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30 December 2016

Tories Dipping Off Scottish Public Spending as Spin Operation Doubles

Scotland Office Spending Out of Control as Scottish Government Faces Cuts

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson has called for answers over out-of-control spending at the Scotland Office as new figures show that the cost of Secretary of State David Mundell’s department has rocketed 20% since 2011/12, at the same time as the Scottish Government’s budget has been cut by the UK Government, and the devolution of significant new powers to the Scottish Parliament means the work of the UK Government in Scotland is lower than ever before.

New figures verified by the House of Commons Library revealed that the expenditure of the Scotland Office - which answers to the only Scottish Tory MP David Mundell - has soared by an eye-watering 20% in real terms since 2011/12. Confirmation of Mr Mundell’s department’s spending comes as the Scottish Government revenue budget – the funds that pay for Scottish public services – has been cut by the Tories by almost 2% in real terms over the same period. In effect the Tories are creaming off money that should go to the Scottish Government to spend on public services to instead increase spending for the Tory-run Scotland Office.

In summer, parliamentary questions from SNP MPs revealed that at least part of this increase has been prompted by the rapidly increasing cost of the Scotland Office political spin operation. Since 2011/12, the expenditure of the Scotland Office on communications has more than doubled to £426,223.

Mr Stevenson has said there are some serious questions for the Tories to answer about where the money is going and why the Tories are happy to give massive increase in budgets to their own department whose responsibilities are limited at the same time as cutting the Scottish Government’s budget.

The MSP also said the revelation that Scotland Office spending had increased was particularly galling, as the transfer of new powers to Scotland means the work of the Scotland Office has been reduced.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The Scotland Office has long been a zombie department with next to no responsibilities. And with more powers transferring to the Scottish Government, as David Mundell so enjoys telling us, it would be interesting to hear his explanation for why his department requires such an enormous increase in its budget.

“We know that the budget for Mundell’s army of spin doctors and publicity campaigns to promote the benefits of the Union to the people of Scotland has more than doubled. Perhaps he needs the extra help in trying to devise a believable reason for why he has u-turned on the Single Market and why he believes the people of Scotland should suffer Brexit despite not voting for it.

“At a time when households are being told by the Tories to tighten their belts and Scotland’s budget which pays for public services is being cut so savagely to the tune of £2.6 billion by 2019/20, people are entitled to ask just what David Mundell has done to deserve his budget boost and what is he spending it all on?

“David Mundell’s Tory colleagues in the Scottish Parliament were quick to criticise the SNP back in summer over spending on the National Survey – a complaint that turned out to be without foundation. If they are so concerned by the use of public funds to support political ends, then I hope they will support my call for David Mundell to explain just exactly what his Department’s budget boost is funding.

“David Mundell has to come clean this Christmas and tell us where all this extra money is going – and how it can be justified at a time when the Tories are telling us there are cuts to come for real services that people depend on.’’

29 December 2016

Positive Progress Towards Future for NE Dairy Sector

A study into options for the North-east dairy industry supported by Aberdeenshire Council and Opportunity North-east (ONE) has identified potential investors.

The study was initiated following the decision by Muller Wiseman to close their milk processing plant in Aberdeen and truck milk to Bellshill, Lanarkshire, for processing, for which producers are charged 1¾ pence per litre. This, coupled with low milk prices over recent years has put the future of the North-east dairy sector in serious doubt.

Now, the second stage of the dairy study has seen a prospectus selling the North-east dairy opportunity prepared and widely promoted in the UK and internationally. Three serious investment prospects have emerged from this work.

Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee Cllr David Aitchison (SNP-Westhill & District), whose remit includes economic development, said:

“This is a positive first step to ensuring the continued economic viability of dairy farming in the North-east. Partnership working has ensured that we have come this far and I am hopeful there will be a positive outcome.”

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson commented:

“I am delighted that a number of potential investors have expressed an interest in the opportunities which exist in the milk sector here in the North-east following the decision by Muller Wiseman to close their operations here.

“This represents important progress and while we should be cautious at this early stage, Aberdeenshire Council and ONE are to be commended for their efforts to date.”

28 December 2016

Statistics Show More Social and Council Housing in Development

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a significant rise in the number of council houses and new social rented sector homes in development compared to last year, as well as an overall increase in housing supply – as revealed by National Statistics for Scotland figures published today.

While the Labour/Lib Dem Scottish executive built only six council homes during their time in office, council house building has been revived under the SNP, with right-to-buy scrapped. Central to the Scottish Government’s ambition to make Scotland “fairer and more prosperous” is the commitment to building at least 50,000 new affordable homes over this parliament.

