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29 January 2014

Finance Secretary Delivers Immortal Memory at Local Burns Supper

Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney MSP delivered the immortal memory at the Cruden Bay, Hatton & Longhaven Branch SNP Burns Supper held at Longhaven Hall on Saturday.

Also in attendance and speaking were local MP Eilidh Whiteford, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson who compered the event, Myrna McHugh who addressed the haggis, and Kevin Lamb, who entertained the capacity audience with his renditions of Tam O’Shanter and Holy Willie’s Prayer. Ellon councillor Richard Thomson entertained the company with some fiddle tunes to round off the evening.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It was a pleasure to be able to welcome John Swinney to Longhaven Hall. As ever, John gave good value and delivered an entertaining and thought-provoking immortal memory which was enjoyed by the audience.

“Kevin Lamb gave a couple of excellent renditions of Tam O’Shanter and Holy Willie’s Prayer, and Myrna McHugh despatched the haggis with aplomb.”

Eilidh Whiteford MP added:

“This was a very enjoyable event and I’m grateful to the local SNP branch for inviting me to give the Toast to Scotland in this historic year.

“There was a capacity turnout of around 70 guests for the event and there was general consensus that the evening was a great success.”

Stevenson Welcomes dotSCOT Web Presence

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the news that “dotSCOT” will be available for website and e-mail addresses for the first time from this summer.

It is understood that the new domain could be on general sale in time for this summer’s Commonwealth Games.

Dot Scot Registry (DSR), a Glasgow-based not-for-profit company, has agreed terms with the international regulatory authority, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), to operate the new dotSCOT internet domain. It had previously been anticipated that ICANN’s processes would mean that the new domain would not be available until early 2015.

DotSCOT will offer a unique branding tool for businesses and a clear cultural identifier for people and organisations in Scotland and also for the international diaspora that extends to many tens of millions more.

The Scottish Government has actively supported DSR in the application process, regarding dotSCOT as an asset for the public good which supports the business, cultural, linguistic and artistic uniqueness of Scotland

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“While it’s great news in itself that we will finally have a Scottish alternative for web and e-mail addresses, this actually has the potential to significantly boost awareness of Scottish business, arts and culture online.

“Scotland has a great reputation all over the world and having a dotSCOT domain will allow people and organisations to clearly identify themselves with that.”

First Minister Alex Salmond said:

“2014 is an exciting year for Scotland, and I’m delighted that this distinct online identity for the nation, and all who take an interest in Scotland, will become available this summer.

“The dotSCOT domain is long overdue in this digital age, and the worldwide family of Scots who have been waiting patiently since it was first proposed, will soon be able to have this marvellously expressive domain as their online identity of choice.”

Gavin McCutcheon, Director of Dot Scot Registry, said:

“Scotland and Scottishness conveys a whole range of positive connotations, which could not really be portrayed on the web before, but with a dotSCOT domain there will be a new option anyone involved in Scottish business, arts and culture and others to identify themselves more clearly as Scottish to the online world.

“We aim to make dotSCOT domains as affordable as possible and our not-for-profit structure means we will be able to do so.

“We hope that dotSCOT will become the first choice for the worldwide family of Scots, allowing them to demonstrate for the first time their affinity to Scotland and for Scottish societies and organisations wherever they are in the world to make dotSCOT their home on the Internet.”

Stevenson Highlights the Danger of Skin Cancer

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has backed a call more attention to be paid to skin cancer prevention as figures for the deadly disease continue to rise.

Mr Stevenson visited the Melanoma Action and Support Scotland exhibition in the Scottish Parliament highlighting the serious problem of skin cancer in Scotland.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“MASScot, the skin cancer charity, is seeking support for a campaign on sun protection education for the general public, focusing on the care necessary, particularly by those under 35 years of age.

“Skin cancers are by far the most common cancers in Scotland and the incidence of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is increasing at over 50 per cent every decade, making it the fastest growing cancer.

“A major concern is that many of those diagnosed with melanoma are young parents as this cancer is the most common cancer of those in the 15 to 35 age range.”

MASScot support those with skin cancer and their carers, and hold open air events and visit schools to educate on the importance of sun awareness from an early age. They also highlight the risk of over exposure to sunshine for outdoor workers.

20 January 2014

Stevenson Welcomes Recognition for Peterhead CCS in National Plan

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has welcomed a new national plan proposing 14 developments across Scotland promising economic growth, including a Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Network.

Shell Web Site on Peterhead CCS
The Peterhead CCS project, proposed as part of the National Planning Framework (NPF3), would create the world's first commercial-scale full chain CO2 capture, transportation and storage development. It would collect up to 10 million tonnes of CO2 emitted from Peterhead Power station over 10 years, and store it in the depleted Goldeneye gas reservoir, 100 km offshore.

