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17 December 2014

Christmas Website Looks to Net over £1K for Banffshire and Buchan Coast

An innovative Christmas website set up by SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson is on track to raise at least £1200 for his Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituency.

Mr Stevenson designed and launched the website ourchristmas.fund at the beginning of December as an alternative to sending out Christmas cards to constituents, and using the money saved to donate to local causes.

He said:

“I have been delighted at the response from the local community to ourchristmas.fund and I hope that people continue to donate and come up with ideas for local causes to contribute to, in the lead up to Christmas.

“At ourchristmas.fund visitors can donate to any business, school or group of their choice in the local area. It is up to each individual how much they donate, and they suggest which group should receive money and why. I will match each donation made through the website until I reach £1000.”

All money collected through the website will be distributed in the New Year and accounts will be published at the end of February showing where the donations have gone.

Mr Stevenson added:

“This is a chance for the community to give to a local cause that they think deserves a boost this Christmas, and have it matched by their MSP!”

16 December 2014

Stevenson Welcomes Progress Towards Votes for 16 & 17 Year-Olds

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed further progress towards extending the right to vote for 16 and 17 year-olds following a meeting yesterday between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Prime Minister David Cameron.


Mr Stevenson said:

“During the recent Referendum Campaign, we saw a tremendous engagement in the democratic process by young people which contributed towards the very high turnout figures.

“This was very good for democracy and showed that if young people – who are old enough to marry, pay taxes and are subject to the same laws of the land as everyone else – when given the opportunity to vote, grasped that opportunity and used it to express their view as to the kind of future they wanted to see. This progress towards extending the right to vote in time for the next Scottish Parliament elections is therefore very welcome.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has expressed confidence that the powers necessary to allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote will be devolved to Holyrood in time for the next Scottish Parliament elections.

Speaking outside Number 10 Downing Street after her first meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron since she took office, Ms Sturgeon said she believed both Scottish and UK governments would give the matter the required focus to allow the franchise to be extended before the 2016 vote.

The First Minister said the talks had been “constructive and cordial” and that there was a will on behalf of both governments to work together in the interests of the people in Scotland.

But she warned that the early devolution of the necessary powers via a Section 30 order, would offer a significant early test of Westminster’s desire to implement the wider Smith Commission proposals.

The First Minister said:

“The talks with the Prime Minister in Downing Street were constructive and cordial. Clearly David Cameron and I have big political differences and different views on the constitutional future of Scotland, but there was a real appetite on the part of both to find ways of working together in the interests of the people of Scotland.

“Following the meeting, I am confident that we now have the basis of a deal on the necessary devolution of powers to extend the franchise to 16 and 17 year-olds in time for the 2016 election, giving us the opportunity to build on the huge success of the engagement we saw in the referendum.

“But we need to move quickly if this is going to happen. We need to see a Section 30 order that will transfer the legal power to the Scottish Parliament before Westminster breaks up for the General Election to give us the requisite time to enact primary legislation. Following my discussions today, I think that timetable has been accepted and we now need to see a focus by both governments to make it happen.”

The First Minister added:

“The process necessary to transfer the franchise powers is not just important because it will extend the right to vote to 16 and 17 year olds in Scotland. It offers a significant early test of the desire on the part of Westminster to implement the wider proposals contained within the Smith Commission.

“Given the goodwill outlined by both parties during today’s discussions, there is no reason that the focus and desire to take forward this particular change so swiftly should not be extended to the rest of the Commission’s recommendations.”

New Community Justice Arrangements Sees Responsibility Handed to Local Bodies

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has said the new model to improve the way that community justice services are delivered in Scotland will see a further devolution of powers to local level.

The Scottish Government is transferring the planning and delivery of community justice services to locally to the Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership. The changes are intended to make the best use of the £100 million allocated each year to deliver community sentences, support the rehabilitation of offenders, and reduce reoffending.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“While recorded crime is at its lowest level for 40 years, there is still more to be done to reduce reoffending. In HMP Grampian, we have a modern facility where the staff within work day and daily to try to ensure that prisoners do not go on to reoffend once they reach the end of their sentences.

“That is vitally important work because the investment in time and facilities to do that represents just a fraction of the cost to the taxpayer if former prisoners go on to commit crimes once they are released.

“Having a joined-up approach to community justice and preventing reoffending is a logical next step and by having the courts, the police, employment and training services and other agencies all working together with this aim can only serve to make society a safer place.”

Details of the model are outlined in the Government’s response to a consultation published today. The response marks the final milestone before the changes are introduced as part of the Community Justice Bill, with implementation expected in 2016/17.

The key changes under the new model are:
  • Transferring responsibility for the planning and delivery of community justice services from Scotland’s eight Community Justice Authorities (CJAs) to the 32 Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs). This will ensure criminal justice social workers maintain their links with colleagues in local authorities, while developing stronger links with partners in areas like health, housing and welfare to improve how they work together to tackle re-offending.
  • The Scottish Government will develop a national strategy for community justice and reducing reoffending. This will set the national strategic direction for CPPs to plan and deliver services as well as providing the framework against which progress can be assessed and improvement driven.
  • A new national body will be created to provide leadership and strategic direction for community justice in Scotland as well as providing independent assurance to Ministers on the successes of community justice partners in tackling re-offending. This will give community justice the leadership it needs to continue the progress towards tackling crime and making communities safer.
  • The national body will also have the ability to commission services nationally if required. This will enable partners to maximise their resources and make the best possible use of public money.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson MSP said:

“Recorded crime is at its lowest level for 40 years and reconviction rates are also decreasing, which is testament to the work of Scotland’s Community Justice Authorities in reducing re-offending in our communities.

“Nonetheless, if we are to make further progress in this area it is clear that we need to introduce changes, and that is why we have been working closely with key partners and stakeholders to develop this new model for community justice.

“The new model will create a stronger community justice system that will improve collaboration between professionals at a local level to better support offenders and address the root causes of their offending, with leadership from a new national body driving progress.

“This will result in better outcomes for people and communities, and we will continue to draw on the expertise of key stakeholders as we move towards the new arrangements.”

Kenyan Dignatories Take Time Out to Broch Lighthouse Museum

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson MSP and Cllr Charles Buchan welcomed Patrick Wanjiru, an MP from the Kiambu County Assembly in Kenya, along with two officials from the Assembly - David Ngure and Angela Kagunyi - to Fraserburgh at the weekend.

Mr Wanjiru is the leader of the largest party in the Assembly, which is one of 47 devolved legislatures in Kenya.

The visitors were in Scotland owing to a connection that they have with the Starfish Project, which is run by Edwin and Jayne Wiseman. Mr Wanjiru oversees the work of the project in Kenya.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“I was delighted to welcome Patrick, David and Angela to Fraserburgh. They were keen to learn about how Scotland is governed and I was pleased to tell them about this, especially at such an important time in Scotland’s history.”

Cllr Buchan added:

“I was honoured to take part in the meeting at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, with Partick Wanjiru and Stewart Stevenson MSP. The discussion ranged widely and included Scotland’s political history, constitutional issues, and local Fraserburgh issues. There followed a tour of the Lighthouse, Wine Tower and Museum, conducted by volunteer guide Mike Chandler, which was greatly appreciated.

“Partrick and his team are hosted by Edwin and Jayne Wiseman, of Starfish, who do so much good work for their charity in Africa.”

11 December 2014

Stevenson Delighted at £2k for Fraserburgh Scouts

The 1st Fraserburgh Scout Group has received a £2000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s 2014 Communities Programme just in time for Christmas.

