

Mr Stevenson also revealed that part of the report is already out of date but he’s very happy that is the case. He explained:

“Part of my report highlights the fight against the decision by the Tories and Independents on Moray Council to close local libraries. However, shortly after going to print, the council caved into the local community-led campaign and decided to reprieve Cullen Library. It just shows how quickly some issues can move and I’m very happy for the people of Cullen that their campaign has paid off.

“It was a privilege to work with the campaigners and I pay tribute to their achievement.”

16 December 2013

Stevenson Welcomes Support for Small Businesses

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the Scottish Government’s proposed funding settlement for local government, which provides funding to maintain Scotland’s place as the best place to do business in the UK, funding to deliver 600 hours of childcare and the continuation of the Council Tax freeze.

Finance Secretary John Swinney has announced that the Scottish Government will act to ensure that Scotland continues to provide the most comprehensive package of support for small businesses anywhere in the UK, by capping the annual increase in business rates poundage at 2%.

The funding settlement also includes £190 million for Local Government over financial years 2014-15 and 2015-16 to fund an increase in nursery care from 475 hours a year to 600 hours a year for 3 and 4 year olds and looked-after 2 year olds from 2014.

Meanwhile the Council Tax freeze will continue, with bills not having risen by a single penny since the SNP took office. By the end of the current Parliament, this will have saved the average household around £1,200.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“Families in the North-east faced massive Council Tax rises before 2007 and in Government the SNP continues to provide financial support for local councils to maintain the Council Tax Freeze to redress the balance of taxation for families at a challenging time.

“Additionally, local small businesses are supported through the SNP Government’s Small Business Bonus Scheme that provides significant rates relief to this lifeblood of our local economy. This maintains Scotland’s competitive edge over other parts of the UK and supports local investment.

“Meanwhile the funding to provide a substantial increase in childcare provision is one that will be of real benefit to thousands of families across the North-east.

“It provides us with a platform upon which to build the childcare revolution we have proposed for an independent Scotland – using the powers of a Yes vote to ensure the increased revenues from supporting people into employment through childcare provision are put to work to fund and maintain further improvements in childcare support instead of disappearing into Westminster’s Treasury.”

12 December 2013

Stevenson Calls for More Leaders of Youth Organisations

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has appealed for more people to volunteer with youth organisations that greatly benefit young people in the North-east.

This week, in a Parliamentary debate congratulating the work of YouthLink Scotland, Mr Stevenson said:

“I visited the annual general meeting of the scouting movement in the North-east recently, which was quite an illuminating experience.

“They had in the room a wide range of projects. Some were outdoor projects to do with self-development, such as the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, for which people were working. Others were community-based projects in which the young people were learning to support people in their communities. I thought that it was a very good mix of projects indeed.

“I left very much enthused by what I had seen but there was clearly a lack of people who wanted to step forward and provide the administrative leadership that is necessary to make that infrastructure of grass roots volunteers work.”

As well as the Scouts, Mr Stevenson also commended the Boys Brigade, and in particular the group in Buckie, which at 250 members is one of Scotland’s biggest.

The debate on Tuesday commended the work of YouthLink Scotland with young people across the country, reflected in their recent inspection report by Education Scotland.

Local MSP Welcomes Advice on Charity Giving

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed advice released by Scottish charity regulator OSCR in relation to donating to charities.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“I welcome the research from OSCR showing that 92% of people in Scotland give to charities over the Christmas period.

“By taking some simple steps to ensure that charity collectors are who they say that they are, people can be assured that their donations will help good causes.”

David Robb, Chief Executive of OSCR, commented:

“We work hard with charities in Scotland to maintain the public’s trust, and I would urge anyone asked to give to make sure their contribution goes to the right causes.”

OSCR recommends that the public should follow the tips below to continue to give safely this Christmas:
  1. Before giving, check the Scottish Charity Register at www.oscr.org.uk to see if the organisation is a charity. A charity’s Register entry will also show whether it is up to date with its annual reporting requirements. Some 418,370 searches of the Scottish Charity Register were made between 1 January and 31 December 2012.
  2. When approached by collectors, check whether they are wearing a proper ID badge, and that any collection tin is sealed. Be wary of ID that looks photocopied or home made. Check that collecting tins and buckets bear the name of the charity and are sealed and undamaged – it’s illegal to collect in ordinary containers.
  3. If in doubt, ask the collector for more information - a genuine fundraiser should be happy to answer questions and explain more about the work of the charity.
  4. Genuine fundraising materials should feature the charity’s name, registered name and a landline contact number. Be wary of those that list only a mobile number.
  5. To check whether a fundraiser is authorised to collect money in a public place, contact your local authority. If it is a private place, check with the owner. A few Scottish charities are exempt from licensing – check with the Regulator.
  6. Take care when responding to emails or clicking direct links to a website to check they are genuine. Instead, search online for your favourite charity to check that you have the right web address.
  7. Carefully review collection bags for clothing and household goods to check whether they are from a genuine charity.
  8. After making these checks, if you think that a collection or appeal is not legitimate, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or to Police Scotland on 101. The Scottish Charity Regulator has powers to act where an organisation claims to be a charity when it is not entered in the Scottish Charity Register.
  9. If in any doubt, contact your favoured charity direct to make a donation.
For further information, contact Mark Simpson on 01382 220446 or email communications@oscr.org.uk

10 December 2013

Stevenson Previews Library Closure Debate

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has spoken ahead of the Scottish Parliament’s debate on the decision taken by Moray Council to close four of its libraries.

(l to r) Angus Robertson MP, Richard Lochhead MSP
Stewart Stevenson MSP
©
 insideMORAY.co.uk
The motion on the library closures will be debated at 5.00pm next Tuesday (17 December).

The Council’s Conservative / Independent administration has decided to press ahead with the closure of four libraries, including the ones in Findochty and Portknockie which are in Mr Stevenson’s constituency.

Previewing next week’s debate, Mr Stevenson commented:

“Whilst I welcome the Council’s decision to keep three of the closure threatened libraries open, the move to close four libraries is still deeply concerning.

“I am not convinced that the impact of these closures has been sufficiently mitigated.

“I look forward to speaking in the debate and listening to the views of other MSPs on this decision. The debate will also present a chance to praise the tireless work of those who have campaigned to oppose these closures.”