Mr Stevenson said:

“The Peterhead carbon capture and storage project is a visionary opportunity for Scotland and the UK—it is the first step towards opening up the North Sea as a global hub for the carbon storage industry, and will bring investment and long-term growth to the region.”

"What makes Peterhead unique is that there is as yet no gas-based carbon capture and storage project in operation. For Peterhead, that is a key opportunity.

"In carbon capture, we have a good prospect of commercial success whereas, after decades, nuclear remains entirely unproven”.

The proposed National Planning Framework (NPF3) was announced by Planning Minister Derek Mackay this week, and will be considered by the Scottish Parliament within the next 60 days.

Mr Mackay added:

“The proposed framework will benefit every part of Scotland and sets out our vision for where sustainable economic growth should take place over the next 20 to 30 years.

“I want future planning decisions to give due weight to the economic benefit of proposed developments, particularly the creation of new jobs.”

16 January 2014

SPPA Committee begins Lobbying Inquiry

MSPs are to discuss whether there is a problem with lobbying and access to politicians, “either actual or perceived”, in its first evidence session in its lobbying inquiry today [Thursday].

Steps to improve transparency and whether the introduction of a statutory register of lobbyists would help will be discussed by Holyrood’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments (SPPA) Committee.

Witnesses include representatives from campaign groups and the public affairs industry.

Over the course of the coming weeks, the Committee will also take evidence from charities and trade unions, as well as representatives from business, academia and local authorities.

Stewart Stevenson MSP, Convener of SPPA, said:

“Our main focus will be whether there are real or perceived problems with lobbying in Scotland, and what steps should be taken to address any issues that are identified.

“We look forward to considering the evidence we will hear from advocates of reform, academics and others, before we report to the Parliament with recommendations”.

The SPPA inquiry follows the Scottish Government’s stated intention to introduce legislation in this area within this parliamentary term (2011-2016).

14 January 2014

Standards Committee Welcomes Parliamentary Reforms

A package of reform measures introduced in 2012 by the Scottish Parliament have been welcomed in a parliamentary committee report published today.

In its review of the new reforms introduced in September 2012, the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments (SPPA) Committee said the measures represented the most significant changes to parliamentary business since 1999, and had enabled Members to question Ministers at the start of every meeting of the chamber and raise current issues earlier in the week.

The report also acknowledged the “strong leadership” shown by the Presiding Officer in promoting her vision for parliamentary reform.

SPPA Committee convener Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Having reviewed the package of measures as a whole, our Committee has concluded that the reforms have been successful in creating a more responsive and agile Parliament.

“The Chamber now meets across three days rather than two. Members now have the opportunity to question ministers at the start of every meeting of the Chamber. And the new innovation of topical question time offers Members the chance to raise current issues in the Chamber earlier in the week. The Committee welcomes all these developments.”

In conclusion, the SPPA Committee report says:

“Looking to the future, the Committee notes that the Presiding Officer has shown strong leadership in promoting a vision for parliamentary reform this session. The Committee shares her view that the Parliament must always look for opportunities to improve its practices and procedures. The Committee stands ready to play its role in considering any future parliamentary reforms.”

The full report is available here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/

Buckie VC Holder to be Honoured as Part of WWI Commemoration

Buckie is to receive a uniquely-carved paving stone commemorating the awarding of the Victoria Cross to local man George McIntosh during the First World War.

The scheme is part of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the war and will see 44 towns across the country receive a paving stone honouring their local Victoria Cross holders. The paving stone and its design was selected as part of a competition organised last year to find an appropriate way to mark the occasion and to honour VC holders.

Commenting, Buckie MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“In common with many other nations, Scotland suffered terrible losses during the Great War.

“In this, the year of the centenary of the outbreak of the war, it is right that we remember those who made the supreme sacrifice or showed heroism to help their comrades, not least because, very often, these people were given no choice but to enlist for war service.

“It is fitting that Buckie’s VC holder will be honoured by the town in this way.”

Moray MP Angus Robertson said:

"The Victoria Cross is the highest award for valour that a member of the armed forces or a civilian under military command can be given and the recipients of a VC should rightly be honoured for their actions.

"VC recipients like Buckie's George McIntosh invariably carried out an action under extreme duress that has saved lives and contributed to a critical success in the heat of battle.

"It is right and proper that people like Flight Sergeant McIntosh get significant recognition and these memorial slabs will be an important mark of respect from the communities that the recipients hail from. With many VCs being awarded during the First World War, the centenary of that conflict seems like a fitting time for this recognition to be made."

13 January 2014

MSP Welcomes Fall in Violent Crime Across North-East

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed figures from Police Scotland which show that an anti-violence campaign over the festive period saw serious assaults across the region fall from 13 to 2 when compared to the same period last year, a fall of 84%.

Figures show that there were 145 common assaults in Aberdeenshire over the festive period compared to 204 last year; in Moray there were 74 down from 108. There were a total of 2 serious assaults in Aberdeenshire down from 7 the previous year and 0 in Moray down from 6 the previous year.