The local Scouts will use the programme’s last tranche of funding to buy camping equipment, so that they can take more people on expeditions.

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, said:

“I am delighted that the 1st Fraserburgh Scouts have received this grant. With only weeks to go until Christmas this is the perfect present, and it will allow even more young people to enjoy Scout expeditions throughout the year. I congratulate the Scouts on their success and commend the Big Lottery Fund’s 2014 Communities Programme on recognising the good work that will now be done with this money.”

Over 150 sports clubs, schools, scout groups and voluntary organisations across Scotland are sharing in the final £260,635 from the Big Lottery Fund’s 2014 Communities programme. Since 2008, £6.4 million has been awarded to 4180 projects that support involvement in sport and physical activity.

Maureen McGinn, chair of Big Lottery Fund Scotland, added:

“2014 Communities was the first dedicated fund to be launched in Scotland aimed at creating a legacy from the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Since November 2008, we have awarded £6.5 million to 4180 groups across Scotland. From developing grassroots sport and physical activity through to encouraging volunteering, this investment has benefited people of all ages and sporting abilities. It’s a legacy we are proud to leave behind and one which will create stronger, healthier and more sustainable communities in every one of Scotland’s local authority areas.”

10 December 2014

Stevenson Welcomes Start of Construction Work on A96

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has welcomed the start of work on the A96 bottleneck on the Inveramsay Bridge.

Transport Minister Derek Mackay was in the north-east today (Wednesday) to mark the start of the new £10 million scheme that will bring significant benefits for local road users.

Mr Stevenson said:

“This is an important part of £1 billion of infrastructure investment in the north-east by the Scottish Government. This scheme will hugely benefit road users in the area by reducing congestion and improving journey times.

“Improvements at the Inveramsay Bridge will reduce the likelihood of bridge strikes by realigning the A96 to avoid the low headroom bridge, and improve traffic flow through the area by allowing two-way traffic flow through without the need for the traffic signals currently in place.”

The A96 project at the Inveramsay Bridge is only part of a package of transport improvement work across the north-east.

Mr Mackay added that the Aberdeen bypass scheme will also be delivered earlier than planned, with the completion date now set for winter 2017.
He said:

“This work start at Inveramsay Bridge reflects where we want to take transport infrastructure for the north-east – preparing, procuring and providing improvements to bring the benefits as early as possible.”

The improvement work is expected to be completed in 2016.

Report Says that Living Wage and Council Tax Freeze are 'Saving Lives'

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has welcomed a new report highlighting that the introduction of the Living Wage and the council tax freeze may be improving health across Scotland.

The study by researchers at the Scottish Public Health Observatory (PHO) at NHS Health Scotland found that certain regulatory and tax policies could help tackle health inequalities. Dr Gerry McCartney, head of the PHO, said that in some cases “they will save lives”.

Mr Stevenson said:

“This report provides further evidence of the strong influence government policy can have on tackling inequality. Importantly, it finds that many of the measures being taken forward by the SNP in government are likely to have positive results.

“In particular, the report mentions the Living Wage as a policy that is having a positive impact on health. The SNP government introduced the Living Wage in 2011, benefitting thousands of workers covered by Scottish Government pay policy. Since then, the SNP has continued to encourage more businesses to sign up to the Living Wage.

“The report also highlights the negative impact that rising council tax can have on health. Under the SNP, council tax has been frozen since 2007, which will not only save families an average of £1200 by the end of the current Parliamentary term, but according to this report will also have a positive impact on health."

Mr Stevenson added:

“While the Smith Commission proposals will not deliver the powers we need over welfare and job creation, the Scottish Government will continue to do everything we can with the powers we have to tackle inequality and build a fairer Scotland.”

5 December 2014

Stevenson Launches Christmas Website to Benefit Local Groups

As the Christmas season gets into full swing Banffshire and Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has launched his own festive website to spread the gift of giving in his constituency.

The ourchristmas.fund website, is the innovative creation of Mr Stevenson who launched it today (Friday) at 9am. Rather than sending out individual Christmas cards, Mr Stevenson designed his own website to spread Christmas cheer.

Mr Stevenson said:

“Local SNP membership in my constituency now stands at 1300. I decided that I would take the money that it would have cost me to send out cards, and invest it in good causes in the Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituency.

“At ourchristmas.fund users can donate to any business, school or group of their choice in the local area. It is up to each individual how much they donate, and they suggest which group should receive money and why. I will match each donation made through the website until I reach £1000.

“This way smaller businesses, schools, or groups will be able to receive an extra gift this Christmas courtesy of their friends, neighbour as well as their local MSP.”

For those who would like a Christmas card from their MSP, a card can be downloaded from Mr Stevenson’s website.

All money collected will be redistributed in the New Year and accounts will be published at the end of February showing where the donations have gone.

4 December 2014

Stevenson Backs Small Business Saturday

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, is supporting the non-commercial campaign Small Business Saturday UK which takes place this Saturday, 6th December.

For the second year in a row, the campaign hopes to have a lasting effect on the local economy by asking people to shop within their own communities. Over £460 million was spent in small enterprises across the UK on Small Business Saturday in 2013, and the campaign is hoping to build on their success this year.

Mr Stevenson said:

“I am very happy to be supporting Small Business Saturday. Small businesses are at the heart of Scotland’s economy and it is vitally important that we back them by shopping local whenever we can.

“The Banffshire and Buchan Coast has a wide variety of smaller enterprises, shops, and entrepreneurs in the retail and food and drink industries. It is an exciting area to shop local, with the added benefit that you are also boosting the local economy.

“The SNP has a strong track record on support for business which is one that the Government is determined to continue to deliver. Despite tough economic times, businesses in Scotland continue to benefit from the most competitive business tax regime in the UK.”

The initiative is supported by The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). Andy Willox, the FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, added:

“It doesn’t matter if you’re putting in an order for Christmas dinner, buying a gift for a loved one or meeting a friend for a coffee or beer, we’d love it if Scots supported Small Business Saturday for a second year.

“Independent retailers and other small enterprises often offer goods and services which you can’t find elsewhere. Small Business Saturday offers a real opportunity to connect phenomenal small businesses with locals who perhaps aren’t aware of the great small businesses on their doorstep.”

20 November 2014

Stevenson Highlights Need for Devolved Welfare and Social Policy

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast focused attention on the effects that Welfare Reform has had over the past six years at General Questions today (Thursday) in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Stevenson asked Minister for Housing and Welfare Margaret Burgess in the event that welfare and social policy is devolved to the Scottish Parliament as it should be under the Vow, how the government would use that to tackle poverty and create a fairer society.

Ms Burgess said:

“Our proposals will focus on equipping the Scottish Parliament with the powers to create more jobs, tackle inequality and protect public services in order to create a wealthier and fairer society."

She added:

“There is a range of analysis on how welfare reform is impacting on people across Scotland, all available on the Scottish Government website. This includes how women and disabled people are being disproportionately affected by the reforms, how the numbers sanctioned has been increasing over time, and food aid provision has grown over time in part because of the impact of sanctions. In the six years up to 2015/16, the reductions in welfare in Scotland amount to around £6 billion.”

Stevenson Welcomes £20k Lottery Funding for Banffshire and Buchan Coast

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, is delighted at the news that £20,000 has been awarded to King Edward Hall Committee and Fordyce Community Association in his constituency.

