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26 June 2015

Stevenson Encourages Applications for 'Empty Home Fund' in Banffshire and Buchan Coast

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has welcomed a new £4 million fund that will help bring abandoned homes and empty high street spaces back to life.

The Scottish Government’s ‘Town Centre Empty Fund’ will help to revive empty homes and convert unused commercial spaces into new affordable homes. Funding will be administered by Scottish Empty Homes Partnership to registered social landlords and developers in Banffshire and Buchan Coast and throughout Scotland.

Since 2010, the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership has brought over 900 homes back into use and encouraged 17 of Scotland’s 32 authorities to appoint empty homes officers.

Mr Stevenson said:

“I am delighted that the Town Centre Empty Homes Fund has been launched and that my constituents as well as the rest of Scotland will benefit from it.

“I would encourage registered social landlords and developers across Banffshire and Buchan Coast to apply for funding so that we can begin to see empty homes filled with those who need them, and commercial spaces revamped for public use.

“Transforming more unused spaces into comfortable homes will help provide more affordable housing in Scotland. There are currently an estimated 27,000 long-term private empty homes and it makes sense to put these properties to good use to ensure more people have access to high quality, affordable housing.”

The deadline for applications is 21 August 2015.

25 June 2015

Stevenson Seeks Government Support for Young's Workers

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, asked for support from the Scottish Government today (Thursday), for workers at Young’s Seafood in Fraserburgh who face the threat of redundancy.

© Young's Seafood Limited 2015
Mr Stevenson asked the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for reassurance that every effort would be made to mitigate the effect of potential job losses in Fraserburgh, following the announcement from Young’s on Tuesday that they had lost what is thought to be the biggest fish processing contract in the UK with Sainsbury’s.

Ms Sturgeon said:

“I share the MSP’s concern about the recent developments in Young’s Seafood and the potential impact this might have on employers and their families in the surrounding areas. The Minister for Business and the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs have and continue to offer support to the company.

“Scottish Enterprise has also been in contact with the company to support the business, to discuss what can be done and minimise any negative impact on jobs. In the event of job losses we have made the offer of support through PACE (Partnership Action for Continuing Employment). I would like to reassure the MSP that the government will be doing everything within its power to help the company through this difficult time.”

Mr Stevenson added that he had spoken to the Chief Executive of Aberdeenshire Council who would also be working to mitigate the effects of the announcement, and he welcomed the response of Government support.

Union bosses fear Young’s Seafood, which has a plant in Fraserburgh, could lose around 300 staff nationwide following the end of its deal to supply smoked salmon to Sainsbury’s.

Wider reforms needed to Scottish Parliament committee system

The case for the introduction of elected conveners for Scottish Parliament committees as a stand-alone reform has not been made according to a report issued today (Thursday 25 June) by the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments (SPPA) Committee.

The Committee was asked to consider the case for elected committee conveners by the Presiding Officer, the Rt Hon Tricia Marwick MSP. This was part of the Presiding Officer’s reform work aimed at strengthening Parliament’s procedures to ensure they are relevant, topical and in touch with the wider public and civic Scotland.

However, during the course of its inquiry the Committee concluded that there are wider issues of committee reform which need to be considered first.

Committee Convener, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The Scottish Parliament’s committee system plays a crucial role in scrutinising legislation and holding the Scottish Government to account.

“During our evidence we heard about the benefits that elected conveners had brought to the House of Commons. We also heard that change is needed in the Scottish Parliament committee system. But the Westminster system is very different and we are not convinced that these changes would have the same impact here.

“Instead, it became increasingly clear that to the Committee that elected conveners are not the right first step to wider reform. There are other issues which should be considered first.

“There is no doubt that the time for reform is now, in readiness for the next session of Parliament. That is why our Committee has agreed to begin a focussed discussion about the steps needed to strengthen committees’ ability to scrutinise legislation and policy, and hold the Government to account.”

The SPPA Committee intends to undertake an inquiry into the operation of committees and will report by Christmas 2015.

24 June 2015

Stevenson Praises Local Lifeboat Service Across Banffshire and Buchan Coast

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, paid tribute to the four lifeboat stations in his constituency – Buckie, Macduff, Fraserburgh and Peterhead – in a Scottish Parliament debate this week.
Buckie Lifeboat, © RNLI 2015
Mr Stevenson said:

“I know how much my constituents value having the lifeboats, which provide the security of knowing that there is someone on standby who knows what they are doing and has the equipment to do it.

