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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.”

Stevenson Welcomes Votes at 16 Registration for Referendum

SNP Banffshire & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement that those over 16 are able to vote in next year’s referendum.

In the Referendum for Scottish Independence in 2014 young people between the ages of 16 and 17 will be eligible to vote for the first time.

Electoral registration officers have begun gathering information for the electoral roll which will be used for the referendum. In addition to the usual household registration forms, people will also be given young voter forms to allow details to be collected of everyone who will be aged 16 and 17 on referendum day.

Welcoming the news, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The opportunity for 16 and 17 year olds to participate in next year’s referendum is thanks to the progressive legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament.

“I encourage all young people to take part in Scotland’s future and vote in the upcoming Referendum.

“With a Yes vote in next year’s referendum 16 and 17 year olds will for the first time have the opportunity to get involved in the democratic process and have a say in how their country is governed."
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