An Awards for All grant of £10,000 from Big Lottery Fund will go to the King Edward Hall Committee in Banff. The hall is used by many groups in the local community, and the funding will be used by the committee to refurbish the kitchen.

Fordyce Community Association will also benefit from a £10,000 Awards for All grant and this money will be used to finish refurbishing the village hall by improving the toilet facilities.

Mr Stevenson said:

“My congratulations go to the King Edward Hall Committee and Fordyce Community Association in my constituency, who work tirelessly to serve their community, on being rewarded with such substantial grants from the Big Lottery Fund.

“I am absolutely delighted that their efforts have produced this result and I am sure that the funding granted to them will be put to excellent use, and will enhance what they are able to achieve in the future.”

Awards For All Scotland gives groups a chance to apply for a grant of between £500 and £10,000 for projects that aim to help improve local communities and the lives of people most in need. We will fund a range of projects which involve bringing local people together, helping people learn, improving local spaces and getting people more active.

Across Scotland, 103 community groups are sharing National Lottery funding worth £739,234.

18 November 2014

Stevenson Pays Tribute to First Minister Alex Salmond

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast has paid tribute to First Minister Alex Salmond in a speech today (Tuesday) to mark the end of his time in office.

Mr Stevenson compared the outgoing First Minister to US President John F. Kennedy as a man who was committed to a better future for his country and a “formidable challenger of the status quo”.

He added:

“He's the toughest boss I've ever worked with or for, and the fairest - a team builder. From day one he was a disruptive influence and a potent agent for change.”

Mr Stevenson, who has been a friend of the First Minister for the past 40 years, drew on personal anecdotes gleaned from Mr Salmond growing up in his home town of Linlithgow, his fervour in the lead up to the referendum, and his focus on the importance of people.

Mr Stevenson added:

“If we learn anything from Alex it is that we must listen, perhaps especially to those with views differing from our own, however much we don't want to hear them.”

But he stressed that the move for Mr Salmond was a transition rather than a farewell, wishing him good wishes, thanks and love from his political colleagues.

4 November 2014

Stevenson Supports School Bus Safety Across Scotland

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, led a debate today (Wednesday) on the importance of school bus safety across the country and welcomed plans for a Glasgow pilot on improved school bus signage.

Mr Stevenson paid tribute to the efforts made by Gardenstown resident Ron Beaty who has petitioned the Scottish Government since 2005 regarding this issue, calling him a “ferocious champion of improving safety in our school transport system.”

He added:

“Mr Beaty has done a sterling job in bringing attention to the need for further safety measures to be taken on school buses across the country. Following the tragic accident which left his granddaughter permanently disabled, Mr Beaty has made it his mission to ensure that this kind of incident, and worse, are consigned to history.

“This is not just an issue for the Beaty family and the pain they have suffered. It is not just an issue for the north east of Scotland where we have seen too many accidents involving school students mounting or leaving school buses. It is an issue for all of Scotland, rural and urban.”

“I am further encouraged by the plans for a Glasgow pilot that will see high visibility signs with improved features displayed on school buses. I hope that the pilot provides results that are acted on, and that all that can be done is implemented so that school children across Scotland are made safer.”

Transport Minister Keith Brown announced today that Glasgow City Council will take forward a pilot on improved school bus signage over the next few months. The Scottish Government will provide evaluation support to the council, to build an evidence base assessing the benefits of enhanced school bus signage. The findings will be used to explore how best support implementation by local authorities more widely across Scotland.

The Glasgow pilot will build on the work done by the Aberdeenshire pilot in 2010.

Campaigner Ron Beaty said:

“I have been very unimpressed with Transport Scotland – they have had 10 years to put something in place regarding this, and all they have done is put in recommendations.

“I am hoping this debate will ensure that all pupils across Scotland have the same level of safety. Local council authorities and bus operators need to be held responsible for this.”

MSP Praises Gardenstown Playschool

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has praised the work of Gardenstown Playschool following the publication of a joint Education Scotland and Care Inspectorate inspection report.

Mr Stevenson commented:

The Playschool received seven excellent and two very good ratings.

“The work of the staff at Gardenstown Playschool across the board has been recognised. It is particularly pleasing to note that the children are motivated and that they are making excellent progress with their early language and mathematics.

“The staff working together as a team has also been remarked upon in the report, as well as their positive interactions with the children.

“It must be pleasing for those involved with Gardenstown Playschool that Education Scotland and the Care Inspectorate have not made any recommendations or issued any requirements for the Playschool. This is amongst the best education inspection reports that I have seen during my time as an MSP and everyone at Gardenstown Playschool should be proud of the work that they undertake in providing a good quality start in life for its attendees.”

3 November 2014

Welcome for School Bus Safety Debate

A motion tabled by Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is to be debated in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, 4 November. The motion refers to the work undertaken by Gardenstown resident Ron Beaty in relation to school bus safety.

Speaking before the debate, Mr Stevenson commented:

“Ron Beaty has been petitioning the Parliament on this issue since 2005- with this current petition having been lodged in 2009.

“The key driving force behind this work is protecting our young people and I commend Ron Beaty for his work on this issue. I welcome the progress that has been made in terms of making seatbelts compulsory on school buses across Scotland but there is still much to be done.”

“This is about changing the culture surrounding school bus safety. We simply have to stay on the case and find a method by which we can place a duty, if not necessarily a legal requirement, on all our local authorities to do more.

“I look forward to the debate in Parliament on Tuesday.”

The SNP candidate in the Aberdeenshire Council Troup by-election Ross Cassie remarked:

“I am aware of the tremendous work that Ron Beaty has undertaken on this very important issue. He is to be commended for the time and effort that he has put into fighting to improve safety standards on school buses.”

Stevenson Welcomes £2k for Brighter Horizons Limited

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has welcomed a £1981 award from Big Lottery Fund’s 2014 Communities programme to Brighter Horizons (Bachlaw) Limited in Banff.

The group will use the funding to offer weekly free football training sessions, as well as mentoring, guidance and information.

Brighter Horizons is a non-profit organisation that supports young people and their families in the Banff Academy catchment area.

Mr Stevenson said:

“I am delighted that this award from the Big Lottery Fund’s 2014 Communities programme has gone to Brighter Horizons. This group works very hard in my constituency with young people and families, and I am very glad that their invaluable efforts are being recognised with much needed funding.”

Bright Horizons provides social, spiritual and recreational opportunities, learning and support through community projects, a global citizenship education programme and fostering service.

Maureen McGinn, Chair of Big Lottery Scotland said:

“As we draw to the end of a truly memorable year, the 2014 Communities awards show how people across Scotland are continuing to reap the benefits of sport and physical exercise. I’m delighted that many of these community groups are helping older people try out new sports and physical activities.”

Moray MSPs and MP Welcome Education Decision


SNP REPRESENTATIVES UNITED AGAINST RURAL SCHOOL CLOSURES

Moray’s MSP, Richard Lochhead, and MP, Angus Robertson, have welcomed the dropping of proposals in Moray Council’s Sustainable Education Review to close rural schools across Moray, including Milne’s High School.

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said:

“I pay tribute to the campaigners for in communities across Moray who have put forward very strong arguments for the retention of their schools. I have met with many parents and community representatives in recent weeks and months and I know that my SNP Councillor colleagues in Moray have looked at a significant amount of information from many sources including the community submissions. This decision should now bring stability to those communities whose schools were threatened.