“I was interested to read about an early experience of a lifeboat in 1965, when it rescued leisure sailors - the first rescue boats were cobbles. A couple of guys rowed them and somebody would be in the stern steering the boat towards the vessel in distress. We have made a lot of progress in professionalising and improving the quality of support.”

He added that the sea can be very dangerous and what lifeboats have to contend with is not a trivial matter.

22 June 2015

Stevenson Welcomes 160 Affordable New Homes for Aberdeenshire

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has welcomed an announcement today (Monday) that up to 160 new affordable homes will be provided in the north east as part of Scottish Government led initiative.

The homes will be available for affordable mid-market rents on six sites across the region through the National Housing Trust initiative (NHT). Across Scotland, the NHT initiative is on track to deliver over 2,000 new homes, all without the need for grant subsidy, and developed by the Scottish Government and Scottish Futures Trust.

The first development of 24 homes at Westhill is almost complete.

Mr Stevenson said:

“There is a significant demand for affordable housing in the north east and this announcement will go some way towards meeting that demand.

“It is good to see the Scottish Government, Scottish Future’s Trust and Aberdeenshire Council working together to make this happen. This move will play a key role in giving individuals and families across Aberdeenshire the opportunity to rent a new home at affordable rates.”

The Scottish Government remains on track to deliver its target of 30,000 new affordable homes over the lifetime of the Parliament.

18 June 2015

Stevenson Marks 30th Anniversary of the Scottish Cot Death Trust

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has recognised the 30th anniversary of the Scottish Cot Death Trust and praised them for the support that they offer to bereaved parents and families.

Mr Stevenson said:

“As the number of young children who die has diminished, the pain and the sense of guilt that parents can feel when it happens has substantially increased. A child, even of the briefest period on this earth, will leave memories for their parents and for all who have known them.”

He pointed out that there is no single cause of cot death, and cot death is not always satisfactorily identified as the cause of the death.

Mr Stevenson added:

“The Scottish Cot Death Trust is very much to be congratulated for its work. It is draining to support a person who is in mental despair and who has experienced loss and it takes time to provide counselling for people. Over the past 30 years, we have seen the work of the Scottish Cot Death Trust supporting parents across Scotland and beyond.

“It is right that we provide advice on how to minimise the occurrence of cot death. However, it is equally important that we reassure parents that it is not their fault that their child dies from cot death. It will almost certainly not—in 99 cases out of 100, and probably more—be the parents’ fault. That is precisely why the Scottish Cot Death Trust has to exist - it must reassure and support parents who do not know what more they could have done, when the answer may be that there was nothing more they could have done.”

11 June 2015

Stevenson Uses 600th Speech in Scottish Parliament to Attack Tory Priorities

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, spoke for the 600th time in the Scottish Parliament today (Thursday) highlighting that carers and trade unions are under attack by the Conservative Government at Westminster.

In a Scottish Government debate on protecting employee rights, Mr Stevenson said:

Napoleon abdicates in 1845
(wikipedia)
“I have long heard Tories say they are champions of individualism. Their current plans reinforce my long held view that their real principal is to support big businesses.

“Today they are no more champions of individual citizens – from whom they also wish to remove the human rights championed by previous generations of their party like Winston Churchill – than Napoleon was an intimate friend of Wellington 150 years ago.”

Mr Stevenson highlighted the work of carers in his constituency adding:

“The commercialisation of carer services has created jobs where the relationship between employed and employer is wholly out of balance.

“In Aberdeenshire I understand that 11 of 13 companies providing carer services are living wage employers, but difficulties are created when staff are not paid as they travel between care appointments across Scotland.

“In addition, by making it more expensive, especially for those on low wages, to access the legal system to enforce employee rights, can only be seen as part of the Tory agenda to tip the balance away from individual rights.”

Mr Stevenson said that these were reasons why the Scottish Government needed the powers to address such issues.

Stevenson Delighted at £33k for Banffshire and Buchan Coast

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, is delighted that five groups in his constituency have secured £33,789 of funding from Awards for All Scotland.