The motion to be debated is as follows:

Motion S4M-08484: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party

That the Parliament condemns Moray Council's decision to remove a mobile library from service and close the libraries in Findochty, Hopeman, Portknockie and Rothes; believes that the decision to close four of its 15 libraries could have an adverse impact on families with young children and both older and disabled people; believes that libraries play a valuable role in communities and that the proposed closures would have a detrimental impact on education and learning and restrict access in rural communities to information technology services; further believes that this is particularly concerning as, it understands, the UK Government is increasingly making access to many services online only; notes that the Scottish Library and Information Council has commissioned a review of the Public Library Quality Improvement Matrix, which examines the quality of such services, and recognises the work of the Save our Libraries Moray campaign and others, which aims to bring together the communities affected by the council’s decision.

6 December 2013

Stewart Stevenson MSP delivers Christmas encouragement to Royal Mail posties at Fraserburgh Delivery Office

Stewart Stevenson MSP has visited Royal Mail’s Fraserburgh delivery office to pass on best Christmas wishes and encouragement to the postmen and women at their busiest time of year.

Mr Stevenson was shown round the office by local Delivery Office Manager Peter Grant and was accompanied by local SNP councillors Charles Buchan and Brian Topping. The MSP was introduced to the postmen and women who are working hard doing their bit to sort and deliver all the cards and parcels in the Fraserburgh area in the run-up to Christmas.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“It was great to meet the hard-working Royal Mail postmen and women at Fraserburgh delivery office and to see at first hand just how much effort they put into delivering for people at this time of year. It was particularly fascinating to see my own post being sorted for delivery.

“Postmen and women do such an important job at this time of year. I’d like to thank them for their efforts and wish them all the best over the busy festive period.”

Peter Grant, Royal Mail Delivery Office Manager at Fraserburgh said:

“Christmas is the busiest time of year for Royal Mail. Our people really do pull out all the stops throughout the year to ensure mail is delivered quickly, but even more so over the busy festive period. We are grateful that Mr Stevenson came along to sees the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

“Our people do a fantastic job at this time of year to ensure that friends and families stay in touch through their Christmas greetings and gifts. And as usual, we’d like to remind our customers to post early so that friends and family have longer to enjoy their Christmas greetings!”

The recommended last posting dates for mail are:
  • Thursday 20 December for 1st Class items
  • Tuesday 18 December for 2nd Class items
  • Saturday 22 December for Special Delivery items
The last recommended posting dates for international mail are:
  • Wednesday 5 December for airmail to Asia, Far East, Australia and New Zealand
  • Friday 7 December for airmail to South & Central America, the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East
  • Monday 10 December for airmail to Eastern Europe, the USA, Canada and Japan
  • Wednesday 12 December for airmail items to Western Europe
Customers can help Royal Mail ensure that all their letters, cards and parcels are delivered as quickly and efficiently as possible by taking a few easy steps:
  • Use a 1st Class stamp! – Post 1st Class for just 60p and have your Christmas card delivered the next day – anywhere in the UK.
  • Post early! – Avoid disappointment by posting your cards and parcels early. The last posting dates this Christmas are: December 18 for 2nd Class mail; December 20 for 1st Class mail; December 22 for Special Delivery.
  • Use a postcode! – A clearly addressed card or parcel, with a postcode, and return address on the back of the envelope, will ensure quick and efficient delivery.
  • Use Special Delivery!– For valuable packages and parcels guarantee delivery with Royal Mail’s Special Delivery, which means your gift is tracked, traced and insured against loss.
For more information about Christmas with Royal Mail visit: www.royalmail.com or call 08457 740 740.

Fraserburgh Development Trust Praised in Parliament

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has praised the work of local Development Trusts during a debate in the Scottish Parliament. Mr Stevenson highlighted the activities carried out by volunteers in local development trusts across the North-east.

Particular attention was paid to the work of the Fraserburgh Development Trust (FDT) in the MSP’s contribution. Mr Stevenson praised the Trust’s activities in organising the ‘highly successful Super Saturday’ events. FDT is also engaged currently in a project to secure the future of the bakery at New Pitsligo upon the retirement of the present owner.

Mr Stevenson said:

“Local Development Trusts and the people who work in them are the heart and soul of countless communities in rural Scotland. They are the driving force behind many of the regenerative projects undertaken in these areas.

“These trusts contribute to just about any aspect of daily life. From culture, to fitness, environmental sustainability to boating… the work that ordinary people have put into building and rebuilding their communities is a testament to Scotland’s spirit not just in the domestic sphere, but on the international front as well.

“Fraserburgh, for example, earns its living the hard way-in the fishing industry, both onshore and offshore. It has seen some pretty tough times, but it is definitely on the way up, and Fraserburgh Development Trust is an important part of that.”

4 December 2013

Buckie Shipyard Move Welcomed

SNP representatives in Banffshire have welcomed Macduff Shipyard’s purchase of part of the former Buckie Shipyard, which had recently gone into administration.

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The purchase of part of the Buckie Shipyard site is very welcome and looks to bring shipyard work back to the site. The vitality of the harbour is there to see with the level of interest that the site generated.

“With prospects of multi-billion renewables investment in The Moray Firth, Buckie Harbour has a major role to play.”

Moray MP Angus Robertson said:

“This is good news for Buckie that a quick turnaround of a major part of the former Buckie Shipyard has happened with Macduff Shipyard speaking very positively about the future prospects of their business and for the Buckie site.

“There is obviously still more work to be done by The Moray Council, which owns a significant part of the former yard and I know this is being actively marketed. This investment shows confidence in Buckie and, in particular, the commercial potential of the harbour for the future.”

SNP Councillor in Buckie, Gordon McDonald, who chairs both the Buckie Harbour Advisory Committee and the Buckie Regeneration Group, said:

“I am pleased to see the southern part of the shipyard being deployed and I hope that there will be local jobs created as result of this venture.I have already been in communication with Macduff Shipyards and hope to meet with them soon to discuss their future plans in Buckie.”

2 December 2013

Stevenson Welcomes Expert Interventions on Currency and Debt


COMMENTS BY DEUTSCHE BANK AND CITIGROUP CURRENCY EXPERTS SUPPORTIVE OF STERLING AREA

AND INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND’S DEBT BURDEN "LOWER THAN THE UK's" - EXPERT THINK TANK

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast has today welcomed two significant interventions from impartial experts in the economic debate about Scottish independence.

First, currency experts at Deutsche Bank AG and Citigroup Inc have made supportive comments that the best currency option for an independent Scotland is to retain the pound as part of a currency area with the rest of the UK.

Oliver Harvey, a strategist at Deutsche Bank, said: “Scotland fits an optimum currency area with the rest of the UK very well… It wouldn’t make any sense for Scotland not to have the pound.”