“SNP Councillors have made clear their view that the legislative context would prevent the closure of schools, many of which are performing very well. In Government the SNP has been very clear that we would not support the closure of rural schools unless it was on clear educational grounds and we introduced legislation to that effect.

“Moray’s communities can rest a bit easier knowing that key services in their local area have been protected by the SNP and others standing up for them.”

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson, whose constituency takes in the Buckie and Cullen areas, said:

“I have met with campaigners in the coastal schools around Buckie and they made very good arguments refuting the conclusions of the Council’s consultants. I am delighted that those arguments have been heard and, with the unanimous support of SNP councillors, there will now be no rural school closures anywhere in Moray for the foreseeable future.

“I commend the work of all school campaigners across Moray and of my SNP Councillor colleagues who sought out information to back up the case to support our rural schools and who made a strong and passionate case for their retention in the Council Chamber.”

Angus Robertson MP said:

“This decision is the right result for Moray communities. Schools are a hugely emotive issue because they are at the heart of our communities and that was clearly evident from the huge reaction in Moray against school closures.

“The SNP took a stand against school closures and, as a result, several administration councillors backed them up with the convener, in effect, proposing the motion originally put forward by SNP Councillors.

“The result is protection of our rural schools in Moray and the certainty that the issue of rural school closures will not be opened up again in the near future.”

31 October 2014

Fresh Leadership at NHS Grampian is a Welcome Step for Patients Says Stevenson

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has welcomed the change in leadership at NHS Grampian as a way to ensure that the primary focus on patient care is maintained.

Current NHS Education for Scotland Chief Executive Malcolm Wright will take up the post of interim Chief Executive of NHS Grampian following the resignation of outgoing Chief Executive Richard Carey.

Mr Stevenson said:

“Richard Carey has served the NHS for many years and I wish him well with his early retirement.

“The announcement of a change in leadership at NHS Grampian is a welcome step towards resolving some of the tensions that have been allowed to develop within the health board.

“The priority of the NHS must always be the care of patients and I hope that this change in leadership will help to ensure that nothing interferes with that focus."

The NHS Grampian resource budget has increased by over £229 million since the SNP took office, with NHS Grampian’s share of the total territorial health board resource budget rising from 9.1 per cent in 2006/07 to 9.6 per cent in 2015/16.

He added:

“NHS Grampian’s budget has been protected and increased since the SNP took office, with the budget rising by over £229 million in that time - despite a 6.7 per cent real terms cut to Scotland’s resource budget since 2010/11.

“Those resources have helped to deliver progress, but fresh leadership at the health board will help NHS Grampian meet the challenges it faces in the years ahead.

“People in the North East have a right to expect that they are getting the best possible service from NHS Grampian and I am confident that this change in leadership will help to ensure that they get it.”

In 2015/16 NHS Grampian’s resource budget is set to rise by 4.4 per cent to £812.6 million – the largest increase of any health board.

29 October 2014

Stevenson Fights for Moray Schools

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, criticised Conservative proposals to address the attainment gap in Scottish schools today (Wednesday), highlighting the number of schools in Moray that are currently under review.

In a Conservative-led Scottish Parliament debate on Education, Mr Stevenson attacked the Conservative motion being discussed, which promoted “maximum parental choice” and “greater diversity in schools.”

He said:

“In Moray in my constituency, the future of schools in Findochty, Portknockie, Portessie, and Cullen, Rothiemay, Crossroads and Cluny school, and nearby at Portgordon and Newmill are all under review. Milne’s High School in Fochabers is under threat of closure.

“The Tory motion believes in maximum choice – are schools in Moray with good educational attainment being supported by what’s being proposed? No. They are threatened by proposals to close, to merge, to reduce their schools – reducing diversity and reducing choice."

He added:

“No educational case has been made for the changes proposed in Moray – they are not failing schools but those with a good educational record. Nor does the economic case stand any scrutiny.

“As many of these schools are below the 70 pupil level where additional funding trips in, if the schools proposed for closure were to close, Moray would sacrifice a seven figure sum in funding.

“These moves are not justified in diversity, not justified in choice and hardly likely to be justified on economic grounds. Fundamentally there is no indication from the community that they want this change to be made and there was a local march last weekend against some of these proposals.

“Disadvantage comes from economic circumstances – not genetic. Having a situation where children are denied the range of opportunities that they would get in a wealthier environment is not the way forward, and I would ask the Tories to reflect on that.”

The report by Caledonian Economics recommending the proposals for Moray schools will be discussed by local councillors on Monday. SNP councillors plans to oppose the plans for school closures in Moray.

26 October 2014

Plans to Reduce Drink-Driving Limit Welcomed


SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT PLANS WILL MAKE SCOTLAND’S ROADS SAFER

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed new plans to reduce the drink-drive limit on Scotland’s roads in time for Christmas – in a move to make Scotland’s roads safer and bring Scotland into line with much of Europe.

Under plans announced by the Scottish Government, the blood alcohol limit in Scotland would be cut from 80mg per 100ml to 50mg per 100ml which brings Scotland into line other European countries including France, Spain and Germany.

Estimates suggest that around one in ten deaths on roads in Scotland involve drivers who are over the legal alcohol limit.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Drink-driving has been a scourge on Scotland’s roads for too long – leading to completely unnecessary injuries and deaths - devastating families and communities across the country. It is absolutely right that the Scottish Government is to take this decisive action.

“Around one in ten deaths on Scotland’s roads involve drivers who are over the limit – and having even one drink is enough to make you three times as likely to be involved in a fatal car crash.

“That’s why lowering the blood alcohol limit is the right thing to do – making our roads safer, saving lives and preventing more families from having to deal with losing a loved one through drink driving.

“This new limit will send out a clear message that driving after you’ve had a drink is unacceptable – and I hope the rest of the UK follows Scotland’s example on this important issue and comes into line with the rest of Europe.”

Announcing the plans, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said:

“I have said before that I am determined we do everything we can to make our roads safer and save lives. Drink driving shatters families and communities and we must take action to reduce the risk on our roads.

“The latest estimates show that approximately one in ten deaths on Scottish roads involve drivers who are over the legal limit and research shows that even just one alcoholic drink before driving can make you three times as likely to be involved in a fatal car crash. As a result, 20 families every year have to cope with the loss of a loved one and around 760 people are treated for injuries caused by someone who thought it was acceptable to drink alcohol and get behind the wheel and drive. We cannot let this continue.

“That’s why I have introduced legislation to lower the drink drive limit in Scotland so that, subject to parliamentary approval, new laws will be in place in time for the beginning of the festive period.

“This new limit will bring Scotland into line with most of Europe and send a clear message to drivers who continue to ignore the warnings that there is never an excuse to drink and drive.

“Getting behind the wheel after drinking can have fatal consequences, the advice is simple; if you have had any alcoholic drink whatsoever, don’t drive. No one should be drinking and driving and the new lower limit only reinforces what should already be the case with drivers taking full responsibility and not putting lives at risk.”

The move has been welcomed by road safety campaigners.

Sandy Allan, RoSPA’s Road Safety Manager, Scotland said:

“RoSPA welcomes and strongly supports the Scottish Government’s decision to lower the drink-drive limit in Scotland, which we believe will save lives and prevent injuries on Scotland’s roads. There is a considerable body of research which shows that reducing drink-drive limits is effective in reducing drink-drive deaths and injuries. We would like to see the rest of the UK follow Scotland’s example.”

15 October 2014

MSP Welcomes Crimond School Grant Success

Awards for All Scotland have awarded £10,000 to Crimond Primary School. The grant will fund the installation of new play equipment and safer surfacing for pupils.