The largest award of £9,400 has been given to Fraserburgh Sea Cadets Unit No 419 TS Gowanlea, from which they will buy four new sailing boats and trolleys.

Deveron Canoe Club have been awarded £9,000 from the Big Lottery grant scheme sportscotland, which they will use to invest in canoeing equipment to further develop Canoe Polo in the North East.

The Peterhead branch of the Royal Air Forces Association has been granted £8,181, and this will be used by the group to travel to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Girl Guiding Banff and Buchan has been given a £5,000 grant, and this will pay for a group of adult leaders to attend a weekend training course at the Girl Guide’s training centre, and to purchase IT equipment.

Banffshire Partnership Limited has been awarded £2,208, and this funding will go towards running a lunch club for isolated older people.

Mr Stevenson said:

“I am absolutely delighted that my constituency will benefit from £33,789 from the Big Lottery Fund and sportscotland through the Awards for All programme.

“For local groups to develop and expand with increasing membership and interest from the local community, grants like these are vital. Both young people and the older generation benefit from this recent tranche of funding and I wish all of these groups the very best as they face the future with a recognition of what they are doing for their local communities.”

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.

An Awards for All spokesperson, added:

“We are announcing over £1,342,066 that will help communities Scotland wide to set up and develop projects run for and by local people. What is clear is the smallest amount of funding can often make the biggest difference to people’s lives. All of these grants are a great way to show the variety of projects that can be funded through Awards for All.”

3 June 2015

Stevenson Highlights North East Uptake for the Futures Programme

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, highlighted the high uptake of applications for the Scottish Government’s CAP Futures programme in the North-East at the Scottish Parliament today (Wednesday).

The Common Agricultural Policy Futures programme will receive applications for rural payments and services until 15 June 2015.

In response to Mr Stevenson’s question on the number of North-East applications to the programme, Environment Minister Aileen McLeod said:

“As of 2 June, the rural payments and inspections division has received 1842 single application forms from North-East businesses, which is 19 per cent of the total received. That is about half the total expected, with about two weeks of the application window remaining.”

She added:

“On funding, the latest analysis indicates that the North-East of Scotland will account for around €94 million of the direct payment budget, or £68 million at the current exchange rate, at the end of the transition period.

“That is the highest share of any of Scotland’s regions. For the agri-environment climate scheme, the region accounts for 19 per cent of applications that are currently in the system. That is the highest total after the south-east of Scotland at 20 per cent.”

The Scottish Government is working at implementing the complex common agricultural policy. As of today, 12,389 single application forms have been received with 7,675 received online through our new rural payments and services system. The government remain on track to receive the estimated 22,000 single application forms by the closing date of 15 June.

2 June 2015

Stevenson Warns Against Damaging Scotland's Technology Sector

In a Scottish Government debate this week (Tuesday), Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has warned against the loss of high end innovation that could be caused by a bill proposed in Westminster.

Mr Stevenson argued that the Investigatory Powers Bill proposed by the Conservative government in last week’s Queen’s Speech would stifle the development of encryption software in the UK.

He said:

“Key to the proposals is the requirement of a ‘backdoor’ in software that would enable the security services to read the content of private messages protected by encryption.

“Lest anyone think that the terrorism crisis in the world requires the need to read the content of secret messages, consider two things - only the law-abiding will use legal software with that ‘backdoor’ to encrypt their messages. Secondly and critically, it will open up all your financial transactions to scrutiny and potential interference.”>

As Scotland is a leading source of innovative software for the financial sector, Mr Stevenson warned that such legislation would mean that secure software development will migrate overseas.

Mr Stevenson added:

“In the United States where similar moves are under way, Phil Zimmerman, the creator of the world's most widely used email encryption system – Pretty Good Privacy, otherwise known as PGP – has started to move his company to Switzerland.

“The American technology used today is RSA and first emerged in 1978. RSA stands for Rivest, Shamir and Adelman, the mathematicians responsible.

“But UK scientists Ellis in 1970 and Cocks in 1973 actually led the way but were prevented from exploiting their research by the UK Official Secrets regime. Another technology advantage - another world-leading technology lost to the UK economy.

“For Scotland, this Tory proposal risks more of the same. Let us put down firm markers that we are against the detail of the Investigatory Powers Bill. It will damage a key sector of our economy in the UK, but most especially in Scotland.”
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