Valentin Marinov, the head of European Group-of-10 currency strategy at Citigroup said: “Given the close economic ties between the two and assuming that these ties need not weaken going forward, the potential introduction of a currency union need not affect significantly trade and other flows.”

Second, the economic case for a Yes vote has been further boosted with an analysis by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), which concludes that: "Scotland’s debt burden will be lower than the UK's in all cases."

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I welcome these interventions in the referendum debate by impartial experts. The views of currency experts at Deutsche Bank AG and Citigroup Inc validate the common-sense position that a sterling area between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK suits the interests of both countries.

“National Institute of Economic and Social Research analysis also concludes that: ‘Scotland’s debt burden will be lower than the UK’s in all cases’ demonstrates that Scotland is financially stronger than the UK as a whole, and that therefore we've got what it takes to be an independent country.

“As the debate continues, the more people are recognising the value of a Yes vote and the gains of independence.”

26 November 2013

Stevenson Welcomes Publication of Guide to an Independent Scotland


URGES ALL BANFFSHIRE AND BUCHAN COAST RESIDENTS TO READ MOST DETAILED INDEPENDENCE BLUEPRINT EVER PRODUCED

SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson is urging all Banffshire and Buchan Coast residents to get involved in the referendum debate by reading the Scottish Government's flagship guide to independence, which was published today (Tuesday).

The 670-page document - the most comprehensive blueprint for independence ever produced by any country ahead of an independence vote - was launched to an audience of hundreds of journalists from across the globe.

The document Scotland’s Future: Your Guide to An Independent Scotland contains a comprehensive Question and Answer section, running to more than 200 pages, providing answers to 650 questions on independence.

The answers – along with downloadable copies of “Scotland’s Future: Your Guide to An Independent Scotland" - are available at www.scotreferendum.com as a fully searchable resource so that residents of Banffshire and Buchan Coast can easily find the answers they are looking for ahead of the referendum.

The guide shows how Scotland will move from a Yes vote on September 18th next year, toward its independence on March 24th 2016 – ahead of the first elections in an independent Scotland. It also describes the huge financial savings that can be made – including half a billion pounds on defence spending, and savings from no longer contributing to the funding of the Westminster Parliament.

Besides addressing the various questions asked about what independence offers, Scotland's Future also outlines the Scottish Government's ambitious plans to use the powers to make Scotland a fairer, more prosperous country – should the SNP win the first elections of an independent Scotland in 2016.

At the heart of this is a transformational increase in childcare provision that would help more people into work – particularly women – and provide up to 35,000 jobs in the process. This only becomes possible with the powers offered by independence, because only an independent Scotland would have the resources to make it happen. Currently all the increased tax revenues that would help make the policy affordable would go to the Westminster Treasury, rather than staying in Scotland.

As well as guarantees on the minimum wage and a ‘triple lock’ on pension increases to ensure that they rise at least in line with the cost of living, the Scottish Government also proposes new measures to permanently reduce energy bills by 5% and ensure basic rate tax allowances and credits to rise in line at least with inflation.

Commenting, MSP Stevenson said:

"This landmark document takes the referendum debate into a new phase. No country in history is as well-equipped as Scotland is to move toward independence, and even the staunchest opponents of Yes now accept that Scotland has got what it takes to be an independent country.

“The guide and the answers it provides will show clearly and simply the difference that we can make in Scotland if decisions on Scotland’s future are taken by those who care most about Scotland, that is the people who live and work here.

"The referendum on 18th September next year is a vote unlike any other - it is the biggest opportunity we have had as a country in 300 years. That's why I'm calling on everyone in Banffshire and Buchan Coast - regardless of what their current views are on independence - to read this guide, to compare it with any alternative future for Scotland and make up your own mind.”

24 November 2013

MSP & Councillors Comment on Offshore Windfarm Proposals

Commenting on the news that Statoil are proposing to develop a windfarm off the Buchan coast, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“Renewables technology will be an important cornerstone to Scotland’s future economy and it is no surprise that Peterhead has been chosen to be one of the key locations in that development.

“Peterhead’s deep water harbour makes it an ideal location for the offshore renewables industry. The town’s designation as a strategic hub for offshore renewables will no doubt have been a key factor in Statoil’s decision.”

Peterhead South & Cruden councillor Stephen Smith said:

 “Provided this can be done safely and securely and without any detriment to vessels or fishing, I would generally always favour offshore turbines over onshore ones.”

Peterhead North & Rattray councillor Fiona McRae added:

“The principle of offshore wind power is one which I support. The huge advances in technology mean that the renewables industry is constantly changing an adapting and I think offshore windpower will become increasingly important in the future.”

Stevenson Raises Lonmay Road Safety Concerns with Officials

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has met with senior officials from Transport Scotland and trunk roads agency BEAR to discuss concerns regarding road safety on the A90 Trunk Road at the Cortes area of Lonmay.

Mr Stevenson arranged the meeting, at the Ban-Car Hotel in Lonmay, which included representatives from the local Community Council, local councillor Charles Buchan, and constituents who had contacted him in light of the recent serious accident at the location, when a lorry left the road and ploughed into a residential property causing severe damage.

Following the meeting, Mr Stevenson commented:

“I was pleased that Transport Scotland and BEAR Scotland officials agreed to my request that they come to Lonmay to hear the views of local residents and the Community Council at first hand.

“The officials agreed to take forward ideas for the short term, including flashing chevron warning signs at the bends, as well as look into possible longer term solutions, which I welcome.

“I do hope that these measures will go some way to improving the situation and we will follow these up with BEAR.”

Local councillor, Charles Buchan said:

“I felt this was a very useful meeting. There is a history of accidents at this location over many years. A lot of these will be down to driver error but the authorities need to look and see what further interventions they can make to reduce the possibilities of such errors becoming accidents.

“For my part, I undertook to raise the issue of speed limits on the roads leading to this area which are council-maintained, and also speak to the Education Department about school bus access.”

22 November 2013

MP & MSP Comment on St Fergus Post Office Relocation

Local representatives Stewart Stevenson MSP and Eilidh Whiteford MP have commented on the confirmation that the Post Office branch in St Fergus is to be relocated to the Public Hall in the village.

The Post Office will start operating from the Public Hall on Tuesday, 10 December 2013.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am pleased that the Post Office will be retaining its service in St Fergus.

“The Post Office consulted with local people regarding these changes and I note that no concerns were raised by local people.”

Eilidh Whiteford MP commented:

“Post Offices are a vital part of our local communities, which I believe need to be retained.

“People who live in smaller settlements should not be disconnected from services simply for where they have chosen to live.