The award is one of over 280 grants recently given to community groups across Scotland. Grants ranging from £500 to £10,000 were awarded to projects that help bring communities together.

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast commented:

“It is a pleasure for me to congratulate Crimond School in their award. Local primary schools play a vital role in our children’s development and upbringing. This funding will help provide a safer and more enjoyable environment for them to grow up in.”

An Awards for All spokesman said:

“These grants, totalling more than £2m will benefit over 280 groups across the country and shows the variety of projects that can be funded through Awards for All. We are always surprised at the difference a relatively small amount of money can make in communities across Scotland and wish all of these groups the best of luck for the future.”

14 October 2014

Stevenson Welcomes Further Superfast Broadband Rollout for Buckie & Rothiemay

Almost 7,000 homes and businesses in Moray and Banffshire are set to receive a high-speed broadband connection as part of the Digital Highlands and Islands project which is supported by the Scottish Government.

Led by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise, engineers will soon begin installations across Scotland. Locally, Rothiemay, Longmorn, Clochan, and Rothes will receive the technology for the first time. Additional improvements will be made to the existing networks in Buckie, Elgin, Forres, and Keith.

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast said:

“I am pleased to see the continued expansion of high-speed broadband to Banffshire & Buchan Coast and I’m grateful to the Scottish Government for their commitment to this project and the rural areas of my constituency.

“The increased connectivity will help local businesses to thrive and enable further growth as locations receive the technology for the first time. I look forward to seeing the changes as we continue on target for world class connectivity by 2020.”

BT Scotland Director Brendan Dick said:

“The civil engineering project underpinning this new network is not just one of the biggest in Scotland but is among the most complex anywhere in Europe.

“Openreach has been recruiting dozens of extra engineers to help shape Scotland’s future and many of our young apprentices are gaining valuable experience helping to connect up people to fibre in local communities across Scotland.”

12 October 2014

MSP & Councillor Welcome New Road Safety Measures

Local representatives Stewart Stevenson MSP and Fraserburgh & District SNP councillor Charles Buchan have welcomed the installation of vehicle activated chevrons at the bend at Cortes.

Cllr Charles Buchan, local resident Andrew Kellock, Stewart Stevenson MSP
Following an accident in June 2013 which saw a lorry overturn causing serious damage to a local resident’s home, Mr Stevenson was contacted by concerned constituents and subsequently arranged a meeting with Transport Scotland and BEAR Scotland officials to explore how best to improve safety at the bend.

The vehicle activated chevrons were installed by BEAR Scotland on 3 October 2014.

Mr Stevenson remarked:

“Following the terrible accident that took place at Cortes in June 2013, I am pleased that Transport Scotland and BEAR Scotland have listened to the concerns of my constituents.

“This additional warning for drivers will I’m sure help remind them that they should take care and travel at a sensible speed at this bend.”

Cllr Charles Buchan commented:

“I'm pleased that BEAR Scotland has installed these state of the art chevrons, warning traffic of the really dangerous bend at Cortes on the A90 Fraserburgh to Peterhead road.

“They have been some time in coming and some solution to the problem was really needed.

“Let us hope that they make all drivers aware of the peril of taking the corner at more than 30 mph.

“I would like to thank all the residents who attended the meeting at the BanCar Hotel, Stewart Stevenson MSP, and Transport Scotland for instigating this safety measure.”

Stevenson Officially Opens Moray Hearing Centre

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has officially opened Moray Hearing Care in Buckie.


Jo Farquhar, who has worked in the audiology industry for over 35 years, is the director of the practice, and also works as the audiologist.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“I’m delighted to open this excellent facility and wish Jo every success in her venture.

“This hearing centre is very important, not only to Buckie, but also the surrounding area. I’m in the fortunate position of having regular hearing tests through this I’ve witnessed the degrading of my hearing over the years. The facility we have here in Buckie will help people extend their hearing as long as possible and I would urge people to make use of it.”

Mrs Farquhar said:

“If you get a bad leg, say, you can easily see what’s wrong, but that’s not the case with deafness - you can’t just look at someone and see that they’re deaf.

“I firmly believe we should be taking the same care of our hearing as we do of our eyes. People are prepared to have their eyes tested every two years and the same should be true of their hearing.”

MSP Welcomes Launch of SEPA Flood Warning Scheme

Stewart Stevenson, MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has welcomed SEPA’s launch of its new Floodline flood warning service.

The scheme, which went live earlier this month, will provide free flood warnings to those who register with the programme. The following coastal areas in Banffshire & Buchan Coast will be part of the new Floodline scheme:
  • Rosehearty to Fraserburgh
  • Gardenstown to Pennan
  • Portsoy to Macduff
  • Portgordon to Cullen
Mr Stevenson commented:

“I am aware of the devastating impact that flooding can have on people’s lives. Homes and places of work can be severely affected by flooding. I therefore welcome this initiative by SEPA giving people the opportunity to sign up for warnings of potential flooding.

“People receiving early warning of potential flooding will be better able to prepare themselves for any risks and I would encourage those in the areas covered by the new Floodline warning service to sign up to it.”


People can sign up for the Floodline Scheme by visiting http://floodline.sepa.org.uk/floodingsignup/ or by calling 0845 988 1188.

1 October 2014

Banffshire and Buchan Coast to Lose Out by up to £2,000 from Child Benefit Cap

Labour plans to continue with the Tories’ child benefit cap could cost families in the Banffshire and Buchan Coast as much as £2000 in figures revealed this week.

The move has frustrated local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson who believes that this is an example of why decisions on welfare should be made in Scotland.

Mr Stevenson said:

“Extending the child benefit cap will impact the wellbeing of children and hit ordinary families in the pocket – families with three children will suffer a cumulative loss of over £2,000 by 2016/17. At a time when many families are already struggling to make ends meet, we need to enable our families instead of hinder them.

“The Westminster parties’ race to the right illustrates why Scotland needs full powers over welfare – so we can use our welfare state to support people and as a springboard to a better life.”

New analysis from Scottish Parliament researchers shows that under Labour’s plans to extend the Tory child benefit cap for an additional year, a family with one child will cumulatively lose out on more than £875, a family with two children will lose almost £1,500, and a family with three children will lose over £2,000.

These changes would have a significant effect on families across the Banffshire and Buchan Coast, which is made up of 8075 families with over 13,000 children altogether. With the majority of these children under the age of 10, the outcome of the benefit cap will hinder the wellbeing of the next generation.

Labour’s support for the child benefit cap comes despite the fact that when the Scottish Parliament debated the Tory cuts to child benefit in January 2013, the Labour amendment to the Scottish Government motion would not have removed the line that “cuts to child benefit will directly impact on the wellbeing of children across Scotland”.

23 September 2014

Stevenson Applauds First Minister on Magnificent Team Building Skills

In a Scottish Parliament debate today (Tuesday) Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson praised First Minister Alex Salmond for his strength in bringing people together to deliver success.

Following a statement from the First Minister where he called last week’s referendum an “extraordinary, empowering and exhilarating experience”, Mr Stevenson focused on the team building skills that he has deployed throughout his career.

He said:

“For the 1979 referendum, Alex orchestrated a cross party campaign, an SNP campaign in West Lothian, and he ran the Labour campaign for Yes in West Lothian as well. How many men can run three campaigns and not break sweat? It was a magnificent effort, and the West Lothian campaign was picked out as the most effective of all those run in 1979.”

