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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.”
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