“I therefore welcome the commitment to St Fergus shown by the Post Office.”

The Post Office in St Fergus’ Village Hall will be open from 9.00am to 12.00pm on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Stevenson Welcomes Announcement on Nursery Provision

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has welcomed the announcement from the Minister and Children Young People, Aileen Campbell MSP, that more than 100,000 families will benefit from a yearly saving of £700 owing to the Scottish Government’s increased nursery provision.

The increase in nursery provision from 475 hours to 600 hours, which has been proposed in legislation which is currently being looked at by MSPs, will add up to a saving of £85 million across Scotland. The extra hours will be available to three and four year olds, as well as the most vulnerable two year olds, reaching an estimated 106,400 families across the country.

Local authorities are being given £50 million in 2014/15, with Aberdeenshire Council receiving £2.7 million and Moray Council £900,000 to support this. Councils will from next year have to ask parents what they want for their children in terms of nursery provision, and offer more choice.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The early years of a child’s development are crucial, and I am glad to see that the Scottish Government is committed to extending nursery care.

“Moreover, this is another sign of the Scottish Government’s desire to help families who wish to get back into work, rather than taking punitively forcing them to do so, as the UK Government is doing.”

Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell MSP said:

“The increase in nursery care from 475 to 600 hours a year will make a real difference to families both in terms of organising day to day life and in balancing increasingly tight household budgets.

“In giving more free hours to three and four year olds and the most vulnerable two year olds, we are ensuring that 121,000 children will have access to more high quality care. This will help the education of our children and support parents who want to get back to work.

“Our consultations show that for many families the cost of childcare is prohibitive; it takes up a significant portion of family income and can dictate what work or training parents can take on.”

21 November 2013

Stevenson Welcomes Announcement that Independence Would Boost Job Opportunities

SNP Banffshire & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed announcement from the First Minister that Independence would create a jobs boost.

In the 200-page report, “Economic policy choices in an independent Scotland”, Mr Salmond set out the economic policy choices available for an independent Scotland. The country would be free to pursue policies better tailored to Scotland’s needs. These policies would maximise the country’s potential and deliver a fairer society by creating more jobs. Some of the policies include diversifying Scotland’s industrial base—so as to boost employment by 21,000—promoting participation in the labour market, and reducing the corporation tax to draw investments that would otherwise go to London and the Southeast. Along with reforming the structures that facilitate trade in a way that would boost the brand recognition of Scotland’s economy, these key policies would create over 100,000 jobs in the long-term. Commenting, Mr Stevenson said

“It is no surprise to see that Independence would allow the Scottish Government the freedom to do away with that one-size-fits-all Westminster mentality and pursue policies better suited for Scotland.

“We aim to create a fair and equal society unlike that created by the current Westminster system, which has produced one of the largest gaps between the rich and poor the developed world has ever seen.

“It’s rather simple. With its vast resources and huge human talent, an unhindered Scotland means a successful Scotland. A Yes-vote in 2014 would not only herald a jobs boom, but also a new era for the Scottish people.”

19 November 2013

Stevenson Responds to Moray Council Libraries U-Turn

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire and the Buchan Coast has responded to news that Moray Council Independent and Tory Administration has announced a major climb down on library closures.

Moray Council have stated that three libraries out of seven libraries will now remain open - Burghead, Dufftown and Cullen.

The Independent and Tory Administration claim that the reason for the U-turn was because they could not afford a lengthy period of litigation.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said

“Obviously, I welcome the news that Moray Council have decided to keep three libraries open, one of which that is based in Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituency.

“However, despite this news, I feel that there is a strong case for the remaining libraries earmarked for closure to remain open.

“Libraries provide a vital service to rural communities, and the Independent and Tory Councillors in Moray Council have completely disregarded this. It is to the credit of the campaigners that they have forced the current administration to reconsider its decision. In light of this, I now hope that the Council will carefully consider the future of remaining four libraries and the mobile service."

14 November 2013

Stevenson Backs Befriending Networks

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has signed up to back Befriending Networks at an event in Parliament this week.

The Befriending Networks offers supportive, reliable relationships through volunteer befrienders to people who would otherwise be socially isolated. It has been shown that befriending often provides people with a new direction in life, opens up a range of activities and leads to increased self-esteem and self-confidence.

The network is an umbrella body supporting and representing 180+ members befriending services in Scotland. These services support people of all ages who are isolated for whatever reason, by recruiting, training, matching, deploying and supporting volunteer befrienders.

The Befriending Network is currently in the second year of a three-year funding cycle, from which they receive £40,000 a year in core funding from the Scottish Government.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“With an ageing population it is of utmost importance that we secure funding for the befriending sector and I’m pleased the Scottish Government is supporting this.

“Such a humanitarian effort also affords us budget benefits as befriending reduces the burden on other services which people may use inappropriately as they seek social contact.

“The Befriending Network particularly benefits younger and older people in our communities and I’m delighted to lend my support to the organisation and help promote the good work it carries out.”

10 November 2013

MSP to Sign Cullen Library "Book of Hope"

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson will sign the ‘Book of Hope’ at Cullen Post Office, Seafield Street, Cullen on Monday 11 November [tomorrow] at 12.30pm.

The Book of Hope has been started by local people campaigning to save Cullen Library from the decision to axe the facility by Moray Council’s Conservative/Independent administration. The book is for local people to write and record what their library means to them and campaigners have invited their MSP to add his name to many people who have already signed.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“The tenacity of the local campaigners is commendable and underlines the very strong case that exists for retaining the library here in Cullen.

“I will be taking the case for local libraries to Parliament next week with cross-party support and, even at this late stage, I would urge Moray Council’s administration to do the sensible thing and rethink this fundamentally-flawed decision.”

7 November 2013

Moray MP & MSPs Welcome Campaigners' Library Challenge

Moray’s MSP, Richard Lochhead, MP, Angus Robertson, and Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, have welcomed the decision by campaigners to save Moray’s libraries to challenge the decision in court.

The challenge, being made after receiving positive early legal advice, is being made following the decision by Moray Council’s Independent and Tory Administration to close 7 of its 15 libraries as a budget measure.

SNP Councillors and the local MP and MSP have opposed and condemned the decision, which has been deeply unpopular.

Commenting on the campaign group’s legal move Richard Lochhead MSP said:

“Today’s announcement by Save Our Libraries Moray, that are now set to challenge the Council’s decision in court is to be welcomed. I have been inundated with messages about the decision taken by Moray’s Independent and Tory Councillors and I strongly believe that they have taken the wrong decision and it will have a completely disproportionate impact.