Mr Stevenson spoke of Mr Salmond’s victory in the Banff and Buchan constituency in 1987 which at the time was plagued by unemployment. On leaving the seat in 2010, Banff and Buchan had moved into the best quintile for employment.

He also cited the example of the fishing boat, The Sapphire, which sank within sight of Peterhead harbour in 1997, and was raised after the million pound project was spearheaded by Alex Salmond.

Mr Stevenson said:

“The First Minister takes on immense challenges. This was the achievement of great effort and an achievement of building a team and drawing people in. But fundamentally it was focused on giving comfort to individuals - nothing to do with party politics and everything to do with doing the right thing by people.”

He added:

“Alex built a team in 2007 that delivered the first ever SNP government - without any ministerial experience he turned us all into a very effective team. In 2011 he earned the right to lead for the first time a majority government, and in 2014 from around 30 per cent a couple of months ago, the SNP gained a Yes from 45 per cent of the Scottish people.

“He did this not alone but by building a team, across political parties and with people of no parties. That is the effort that he put into it.”

19 September 2014

Stevenson Praises Salmond for Delivering Huge Result for Scotland

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has paid tribute to First Minister Alex Salmond for delivering a huge result for Scotland in yesterday’s referendum and spoken of his decision to step down as SNP leader this November.

Stewart Stevenson said:

“Alex is a great team builder and a great team player, and he will be looking at what the decision that the people of Scotland made in huge numbers means for the country, and he will have put that at the forefront of the decision that he’s made today.”

“Alex has achieved an enormous amount - 3.6 million people voted for change. Both the no campaign and the yes campaign represent change, and it was almost inconceivable even a couple of months ago that Alex Salmond would have got us there.

“Alex’s capability in drawing people in and building teams has meant that he’s had a team that has delivered a huge result for Scotland.”

Earlier today in a speech at Bute House, Mr Salmond stated that he would resign at the SNP Conference in November following the referendum result, adding that it had been the privilege of his life to serve Scotland as First Minister.

22 August 2014

Stevenson Welcomes Over £250K for Avenue Confidential

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast is delighted that Avenue Confidential which works across his constituency has been granted £281,410 from the Big Lottery Fund Scotland’s Investing in Communities programme.

The funding will be channelled into the Avenue Confidential Child Contact North East Scotland project, which will enhance the provision of existing child contact centres across Moray, Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire.

Mr Stevenson said:

“I am absolutely delighted that this very worthwhile organisation has been given the recognition it deserves, and the ability to expand its services. I hope this extra funding will mean that individuals and families in our local community with the greatest need will be helped, and that improvements will be made that last a lifetime.”

New family support workers will provide an improved service at the beginning of family interventions, and will work to establish and improve relationships with a contact plan.

The local project will work with around 204 families each year, with an estimated 50 families making use of the Family Support Workers. More intensive support will be provided to those families with particularly challenging needs.

The Avenue Confidential project is just one of 11 projects across Scotland sharing in a total of £6,270,034 from Big Lottery Fund Scotland’s Investing in Communities programme. The Investing in Communities fund focuses on tackling disadvantage and addressing inequalities, with three investment areas including Growing Community Assets, Life Transitions and Supporting 21st Century Life.

21 August 2014

Stevenson Praises New Development Plan for the Beef Industry

Industry experts have released a 23 point action plan designed to re-invigorate Scotland’s beef production over the next few years.

The recommendations published in the Beef 2020 final report yesterday (Wednesday) call for action in both the industry and the Scottish Government that will support sustainability and long term growth in beef production in Scotland.

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast said:

“I would like to thank the Beef 2020 group for their report on improving such an important part of Scotland’s industry. Beef production is our single biggest farming sector, which is why it is so essential that Government, industry organisations and beef producers work together to create a strong market in a global economy.”

Also included in the plan is a focus on Scotland’s climate change goals with a commitment to substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of beef produced, while maintaining growth in cattle numbers.

Mr Stevenson added:

“This focus on climate-healthy progress and expansion strengthens Scotland’s industry and further proves our standing as a global force.”

The Beef 2020 final report was produced by short life industry group, chaired by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) chairman Jim McLaren, at the request of Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead.

Jim McLaren, chairman of the Beef 2020 group, said:

“The recommendations set out in the report, which are designed to be owned and adopted by the Scottish beef industry, aim to facilitate collaboration, profitability, confidence and investment at every stage of the Scottish red meat supply chain – factors which are key in ensuring a future marked by sustainable, profitable growth.”

20 August 2014

Stevenson Emphasises Dignity for Disabled People Through New Bill

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast spoke yesterday (Tuesday) in support of new legislation that aims to tackle the misuse of the Blue Badge scheme.

Click for your Blue Badge info
The Disabled Persons’ Parking Badges (Scotland) Bill aims to improve the quality of life for disabled people by freeing up parking spaces for legitimate Blue Badge users.

Mr Stevenson explained that for disabled drivers this change will mean more than simply a place to park, but rather an increase in dignity.

He said:

“The core of the Disabled Persons’ Parking Badges (Scotland) Bill is to improve life for people with some disability that requires them to have help with parking. We need to think in terms of the dignity of the people who have a disability.

“When we ensure that there is…an actual parking place for someone who needs it because they are disabled, we confer upon that person the dignity that we are all entitled to expect. I think that the bill is excellent because it ensures that we share more widely the dignity to which we are all entitled.”

Mr Stevenson also recognised the importance of carefully enforcing the new legislation.

He added:

“Quite properly, Inclusion Scotland has focused on the potential for enforcement officers, traffic wardens and policemen to confiscate blue badges unnecessarily and inappropriately. I think that Inclusion Scotland has a valid point. That is why, in the introduction of an enforcement regime that will contribute enormously to people with disabilities, we need to be careful how we do it.”

19 August 2014

Stevenson Welcomes New Council Houses in North-East

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed new figures showing over 460 new council houses have been built in the North-east since 2009 with Scottish Government funding, providing a “huge boost” to the local economy.

Analysis shows that the Scottish Government Council House Build Programme - introduced in April 2009 – has seen more than £135m invested to provide local authority housing for people across the country.

The funding incentivises local authorities to build new homes – the first such central government support to councils in a generation.

Commenting Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It is great news that this SNP Scottish Government has provided funding for more than 460 new homes in the North-east and demonstrates the scale and ambition of this programme.

“The SNP Government is on track to deliver 30,000 affordable homes across Scotland by March 2016, with 1,324 council homes built in 2013/14 alone – the highest number since a new generation of council house construction was kick-started in 2009.

"In contrast, the previous Labour/LibDem administration built just six council homes during the four years of their last term in office.

“Despite considerable challenges to the money we get back from Westminster the SNP Scottish Government plans to spend over £1.7 billion to deliver our target of 30,000 affordable homes during the lifetime of this Parliament, supporting an estimated 8,000 jobs each year.

“However only a Yes vote and the full powers of independence will give us full control to tailor our housing supply investment and initiatives to meet the needs of our communities and the homebuilding industry in Scotland.

“It will also provide the full borrowing powers we need to invest prudently in infrastructure, and not have our capital budget dictated to us by Westminster.”

8 August 2014

Local MSP Welcomes Extra Help to Improve Hospital Patient Flow

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement from the Scottish Government that an additional £5 million is to be made available to help health boards to improve the flow of patients through the health and social care services.