The latest analysis shows that new local authority housing starts and completions have risen (26% and 12% respectively) since last year, and more social housing is being built across Scotland.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“It is really encouraging that housebuilding in Scotland is on the up – particularly when it comes to new social housing and council-built developments.

“The number of social housing homes built between April and June this year was up 77% on the same period last year. And on top of this there was a 26% increase in new local council housing developments up to September 2016 compared to last year.

“The SNP is committed to building 50,000 new affordable homes for many reasons, not least given the link between poor housing and poverty and the fact more homes will help improve people’s life chances, create jobs, and have a beneficial effect on health and wellbeing. This is in stark contrast to the Labour/Lib Dem coalition that was responsible for building only six new council houses throughout their time in office. While we still have work to do, I am confident that these latest figures show that the SNP is committed to working with partners to continue to increase the affordable housing supply.”

Consultation Opens on Opt-Out Organ Donor Scheme

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson is urging constituents to give their views on organ and tissue donation in the Government’s new consultation to help inform policy.

The 14-week consultation looks at various ways to increase the number of people being referred to the donation services in Scotland and the number of times when donation is ‘authorised’ to proceed.

The consultation asks whether the current system for authorising organ and tissue donation should be turned on its head. Currently in Scotland, organ and/or tissue donation after a person’s death only occurs if they have given advance authorisation or if their nearest relative authorises on their behalf.

A soft opt out, or deemed authorisation, system is being explored whereby donation can proceed if the person has not opted out or told their family they do not wish to donate.

The study will also look at whether clinicians in Scotland should be given guidance on referring potential donors, so that the possibility of donation can be explored at an earlier opportunity.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“With the amazing help of donors and their families, NHS Scotland has achieved huge amounts in recent years. Since April this year, there has been 85 organ donations made after death compared to 60 over the same period last year.

“However, there is more we can do for those who are still waiting for a transplant and it’s essential that we make sure we’re doing all we can.

“The Scottish Government are asking the public whether a ‘soft opt out’ system is preferable to the current system where a person must explicitly opt in to donating. The government are monitoring progress in Wales carefully to learn lessons from their experience of introducing a new opt out system.

“I would encourage as many people as possible in the North-east to get involved in this consultation to help inform and shape the policy on organ and tissue donation. It saves lives and is one of the greatest gifts a person can give.”

Scotland’s Lead Clinician for Organ Donation, Dr Iain Macleod, said,

“I welcome this consultation as an opportunity to discuss ways of increasing organ and tissue donation and hear views from a wide range of people.

“As a doctor working in the Intensive Care Unit at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary I know how sensitive and challenging organ donation can be, both for families going through the devastating process of losing a loved one and for NHS staff. However, I also know how important donation is in saving and transforming the lives of hundreds of transplant recipients in Scotland every year and also how much comfort it can give to donors’ families over time to know that their loved one has helped save the lives of others.”

22 December 2016

Stevenson Backs Scottish Government on Incentivising CAP Futures Delivery

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the statement from Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, who outlined changes to bear down on costs and incentivise the CAP Futures system.

Mr Ewing explained that the Scottish Government expected to see savings of more than 10 per cent on the cost of the contractor in November. Furthermore, as a result of negotiations with the contractor, there will be a new penalty and service credit regime in place. This will incentivise timely delivery of the CAP Futures system and impose financial penalties where those timetables are not met.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“This is a very positive statement from the Cabinet Secretary. It’s essential that the CAP Futures programme is delivered as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is critical to our farming communities and overall agricultural sector.

“With the changes resulting from these negotiations we will save money but also encourage commercial discipline in programme delivery. This gives the Scottish Government an important tool in enforcement – if the contractor fails on timely delivery, they will endure financial penalties.

“This is an essential step in ensuring the CAP Futures system is delivering consistently for farmers. Communities depend on the system being efficient and the Cabinet Secretary is committed to delivering that efficiency.”

Local MSP Hails Support for Farmers Transitioning to ScotMoves System

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson has welcomed support for farmers after the Ministerial Statement by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, on protecting Scotland’s livestock.

The Cabinet Secretary re-announced the transition from the Cattle Tracing System to ScotMoves to record cattle movement data. Mr Ewing outlined what steps were being taken to encourage meaningful engagement with the new ScotsMoves system.

The Cabinet Secretary highlighted that the scheme will come into effect on 1 January 2017 and has made sure a hotline will be available on January 1 for farmers to contact. He went on to say that the Scottish Government has taken steps to publicise the matter through specialised and general press, and assured the Parliament that officials in rural payments and inspections divisions offices will be ready to provide advice, support and back-up.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“I welcome the assurances of the Cabinet Secretary. He’s made clear he’s committed to helping our farmers adapt to the new system. The Scottish Government wants a flexible approach and has assured us it will allow farmers to update data by first class post, fax, telephone or indeed online.