“The SNP is fully behind the library campaigners and believe the Council must think again. The Council’s administration should now reconsider their wrong decision to close seven libraries, which has been roundly condemned by local communities, prominent authors and many others. They should accept they are wrong and back down rather than taking further financial and reputational damage by fighting this court challenge.”

Angus Robertson MP said:

“SNP politicians in Moray have voted against these library closures and we have joined the campaigners in protest against the decision. This is a passionate campaign about the saving of a critical local service.

“Libraries are at the heart and soul of our local communities and to close them is complete folly. Moray Council’s Independent and Tory Councillors should look long and hard at themselves and consider whether the comparatively small amount of savings being achieved is worth the damage this will do to communities. They must accept the clear opposition from the communities they represent and leave Moray’s libraries alone.”

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, whose constituency includes the communities of Cullen, Portknockie and Findochty, who are set to lose their libraries, said:

"The communities of Moray have been rightly shocked by the decision to close seven libraries, which seems to have no strategic or logical basis.

“I congratulate the campaigners on their tenacity in pushing forward with a legal challenge to the decision and I would urge the Independents and Tories in Moray Council’s administration to reconsider the closures and listen to the communities they claim to represent.”

Empowerment Bill a Major Development for Local Self-Determination

The launch of the consultation of the Community Empowerment Bill has been described as a major development for local self-determination by local MSP Stewart Stevenson.

The Bill proposes to build upon Scotland’s world leading community right to buy legislation by making it fit for all communities in Scotland and making it more straightforward for communities to take on public sector lands and buildings.

It will also provide a new statutory role for community councils when it comes to the Common Good, while giving communities a greater voice in the services the public sector delivers, and proposes to update Scotland’s land reform legislation by extending the community right to buy to urban areas.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The people who know best what needs to be done to improve life in a local community are the people who live and work there.

“This bill is an opportunity to give people in Scotland’s communities the tools they need to shape the future of their local areas.

“The launch of this bill is a significant step towards greater local self-determination, and I would encourage as many people as possible to make their views known in the consultation on what is being proposed.

“Just as the SNP believe that it is the people of Scotland who are best placed to make decision affecting Scotland, it is also true that the people best place to make decisions about local communities are the people who live and work in them.

“This is a major opportunity to build upon Scotland’s world leading community right to buy legislation and empower communities across Scotland.”

Stevenson Welcomes Lifting of US Ban on Scotch Beef

SNP Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the news that the United States has lifted its ban on Scotch Beef. This comes after a decision on Friday to issue new import rules for cattle and beef that will comply with international standards for the prevention of mad cow disease.

This is the first time that Scotch Beef will be available to American consumers after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) banned EU beef and other bovine and ruminant products in January 1998. The ban was imposed at the height of concerns over the BSE disease in cattle.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said

“I am delighted to see that the USDA has taken a monumental decision to break down such a long-standing trade barrier so that the two nations can once again enjoy a flourishing trade and investment partnership.

“For 30 years the United States has continued to be the single largest export market of Scottish goods and services. With the lift of this ban the road is clear for the US to now become the greatest appreciator of Scotch Beef.

“It is clear that after 16 years both countries are eager to resume trade in the red meat industry. That is why it is imperative that the UK Government act now to facilitate export activity and avoid any unnecessary delays later.”

5 November 2013

MSP Comments on Banff Academy Inspection Report

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has today written to the Chief Executive of Aberdeenshire Council regarding the inspection that was recently carried out by Education Scotland at Banff Academy.

Inspectors awarded the school five ‘weak’ ratings in the quality indicators that it was assessed on.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“Whilst I know that the staff at Banff Academy work very hard to ensure that they provide a quality education for all pupils, this report shows that there is considerable room for improvement at the school.

“Having studied the inspectors’ report, I have written to the Chief Executive of Aberdeenshire Council to ask what measures the school and the Council will be taking to build on the inspectors’ findings.”

4 November 2013

Scientific Warning on CCS Delays Shows Reality of Westminster's Research Obstruction

The No campaign faced embarrassment today as the launch of its ‘academics together’ group was overshadowed by warnings from scientists that Scotland’s progress towards Carbon Capture technology is being held back by the Westminster Government.

Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, leading expert in the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) field Professor Stuart Haszeldine warned that people in the field are ‘angry and depressed’ by the lack of progress being made.

The Professor who chairs the Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage group hit out at the delays, stating “what we’re asking is we get on and do something about it – we stop talking, we start doing. People who’re working on the pure science are depressed that the message is not being heard adequately and the people who’re trying to do something practical working with industry are getting quite angry that they’re being ignored as well and just parked as continually Governments kick the can down the road in the UK and in Europe.

Progress towards CCS technology in Scotland has repeatedly hit roadblocks put up by the Westminster Government. In 2007, BP was forced to withdraw from previous plans to develop the technology in Peterhead, citing Westminster dithering and delay while in 2011 plans to install CCS at Longannet collapsed after Westminster failed to reach an agreement on funding.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“These warnings that scientists in Scotland are ‘angry and depressed’ by the lack of progress emanating from Westminster are deeply concerning, and ones that everyone in Scotland would do well to heed.

“On the very day that the No campaign has launched its academics group, the roadblocks to scientific progress in Scotland that Westminster all too often puts up have been made abundantly clear.

“Why does the No campaign think it is better for Westminster to make decisions for Scotland, when time and time again they have dithered and delayed when it comes to backing carbon capture and storage?

“Scotland can and should be playing a leading role in the development of this vital technology, and the fact that Westminster has hindered progress in this area - under both Labour and Tory-led UK governments - shows why Scotland can achieve more with the powers of independence.

“The fact is that with five universities in the world top 200 – more by head of population than anywhere else in the world – Scotland is in a fantastic position internationally, and that is something we can build on in an independent Scotland.

“A Yes vote next year will allow people in Scotland to elect a Government that always supports and prioritises Scottish research, and the development of new technology in Scotland."

Professor Stuart Haszeldine’s remarks can be heard at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03flxnf

23 October 2013

MP & MSP Comment on Findochty Post Office Proposals

Proposed changes to Findochty Post Office have been broadly welcomed by Stewart Stevenson, MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, and Angus Robertson, MP for Moray.

The Post Office plan to move their Findochty branch to the Findochty Pharmacy on Seaview Road. The consultation on the proposed changes closes on 3 December 2013.

Stewart Stevenson MSP commented:

“I welcome the Post Office’s commitment to Findochty. I am pleased that most Post Office services will continue to be available in Findochty.