© Scottish Government
Health Secretary Alex Neil MSP announced the funding boost which will aid further development of intermediate care, helping people to stay in their own home instead of going into hospital in the first place, and services that support people to regain their independence so they can return home sooner after a hospital stay.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“By improving the way that patients move through hospital and are supported at home, the investment will allow people to be moved from A&E to an appropriate ward sooner and reduce the amount of unnecessary time that patients spend in hospital.

“The funding will be carefully targeted to improve performance in seven health boards, including Grampian, working with their local authority, housing and Third Sector partners.”

Health Secretary Alex Neil MSP said:

“Our NHS and its partners is making sustainable progress around exploring new and innovative ways to improve the way that patients move through our health and care services.

“We’ve already legislated for health and social care integration to come into effect from April next year, but I am clear that we must make further progress now.

“That’s why I’m targeting £5 million today to support the transition to integrated health and social care and improve patient flow through a number of hospitals and community services.
“This investment will help improve the journey of many patients through hospital and back home supported by appropriate care services so they can leave hospital as soon as they are able.

“Improving flow through hospitals not only benefits the individual patient, but also helps improve the performance in frontline services like A&E and planned operations.”

Stevenson Highlights Important Friendship Between Scotland and Malawi

Speaking in a Scottish Parliament debate on Scotland and Malawi, Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, highlighted the responsibilities that Scotland holds as a friend of the African nation.

He said that tackling the issues of tobacco and climate change would be beneficial for Malawi’s future.

Mr Stevenson said:

“Two thirds of Malawi’s exports are tobacco. We are rightly seeking to remove tobacco as a major part of our society, for the health of people in our country. However, when we do that it will have a significant effect on the economy of a country such as Malawi. We therefore owe a duty to countries such as Malawi to help them cross over to a more beneficial mode of agriculture.

“We are already seeing a danger that tobacco farmers, in the face of reducing profits, move across to grow cannabis. That will not be helpful in the long term for people who are in desperate need in countries such as Malawi.”

He added:

“Climate change is making agriculture a more formidable challenge in many countries in Africa, and we in the developed world are largely responsible for that. We therefore need to ensure that we support people in Malawi, which we are already doing through a number of programmes there.

“Malawi is an important friend of ours; let us be an ever-important friend of Malawi.”

17 July 2014

£500K Investment in Prostate Cancer Research Welcomed by MSP

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed £500,000 for researchers at Dundee University to fund an innovative five year clinical research project into prostate cancer.

The six-figure sum provided by the Scottish Government, Prostate Cancer UK and The Movember Foundation will enable researchers to look at ways to identify how advanced a tumour is, thus reducing the number of unnecessary biopsies and improve diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in Scotland and Mr Stevenson supports Prostate Cancer UK’s national campaign, ‘Men United v Prostate Cancer’, which uses the language of sport to engage men in the battle against the disease.

He said:

“Each year almost as many men are diagnosed with prostate cancer as women are diagnosed with breast cancer. But research into prostate cancer has suffered from a historic legacy of neglect, leaving tests and treatments trailing decades behind other common cancers - men are dying needlessly due to inadequate methods of testing for the disease.

“I am therefore delighted that the Scottish Government and Prostate Cancer UK, through their partnership with The Movember Foundation, have been able to jointly fund the research, with the work being undertaken at one of Scotland’s top universities. We can, and will, beat prostate cancer – and this announcement is another step towards this ultimate destination.”

Work on the research project will be led by Ghulam Nabi, from the University of Dundee’s School of Medicine. Mr Nabi’s project is to investigate whether MRI and ultrasound scans could be used to reduce the number of biopsies required to confirm a prostate cancer diagnosis, and more easily identify the difference between aggressive and non-aggressive prostate cancers.

Mr Nabi said:

“It is my hope that the work I am able to do with this funding will lead to more streamlined diagnoses, with fewer biopsies and the potential to tell the difference between aggressive and non-aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

“Small studies suggest that using a special type of MRI before a biopsy can help to achieve these aims. This funding allows me and my team to expand these studies into a large trial, with better comparison methods and more rigorous protocols.”

Stevenson Welcomes Lottery Award for Aberdeenshire Sailing Trust

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast is delighted that Aberdeenshire Sailing Trust has received a £2,000 award from the Big Lottery Fund’s 2014 Communities programme.

The charitable Trust plan to buy a double-handed dinghy with the new funds, so that they can grow their membership numbers.

Mr Stevenson said:

“I am very pleased that Aberdeenshire Sailing Trust has been awarded this funding from the Big Lottery Fund’s 2014 Communities programme.

“For many years the experts at the Trust have made dingy sailing accessible to all ages and abilities, and brought out a new passion for some who may never have even sailed before. The North-east has a rich heritage steeped in the sea, and this is one way that locals and visitors alike can experience that.”

The 149 grants totalling £257,977 from the Big Lottery fund’s 2014 Communities programme across Scotland will see all ages of people try out new activities, boost their skills and train to become sporting stars of the future.

Big Lottery Fund Scotland Chair, Maureen McGinn added:

“Whatever age we are, it’s never too late to take up a new physical activity. With the Commonwealth Games just one week away, I am delighted that more people will now have the opportunity to play their own part in the legacy of the Glasgow Games.”

16 July 2014

BA Reveal That Air Passenger Duty to Blame for Axing of Aberdeen Route

The revelation that APD charges are behind the decision by BA to cut the Aberdeen to London City route has been described as “the final wakeup call” for North East politicians.

In today’s Press & Journal (Wednesday), BA Executive Chairman Keith Williams blamed the Westminster Government’s Air Passenger Duty (APD) as a key factor in the decision to axe the route. Keith Williams stated that “air passenger duty has played a significant part in this route failing to reach commercial viability. It would be encouraging if Sir Malcolm Bruce continued the campaign against APD, which has been repeatedly increased by the government he supports.”

Malcolm Bruce has previously campaigned for a cut to Air Passenger Duty, but despite his elevation to Deputy Leader of the LibDems in the House of Commons, the tax remains in place.

Research revealed by the SNP last week showed that before 2007, a family of four going on holiday to Spain would have paid just £20 in APD for the return trip. The same family making the trip today face a surcharge of £52.

For long-distance flights the cost is even more marked. In 2007 a family of four travelling to Florida would have paid £80 in APD for their trip. Today the ‘tourism tax’ would cost them £276.

Scotland’s Future sets out plans to cut APD in Scotland by 50% before moving towards the complete abolition of the charge that discourages airlines from flying to and from Scotland.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“These remarks from Keith Williams are deeply telling as once again Westminster’s Air Passenger Duty has damaged Scotland’s economic interests.

“The Aberdeen to London City route is an important service, but is trying to compete with one hand tied behind its back thanks to the punitive tax applied to such services.

“The fact is that despite repeated opportunities and calls to act, all we have seen from Westminster is Air Passenger Duty rise and rise.

“It is abundantly clear that the only way we will get action on APD is with a Yes vote in September.

“Keith Williams is also right that all North East politicians – including Sir Malcolm Bruce – should recognise how damaging APD is to the economy of this part of Scotland and be actively campaigning for its abolition. This must be the final wakeup call for all North East politicians.

“But the fact that despite his promotion to Deputy Leader, Malcolm Bruce has been unable to make any inroads into cutting APD shows that it is only with a Yes vote that we will see real progress.

“With a Yes vote in September, we can cut APD with a view to abolishing it completely – making major savings for air passengers and supporting jobs across Scotland’s economy.”