“As we transition the Scottish Government aims to do whatever it can to assist farmers move to the ScotsMoves system. It’s the right approach and I’m glad the Scottish Government has taken an extra step by keeping a hotline open on New Year’s Day to help our farmers.

“This is an important step toward protecting Scotland’s farming communities. In 2001, the outbreak of disease destroyed many of our farming communities and cost the UK over £8 billion. It’s vital that we have robust measures in place to ensure that doesn’t happen again.”

News Not Good for Christmas Pud

Cost of Ingredients Skyrockets Following EU Vote

Christmas pudding aficionados face the price of their favourite festive dessert rising sharply this Christmas in the wake of Britain voting to leave the EU.

A slump in the pound is behind the increased cost of Christmas pudding since many key ingredients such as dried fruit, spices, sugar and brandy are imported from abroad.

According to Mintec, the principal independent source of global pricing information for commodities and raw materials, the costs of Christmas pudding ingredients have risen by 21 per cent in 2016.

A Rabobank report looking at the impact of Brexit on beverage producers also noted the impact of a devalued British pound on drinks imports, such as port and brandy, and uncertainty over trade barriers creating an “overall negative effect” on the industry – further driving up prices.

Citrus peel and zest are key components in Christmas pudding recipes and experts suggest that the UK could face higher tariffs on oranges and lemons outside of the EU. Festive flavourings such as cinnamon, nutmeg and mixed spice could also see additional charges levied on imports.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“For me there’s no greater treat at this time of year than a Christmas pudding and the troubling news that costs have skyrocketed in the wake of the EU referendum underlines a serious point.

“The fact that a Tory hard Brexit could potentially land households with higher bills for food and drink matters greatly. And we’re now six months on from the vote without the slightest idea what Brexit means. That creates uncertainty which is bad news for business and, in turn, for consumers.

“And with so many festive treats sharing the same key ingredients, it’s likely they’ll be hit with similar price rises – so that includes Christmas cake, mince pies and the Hogmanay favourite, black bun.

“The folk who will pay the biggest price for Tory recklessness over the EU are those already bearing the brunt of Tory austerity – it’s ordinary, hardworking people expected to put Christmas dinner on the table for their families despite the squeeze on household budgets.”

20 December 2016

Stevenson Backs Scottish Government on Fishing Opportunity

Scottish Government Proposals Keep Fishing Outside CFP

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has backed the Scottish Government’s proposals to keep Scotland outside the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) but within the European Single Market.

The paper – Scotland’s Place in Europe – was published today (Tuesday) and outlined the SNP’s determination for Scotland to remain in the European Single Market. The proposals advocate that the Scotland should remain a full member of the European Economic Area (EEA) but outside of the CFP.

The paper also outlined substantial new powers that should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament as a result of Brexit. The proposals would give Scotland greater opportunity to develop and administer Scottish specific fisheries policies.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The Scottish Government has vowed to continue supporting our fishing industry and today we have it in black and white. The SNP has long been opposed to the CFP and I hope our fishermen take heart at this announcement.

“The Scottish Government is committed to getting the best opportunities for our fishing. Not only is the Scottish Government committed to being outside the CFP but will also press the UK Government to negotiate tariff-free access to the European Single Market for our fish products. That means we’re championing both fish processing and fish catching.

“This is an excellent opportunity for our coastal communities and fishing industry at large – today is a victory. This is a clear statement from the Scottish Government and shows once again that it is the SNP that is the real champion of our fishing industry.”

16 December 2016

Stevenson Meets Fraserburgh Pupils for Tough Questions

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson has met Fraserburgh Academy Modern Studies students to assist them with research for their upcoming studies.

Mr Stevenson joined Fraserburgh Academy Modern Studies teacher Barbara-Ann Hawkey to take questions from four of her Modern Studies students related to their upcoming work. Two of the students were in Advanced Higher (S6) working on dissertations analysing quality of life and how it is affected by policy while the two Higher Modern Studies (S5) students were preparing for upcoming exams.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The pupils had some very tough question – which certainly kept me on my toes. It was interesting to see what other dimensions we could tease out of their questions.

“The students were very enthusiastic and displayed an important ability to redefine the parameters of their questions. The process allowed us to take a deeper look at the complex issues facing our society.

“It was great to meet young people so engaged by the world we live in. They are prepared to question it and have shown a desire to improve it – admirable traits in anyone. I wish them the best of luck with their studies and continued success on their academic journey.”

Tories Clueless on Council Funding

Scottish Government Confirms Councils to Keep Money Raised Locally

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson has criticised the Tories for being clueless on Council Tax and scaremongering in the North-east.