“I would encourage anyone with any concerns to make their views known.”

Angus Robertson MP said:

"This proposed move looks fairly positive, retaining a Post Office in Findochty with longer opening hours. It is still important for people to take time to respond to the consultation, however, to ensure that any issues such as access arrangements are well covered.

"Post Offices are hugely valued by communities across Moray and I would urge anyone that wants to comment on the plans to do so."

22 October 2013

Stevenson Signs Epilepsy Pledge

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has signed the Epilepsy Consortium Scotland’s pledge for equal access to care. Stewart joins fellow SNP MSP supporters, including the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Alex Neil and Public Health Minister Michael Matheson in backing a fair provision of services for the 54,000 people living with epilepsy across Scotland.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“Around 700 of my constituents have or will develop epilepsy. It is important to ensure that when people need to access epilepsy care there is parity in what’s available to them.”

Epilepsy Consortium Scotland (ECS) Chair Allana Parker was encouraged that so many MSPs, including those on the Cross-Party Group on Epilepsy headed by Convener Kenneth Gibson, came by the ECS exhibition at the 2013 SNP conference to find out more about patchy services in parts of Scotland.

She remarked:

“Eight people are newly diagnosed with epilepsy each and every day. For some, access to specialist clinicians and nurses is still a geographical lottery. This is why our members are currently mapping epilepsy services run by health, education, social care providers, and the third sector. Details of postcode gaps will be passed to the Scottish Government and joint working agencies so that we can assist them to redress this situation.”

Scottish Farmers Losing Out on CAP Funding says Stevenson

Stewart Stevenson, MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has highlighted figures produced by the Scottish Government which show the full extent to which Scottish farmers are losing out as a result of the Westminster Government’s failure to negotiate a favourable deal on the Common Agricultural Policy. The figures demonstrate that payments to Scottish farmers are likely to be the lowest in Europe for both Pillar 1 and Pillar 2.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“These figures really do show the extent to which Westminster is letting down Scotland’s farmers. The analysis shows how the UK Government negotiated Scotland down to the bottom of the league tables of EU funding.

“Scotland went into the negotiations with the third lowest level of farm support in Europe for Pillar 1. The EU then agreed a formula to close the gap between the countries with lowest payments with those of the highest.

“Scotland is now likely to be leapfrogged by Latvia and Estonia, whose Ministers sit at the top table and make their farmers a priority. In contrast, we are looking at being rooted at the bottom of the league.

“Scotland didn’t benefit from the new funding formula because it only applies to member states. As a result, Scottish farmers have lost out to the tune of a massive £850 million over the whole budget period.

“In the same negotiations, 16 out of the 28 countries negotiated an uplift in their rural development budgets. But Westminster didn’t lift a finger for Scotland – the country with the lowest share of that fund in Europe.

“Our farmers are getting a raw deal from a CAP budget which was negotiated without Scotland’s agriculture sector in mind. This potentially has huge implications for a very rural area such as Banffshire & Buchan Coast, particularly given the importance of agriculture to the region’s economy.

“It is clearer than ever before that Scotland’s farming industry needs a voice at the EU’s top table, standing up for its interests.”

The analysis can be found here: www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/farmingrural

21 October 2013

Stevenson Welcomes Engagement on A96 Dualling

MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast Stewart Stevenson has welcomed Transport Scotland’s commitment to engage with the public on plans to dual the A96 at a series of exhibitions.

Transport Scotland officials will be available at these meetings to explain the context of the current work on the A96 dualling programme and to discuss the planning and design process, and how it informs the dualling programme.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“The A96 is a key road for the North and North-east of Scotland, and I am therefore pleased that the Scottish Government is committed to complete the dualling the A96 by 2030.

“By engaging with the public, I hope that Transport Scotland will ensure that work on this route has the support of those who reside alongside the road, as well as those who use it on a regular basis.

“I would encourage anyone with an interest to attend one of the meetings to make their views known.”

Public engagement events will take place in 9 communities along the length of the A96 and include The Longmore Hotel, Keith on Tuesday 19 November and The Gordon Arms Hotel, Huntly on Thursday 21 November. Both events are open from 12.00pm to 7.00pm.

15 October 2013

Stevenson Welcomes Broadband Boost for Buckie

Local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement that Buckie will be one of the locations set to benefit from fibre broadband services, which provide speeds of up to 80Mbps, from early 2014.

The first eight areas which will go live in Scotland as part of a multi-million pound publicly-funded fibre broadband project were announced today.

Representatives of the partnership funding the £146m rollout were in Milton of Leys in Inverness to mark the milestone for a project which, together with BT’s commercial rollout, will ultimately bring faster broadband to around 84% of the region’s premises.

More than 16,000 homes and businesses on the outskirts of the Highland capital Inverness, and along the coast into Moray and Banffshire, will be the first to benefit.

Hailed as one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in Scotland’s recent history, the Highlands and Islands rural broadband project is being led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and delivered by BT. It is partly-funded by the Scottish Government, HIE and BT.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“This announcement of a major fibre broadband upgrade in Buckie is very welcome news indeed. It is critical to our local economy that we see investment in new communications technology to enable business to remain competitive with major urban centres and to attract new investment in businesses, including life sciences, which are viewed as so important to the area’s economic future.

“The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that a world class digital infrastructure is in place across Scotland by 2020 and that a significant increase in coverage has been achieved by 2015. This investment will ensure that this ambition is achieved.”

Stuart Robertson, HIE’s Director of Digital Highlands and Islands, said:

“This is by far the most challenging rural broadband rollout in the UK and we are delighted that our first communities will be accessing services within months.

“Commercial rollout taking place across the UK would have reached no more than one in five premises in the Highlands and Islands. So the project’s target of 84% coverage levels for the region will represent a significant step change.

“This first rollout of fibre broadband will be available to customers who are connected to a number of street cabinets within the eight exchange areas. Homes and businesses will be able to check availability over the coming weeks and there will be further work carried out in these areas to extend the reach as the rollout progresses.”

The announcement is the first in a series of updates which will be made quarterly for the life of the project as the fibre network rolls out across the region. Anyone interested in superfast broadband rollout can keep up to date on a new Scotland wide website www.scotlandsuperfast.com being introduced by the Scottish Government.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead said:

“The Scottish Government is determined to ensure that all communities can benefit from the opportunities of the digital age. This is demonstrated by our substantial investment - totalling about £64 million - in this infrastructure project, which is one of the most ambitious in Scotland’s history. I am delighted to see rural communities and businesses beginning to enjoy the benefits from this high quality digital connectivity which will be critical in ensuring the long-term economic prosperity of the Highlands and Islands.”