The operation saw extra high-visibility patrols across the region with a focus on targeting anti-social behaviour and violence.

In Aberdeenshire, 42 additional officers were involved in the operation, which was carried out in collaboration with several partner agencies including Aberdeenshire Council, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, the Street Pastors, NHS Grampian and Cair Scotland.

In Moray, Officers worked alongside partner agencies, including Moray Safety Community Partnership and Moray Alcohol and Drug Partnership. In addition the operation saw more than 700 licensed premises visits carried out, of which 278 were by Safer Streets staff.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“These are impressive results when compared to the situation the previous year and I congratulate our local police officers on this progress.

“Clearly, one violent incident is one too many but this shows that the targeted approach being taken by Police Scotland is not only paying dividends in terms of keeping the public safe, but also saving huge amounts of taxpayers’ money in terms of the various agencies such as police, ambulance, NHS and criminal justice staff required to deal with such incidents.”

Local Commander for Aberdeenshire & Moray Division Chief Superintendent Mark McLaren said:

"The North-east is a great place to live with the various towns and communities offering vibrant day and night time economies which we encourage people to enjoy.

"We are particularly fortunate that crime rates are low and we have excellent relationships with our local communities as well as our various partner agencies.

"We welcome these extremely positive results and it is heartening to know that our communities have been that bit safer during the festive period.

“Safer Streets has been a very successful campaign over the years and we will continue to build on what has already been achieved.

"I would like to thank the dedicated work of our officers as well as our partner agencies.”

The Winter Safer Streets programme in Aberdeenshire is funded by Aberdeenshire Community Safety Partnership whilst in Moray it is funded by Moray Alcohol and Drug Partnership.

9 January 2014

Stevenson Welcomes Free School Meals Announcement

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has welcomed the announcement this week that free school meals will be provided for all P1-P3 children in Scotland from next January.

On Tuesday, the SNP government unveiled a £114m investment into Scotland’s youth, which also includes free childcare provision for every two-year-old from unemployed households in Scotland – around 8,400 children – by August 2014.

The move was fervently welcomed by the Scottish Free School Meals campaign who said it “marks a major step forward.”

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“In times of financial austerity, it is crucially important that the Scottish Government does all that it can to support families coping with the downturn. This measure will save families at least £330 per child.

“It is also vital that healthy eating habits are encouraged from a young age, so we are indeed investing in the future of Scotland. I am delighted that the SNP Government continues to deliver for the residents of the North-east.”

Based on the latest available figures, around 8,148 pupils in the Aberdeenshire Council area, and 2,787 in the Moray Council area will be eligible to benefit from free school meals.

The investment was also supported by John Dickie, Head of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland. He said:

“A universal approach to healthy free school lunches provides a huge boost to children and parents at a time when they are under increasing pressure from tax credit and benefit cuts, soaring food and energy prices and stagnating wages. Current means-testing means too many of our worst off children are not receiving a free school meal and parents too often struggle to meet the extra costs of lunches as they move back into work or increase their hours when their children start school. What’s more a universal approach ensures that all our children, whatever their home circumstances, gain the health and education benefits of a healthy lunch in the middle of the school day.”

The Scottish Government’s £114m investment will also see free childcare provision extended further by August 2015, reaching 15,400 children – 27 per cent of all two-year-olds – by widening entitlement to families that receive certain welfare benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance.

2 January 2014

Stevenson Highlights Increase in Dentists under SNP Government

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed new figures showing the number of dentists in Scotland has increased by almost 33 percent points since the SNP took office. Between September 2006 and September this year, Scotland has benefitted from 793 extra dentists.

These extra dentists have helped to vastly increase the levels of registration with an NHS dentist. In March 2007 before the SNP took office, just 67% of children and 46% of adults were registered with an NHS dentist. The most recent figures show that as of 30th September 2013, 91% of children and 82% of adults were registered. Over 4.4 million people are now registered – an increase of 1.8 million since March 2007.

Commenting Mr Stevenson said:

"These figures are really something to smile about. In particular it is vitally important that children learn good oral health early as they are much more likely to continue these habits later in life.

"The New Year is the perfect time to register at a dentist and get your teeth checked.

"These figures show that, after years of neglect under previous administrations, that real inroads have been made in ensuring the provision of first-rate dental services for the people of Scotland.

“Up until a few years ago, I was regularly contacted by constituents who could not get access to NHS dentistry. That is no longer the case. Many thousands more people in Grampian are now registered with an NHS dentists, we have supported investment in more dental surgeries and a new dental school in Aberdeen which is making a real difference to the availability of NHS dentists in our region.”

Number and %age of people registered with a NHS dentist at specified dates:

31 Mar 2007 2,584,912 50.2%
31 Mar 2009 3,349,235 65.1%
31 Mar 2011 3,804,338 73.2%
30 Sep 2013 4,432,103 83.4%
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