14 July 2014

Stevenson Welcomes Rural Connectivity Commission

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast has welcomed the announcement today (Monday) that a Rural Connectivity Commission will be set up after independence to look at improving mobile and broadband coverage, postal services and transport links for rural communities.

Details regarding the Commission have been published in the constitutional paper, ‘Connecting Rural Scotland.’ The proposals are that it will be an expert body, considering how to deliver a better deal for rural communities and businesses, while ensuring clarity for industry and stability for investors.

The paper will also confirm that on independence, the Government will take steps to ensure that all coastal areas of Scotland will receive 100 per cent of the net income from the Crown Estate seabed leasing revenues.

Mr Stevenson said:

“There is huge potential to develop our rural communities and bring them into the 21st century with modern technology. Often those outside urban areas are poorly served by the market and the UK government when it comes to providing these services that are taken for granted by so city dwellers.

“With independence, Scotland will have the powers to regulate these services and remove barriers which are holding rural areas back from reaching their full potential. There are opportunities to change and a Rural Connectivity Commission could take these improvements forward.”

The paper outlines five areas where independence could improve rural connectivity, including improved digital connectivity; fairer parcel and delivery charges and ownership of the Royal Mail; fairer fuel prices and energy bills; better transport links and achieving the potential of rural renewables.

11 July 2014

Stevenson Welcomes Lottery Funding Boost for Local Projects

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a total of £19,000 from the National Lottery’s small grants scheme Awards for All for two groups in his constituency.

Buchanhaven Primary School has received a £10,000 Awards for All grant which they will use to buy stage curtains, audience seating, stage equipment and a loop sound system, so that lunchtime and after school clubs can get involved in performing arts, and so that the school can put on shows for the community.

An Awards for All grant of £9,000 has also been given to Royal Tarlair Golf Club. They plan on using the money to refurbish the club’s existing rundown toilet provision, and install a dedicated disabled access facility in the organisation’s club house.

Mr Stevenson said:

“I am delighted to welcome this funding for these two very worthwhile projects in my constituency. The award for Buchanhaven Primary School will benefit the whole community as it will be able to put on shows and encourage youngsters to get involved in performing.


“This will also be a great summer boost for Royal Tarlair Golf Club as they will be able to improve their facilities and create a more modernised club house for the players.”

Across Scotland, 169 groups are sharing Lottery funding totalling £1,294,236 in this latest tranche of grants. An Awards for All spokesperson added:

“These grants totalling over £1.2 million will benefit over 160 groups across the country. Awards for All proves that the smallest amounts of funding can often make the biggest difference to people’s lives.

“Once again, it’s great to see so many small groups coming forward with the aim of making a difference to their local communities.”

4 July 2014

Battle Against Hospital Infections Being Won as C.Diff Cases Fall to Record Low

Figures showing that the number of C.diff infections acquired by hospital patients has reached the lowest level on record show that the battle against healthcare acquired infections (HAIs) is being won.

In the first quarter of 2014, Clostridium difficile incident fell to 91 cases in patients aged 15-64 and 270 cases in patients over 65 – the lowest numbers for each age group since monitoring began.

Meanwhile cases of MRSA and MSSA in Scotland’s hospitals also fell during the same period to reach the second lowest level since records began.

Since 2007, cases of C.diff in patients over 65 have fallen by 84.8 per cent while the number of MRSA cases has dropped by 87.1 per cent.

Commenting, local MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“Preventing healthcare acquired infections has been a priority for the SNP since taking office and these positive figures show the real successes that the NHS is achieving in this area.

“The number of C.diff infections in hospitals has fallen to the lowest level on record while MRSA and MSSA cases are also down.

“That success does not happen by accident and I would pay tribute to the hard working NHS staff across Scotland who have worked so hard to stamp out healthcare acquired infections.

“Of course there can be no room for complacency. No matter how positive these figures are, we want to ensure that further progress is achieved and that there is never a return to the situation we inherited when the SNP first took office in 2007.

“Today’s figures are a demonstration of how far we have come, but it is important that we keep up that momentum and achieve even more in the months and years to come.”

Banffshire Parliamentarians on Queen's Baton Relay

Local Parliamentarians have welcomed the visit of the Queen’s Baton Relay to Banffshire.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The Queen’s Baton Relay has been quite a spectacle and reminds us that the Commonwealth Games is all about community and shared spirit.

“The baton has been through dozens of countries before reaching Banffshire and will be through dozens more communities here in Scotland before reaching its destination in Glasgow. It is great to be a part of that epic journey!”

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said:

"The atmosphere generated by the crowds was truly exciting as the baton was carried through with lots of cheers and smiles. It was great to see so many children joining in the celebrations as well as the wider community.

“The Commonwealth Games is a national event and its arrival in Banffshire reminds us that this sporting showcase is for everyone in all parts of the country and people of all ages are being inspired by Scotland hosting such an international event."

Angus Robertson MP said:

“The baton has been transported through Banffshire and Moray by air, sea and land bringing together people from many ages and backgrounds, from local volunteers to sports personalities to schoolchildren and service personnel.

“Glasgow 2014 is set to be a fantastic event and the Baton Relay has brought that excitement to the heart of many communities in Banffshire and Moray.”

MSP on the Case of Missing Forglen Postbox

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson’s recent surgery tour of villages across his constituency took him into almost every nook and cranny of his sprawling constituency.

Stewart Stevenson MSP posts a letter
at Forglen on a previous surgery tour
Some villages remain resolutely the same in the face of the march of time, others expand with new developments or, sadly, lose the local shop or other service. So it was with some concern that the MSP noticed the post box at Forglen had been removed and no trace of it remained.

Stewart explained:

“Forglen has been on my surgery tour schedule since I was elected in 2001 and it’s a beautiful little community.

“My mobile office is always parked up beside the village phone box and the adjacent post box. The phone box has now gone which is perhaps not surprising in this age of mobile telephones, but I was surprised to see the post box had vanished as well. It’s not unusual for post boxes to be relocated, but this one seemed to have gone completely, so I contacted Royal Mail.

“It seems the post box was removed after it was struck by a vehicle – in this case, a Royal Mail collection vehicle. However, the good news for Forglen residents is that new parts for the post box have been ordered and, once repaired, it will be repositioned back in its old location as quickly as possible.”

26 June 2014

Stevenson Welcomes £7 million Boost for Scottish Economy

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, has applauded energy proposals that could create a billion pound boost to the Scottish economy with significant benefits for the North-east after a vote for independence.

Mr Stevenson said:

“Once Scotland votes YES and receives independence we will have full control over the many energy sources prevalent in North-east and could become an international centre for Carbon Capture and storage in Europe.”

He welcomed the Element Energy report published last week which stated that Scotland’s infrastructure, skills base, potential storage and enhanced oil recovery sites in the central North Sea could create a Carbon Capture and storage (CCS) hub with billions of pounds worth of benefits for the Scottish and North East economy.

Mr Stevenson added:

“These large energy sources and in particular CCS, could lead to the North-east becoming the all-energy hub for Europe and bring in about £7 billion by 2050. Alongside this, an estimated 44,000 new jobs would be created. It is also projected that at least 1.4 additional barrels of oil would be produced as well.”

“Independence will place the power in our hands so that we will see the benefits of our hard work and develop our great industries to see the potential that they truly have.”

Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP added:

“The economy in Aberdeen and the North-east is one of Scotland’s success stories. The track record of the Scottish Government where we have some devolved control over our economy – including major investment in Aberdeen - demonstrates what can be done if we exercise control here in Scotland.”
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