BT is to lay more than 800km of fibre backbone cable on land, and 400km more via 20 subsea crossings as part of the project.

Brendan Dick, Director, BT Scotland, said:

“Today’s announcement means that early next year access to fibre broadband will be available to more than 14,400 homes and businesses around Ardersier, Buckie, Culloden, Milton of Leys, Fortrose, Hopeman, Lhanbryde and Lossiemouth, along with an additional 1,825 in Elgin and on the Inverness Macdhui exchange.

“This exciting technology will play a vital part in the area’s future success. It is crucial if local businesses are to continue to thrive in a competitive environment. Improved communications enhance businesses, helping them develop and generate more recruitment opportunities. Fibre broadband is also a huge boost for local households whether they use the internet for on-line training and development, shopping or entertainment.”

SNP Representatives Comment on Culture Secretary's Intervention in Moray Library Closures

SNP representatives in Moray have welcomed developments in the ongoing libraries closure saga impacting communities across Moray.

Scottish Government Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has written to Moray Council expressing her concern and urging them to reconsider the closures.

Meanwhile the Equalities & Human Rights Commission has written to the SNP Opposition Group in Moray Council setting out the issues that a court could be asked to consider in relation to the decision by Tory and Independent councillors last month.

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“This is hugely significant for a Government Minister to intervene in this way and in such strong terms.

“It underlines the case made by the local campaigners that this is a short-sighted decision which, in this age of online business, will leave people who don’t have access to computers of their own at a severe disadvantage.”

Commenting the SNP’s Opposition Education Spokesperson on Moray Council, Cllr Mike Shand, said:

“The high level intervention by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop is very welcome and underlines the serious concerns held by many, many people about the decision to close seven libraries.

“In the meantime I know that the campaigners against the closures have been seeking legal opinion and the response we have now received from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is very helpful in setting out what the court would have to consider in relation to the Council’s equality duty and its decision making process.

“The SNP remains fully behind the efforts being made to prevent these closures, which we believe is a fundamentally flawed decision from an Independent/Tory coalition that is making the wrong choices with little regard for the consequences.”

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said:

“Moray Council’s Independent and Tory Councillors are facing fierce criticism from both local communities in Moray and from people across the country - from well known authors like Allan Bissett and Janice Galloway to the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, who has roundly condemned this decision.

“It is time Moray Council’s Administration reconsidered this decision and responded positively to the concerns and priorities of people across Moray.”

Moray MP Angus Robertson said:

“It has been said that ‘Libraries are the mind and soul of their communities’ and the response to the crazy decision by Independent and Tory councillors in Moray to close over half of the region’s libraries quite clearly demonstrates that community link.

“On the one hand the Independent Convener of Moray Council is espousing the virtues of internet access as a way round reduced library provision, while on the same day he congratulated an organisation for their face-to-face work in their communities in an age of ipads and Twitter. This two-facedness is symptomatic of a Council Administration that has no strategy and no vision for Moray.”

9 October 2013

Stevenson Celebrates Energy Action Scotland 30th Anniversary

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast has this week highlighted the contributions achieved by national charity group Energy Action Scotland.

Energy Action Scotland is a charity organization that campaigns to promote awareness of the issue of fuel poverty, researches the causes and effects, and secures public and private investment for effective solutions.

Celebration of the charity’s 30th anniversary comes amidst news this week that the Scottish Government has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the £74million fund allocated to help people with home heating bills.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said

“Energy Action Scotland looks for effective solutions, hounds Government and searches for private investment. We should all hold that national charity dear to our hearts in the present environment because, when we address fuel poverty, we also address employment and climate change.

“In my own constituency, the work of Energy Action Scotland has made all the difference to 31% of rural dwellers who are spending 10% or more of their income on fuel alone. Their research today paves the way for the solutions tomorrow

“On a global level, organizations such as these have not only secured Scotland’s role as a leading figure in the world’s struggle to combat carbon emissions… but has shaped a greener world for future generations

“Funding energy efficiency is a step in the right direction… but if we want to reach our goal of eradicating fuel poverty by 2016 we need the full powers of independence to address not just some, but all the causes of fuel poverty”

8 October 2013

Stevenson Welcomes Campaign to Raise Awareness for Home Energy Hotline

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast has this week welcomed the news that the Scottish Government has made £74m available for home improvements that increase energy efficiency.

In November 2012, the Scottish Government launched the Green Homes Cashback scheme, which gave householders cash back towards the cost of maximizing energy efficiency. Local authorities and registered social landlords can apply for a grant of up to £1m for homes under their care, and up to £1200 per home.

Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, launched the campaign which highlights the benefits available to people in Scotland through the Scottish Government’s Home Energy Scotland hotline [0808 808 2282] which offers free impartial energy advice and support.



A recent survey has shown that 75 per cent of people in Scotland are worried about their energy bills while 70 per cent of Scottish bill-payers said last winter’s energy bills had a negative impact on their disposable incomes.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said

“Too many people in Scotland are simply unaware of the energy initiatives to which they are entitled. The SNP is committed to educating people on the options available to them in the struggle against fuel poverty.

“With £74m set aside to help Scottish people reduce their fuel bills, and the cooperation between the Scottish Government and groups such as the Citizens Advice Scotland, there is no reason why we cannot reach our goal of eradicating fuel poverty by 2016

“No one should be worried about their energy bills in a country as rich in energy as ours.”

6 October 2013

Local MP & MSPs Encourage Residents to Vote for Moray Funding Bids

Moray’s local MP and two MSPs are encouraging residents to get behind funding bids from the region or the Bank of Scotland’s Community Fund.
The Bank of Scotland’s Community Fund provides grants to good causes in villages, towns and cities across Scotland and, from 23 September to 1 November, the public have the chance to vote for the local good cause that matters most to them.

In Moray four local charities have submitted bids for funding. The charities are:

Findhorn Village Centre, Findhorn, which aims to attract young people and their parents and help integrate newcomers to the community.

The Aila Coull Foundation, Elgin, which aims to fund research projects into the rare and aggressive childhood cancer Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.

The Sunshine Developmental Playgroup, Keith, which provides facilities for children with developmental delays or disorders in physical, developmental or behavioural terms.

Crossreach Counselling Moray, Buckie, which provides a free counselling service to young people and adults covering issues such as depression, bereavement, low self-esteem, abuse and many other difficulties.

Commenting Angus Robertson MP said:

“The Bank of Scotland’s Community Fund has provided a significant amount of support to good causes in communities across Scotland in recent years and the four good causes in Moray are all engaged in significant efforts to improve things for their community in a range of different ways.”

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said:

“I would encourage people in Moray to get behind the local organisations that are bidding for funding in this year’s awards from the Bank of Scotland Community Fund. A fantastic amount of really beneficial work is being carried out in Moray by these groups and they are very deserving of their communities’ support in there funding bids.”

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said(R):

“There is a great opportunity for communities to recognise the efforts of these local organisations by going onto the Bank of Scotland communities website and casting a vote for the cause that matters most to them and giving them the support they deserve.”

More details of the organisations bidding for funding and how to vote for them is at:

http://www.bankofscotlandcommunities.co.uk/

Voting closes on 1 November.


(R)I am a small shareholder in Lloyds Bank plc. This is voluntarily declared in my Parliamentary Register of Interests.

3 October 2013

MSP Stevenson Welcomes Funding Boost to Fight Bedroom Tax in Banffshire and Buchan Coast

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast has welcomed confirmation that the Aberdeenshire Council will see an injection of Scottish Government funding worth £883,262 to help people affected by the Bedroom Tax.

The Scottish Government has pledged £20 million to boost Discretionary Housing Payments in local authorities across Scotland, to provide the most help possible to people affected by the London Government’s Bedroom Tax. This will see the Aberdeenshire Council benefit to the tune of £1,478,087 – taking funding for Discretionary Housing Payments in Aberdeenshire Council Area to the legal maximum.

Shelter Scotland led the way in campaigning for an additional £20 million to top up Discretionary Housing Payments and have publicly welcomed the funding from the Scottish Government.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The Bedroom Tax is a horrendous policy that should never have made it off the drawing board of the Tories in Westminster. It is utterly unfair and is devastating the lives of people across Scotland who have no way to avoid the financial penalties Westminster has imposed.

“The Scottish Government is doing what it can, with £20 million recently announced to boost Discretionary Housing Payments to help people in financial trouble across Scotland.

“That will mean an additional £883,262 to help people in Aberdeenshire Council area and comes on top of the Scottish Government’s broader £68 million package to mitigate Westminster’s welfare cuts.

“Of course while these efforts to mitigate the worst effects of Westminster’s welfare cuts are welcome, Scotland should not be in the position of simply having to clean up Westminster’s mess.

“A Yes vote in next year’s referendum will be a vote to end the Bedroom Tax and ensure that nothing like it can be imposed on Scotland by a Westminster Government ever again.”

2 October 2013

MSP Opens Peterhead Flower Show

Stewart Stevenson, MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, opened the Peterhead and District Chrysanthemum and Horticultural Society annual show on Saturday.

Peter Scott, the Society’s President welcomed Mr Stevenson to open the show, which took place at the Rescue Hall in Peterhead. Mr Stevenson’s wife, Sandra, then presented the prizes.

Speaking after the show, Stewart said:

“Sandra and I were delighted to be asked to the Peterhead and District Chrysanthemum and Horticultural Society annual show.

“Peter Scott gave us an excellent tour of the stunning displays. It was clear that a lot of hard work had been put into the show by those who had entered and organised the event.

“I would like to congratulate on all those who took part in the show, especially those who took home prizes.”

Stevenson Welcomes Report from Fiscal Commission Working Group

SNP Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the second report from the Fiscal Commission Working Group recommending that both a short-term and long-term savings fund be established immediately following independence.

The Working Group highlighted the economic opportunities that Scotland’s oil and gas wealth presents and how to best maximise on these so to secure long-lasting prosperity for generations to come.

The only other major oil producing country in the world that doesn’t have an oil fund is Iraq – but it does have a form of investment through its Development Fund.

Commenting afterwards, Mr Stevenson said

“The report highlights that if oil resources had been invested into a savings fund in the past then the country could now have accumulated financial assets of between £82 billion and £116 billion, as opposed to a share of the UK’s huge debt.

“Successive Westminster Governments have used North Sea oil as a short-term cash cow to be squeezed at every opportunity to prop up the Treasury’s crumbling books.

“Such an analysis of the reality of where our wealth has gone makes it difficult for Anti-Independence politicians to insist that together is better.

“The report reinforces what has been clear to the SNP all along—Scotland has as suitable macroeconomic framework in place that is based on a realistic picture of our resources."

Stevenson Welcomes Plans to Further Rights of Carers

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the Scottish Government’s plans to bring about specific legislation that will promote, defend and extend the rights of carers and young carers.

A widespread consultation on this new legislation for carers and young carers will start before the end of this year. This marks a significant step forward in recognising and addressing the needs of the 657,000 unpaid adult carers and up to 100,000 young carers who care for their families, friends and neighbours.

Stewart Stevenson commented:

“Carers play a vital role in looking after friends and relatives.

“However, we must remember that when taking on these roles, there must also be support for carers available. Carers need to be able to socialise and remain in work if they wish to do so.

“I therefore welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to take action on this issue and would encourage anyone who encourage any carers in Banffshire and Buchan Coast to respond to the consultation when it opens.”

First Minister Alex Salmond MSP announced the legislation plans at the 2nd annual Carers’ Parliament in Edinburgh. Speaking at the event the First Minister, said:

“This Government recognises the vital role that carers play in looking after the most vulnerable in society. We know that being an unpaid carer can be a difficult and isolating experience and we want to do all that we can to make sure we are doing everything within our powers to help carers in Scotland.

“Progress is being made including the setting up of this Carers’ Parliament - giving carers a voice and an important platform to raise and discuss issues of concern.

“However, more must be done to ensure carers are supported properly and are fully involved in decisions affecting their lives and those they care for. Therefore I am delighted to announce that the Scottish Government will consult on legislation to support carers and young carers. The consultation period will start before the end of the year and I would encourage all those who are interested or affected to feed into the consultation process.”

Simon Hodgson, Director of Carers Scotland, said:

“Most people will be carers at some point in their lives and today’s announcement marks another important milestone in recognising the crucial role carers play in homes across the country. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to ensure carers are able to help shape the details in the months ahead.”

Shared Care Scotland, Chief Executive, Don Williamson, said:

“Over recent years the Scottish Government has worked together with a range of interests to promote the vital contribution made by carers in Scotland, and to increase the levels of support available to help carers with their caring role. This is making a real difference in many areas but we all appreciate that more must be done to ensure carers can rely on consistent availability of support across the country. We therefore warmly welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment today to build on the progress that has been made, and to consult on further ways carers can be supported, and their own health protected, through new duties and legislation.”
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