The Scottish Budget confirmed Tory threats of money being transferred to the central belt were utterly false. The Tories in the North-east have stated that money raised through Council Tax reform would be taken by the Scottish Government to fund the attainment gap in other parts of the country.

Outlining the 2017-18 Local Government settlement as part of the Scottish Government Draft Budget, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Derek Mackay said that the £111 million of additional Council Tax revenues expected to be raised from reform of the upper bands will be available to be spent locally. He announced the Scottish Government will use its own resources to fund £120 million going to schools to close the attainment gap.

Support from the Scottish Government and local taxation provides an increase in spending power on local government services, not of £59.6 million, but of £240.6 million or 2.3 per cent. Aberdeenshire will benefit from a distributable budget of £431.8 million plus £8.3 million raised via local tax reform, totalling £440.2 million in support for services.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The Cabinet Secretary has been consistent on this – money raised locally will be spent locally. The Tories are either clueless or they have been deliberately scaremongering the people of the North-east.

“The money raised in the North-east is staying here. Aberdeenshire Council will have another £8.3 million to spend because of these reforms. This money will play an important role in improving services in the North-east.

“It’s time for the Tories to stop scaring our communities with falsehoods. The Tories essentially threatened people with the idea that their Council Tax money was going to disappear down south – this budget proves that was utterly false and it’s time they admit that.”

SNP MSP Welcomes Falling Unemployment

Scotland Outperforms the UK on Female and Youth Employment

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the new figures showing a 0.4% fall in unemployment over the year.

There are currently 28,000 more people in work in Scotland compared to pre-recession levels, and employment levels for both women and young people are higher in Scotland than the UK as a whole, according to the latest Office for National Statistics figures.

However the EU referendum and subsequent lack of leadership from Westminster has caused economic uncertainty, and leaving the single market would pose further risk to progress on employment and the economy. This is why the Scottish Government has taken steps to mitigate the uncertainty caused by Brexit – including investing an additional £100 million to stimulate growth and support jobs, as well as introducing a new £500 million Scottish Growth Scheme for small and medium sized businesses.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“It is encouraging that unemployment in Scotland has fallen over the year, with more women and young people employed here compared to the UK.

“The EU referendum and subsequent lack of leadership from the Tory government has however caused economic uncertainty, with unemployment rising slightly in the months following the referendum despite overall gains throughout the year. It is imperative for the North-east that we retain membership of the single market so that these improvements in employment do not go into retreat.

“In the face of uncertainty the Scottish Labour Market is performing extremely well and the Scottish Government is investing an additional £100 million to help stimulate growth and support jobs, as well as a establishing a new £500 million Scottish Growth Scheme to support in particular small and medium enterprises.

“The SNP remains determined to pursue every avenue to secure Scotland’s continued place in the single market and the stability, jobs and investment that come from being part of the world’s biggest single market.”

15 December 2016

Stevenson Tables Motion Congratulating Macduff Scout Group on Funding

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson has tabled a motion before Parliament congratulating Macduff Scout Group on its recent LEADER grant funding success.

The Macduff Scout Group has secured up to £64,560 LEADER grant funding to help refurbish the Scout hut in Macduff in Banffshire. The North Aberdeenshire Local Action Group has agreed to contribute 50% to the project. The project will seek to create a more efficient internal layout of the building, adding an extension, raising the roofline and providing a kitchen and ample storage in order to support broader community use.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“I’m absolutely delighted for the Macduff Scout Group. The £64,560 LEADER grant funding is a huge boost for them. They deserve to have a suitable meeting place to conduct their activities.

“The LEADER grant is an excellent programme which delivers a bottom up approach to rural development. It allows Local Action Groups to award grants to projects that support delivery of Local Development Strategies and is an important part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme. I encourage eligible community groups apply for funding.

“These grants are awarded to business and community groups that meet local development themes. The Macduff Scout hut will give us a brilliant location to build on the themes of cooperation and sustainability. The local Scouts are a fantastic organisation and I know they will be at the centre of encouraging more constructive local activities. I look forward to welcoming their fully refurbished Scout hut.”

MSP Calls for Ambition on Renewable Heat and on Transport

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson has called for consideration of the findings of ‘The Energy of Scotland’ report on renewable heat and transport.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate on climate change targets and the findings of the recent ‘Energy of Scotland’ report. Mr Stevenson drew attention to the challenges that both renewable heat and transport and the importance of putting attention there. He went on to highlight the need to persuade people of new ways of working.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“Scotland has already made incredible progress on climate emissions and renewable energy – especially electricity. However, significant gains can be made in heat and transport. The ‘Energy of Scotland’ report does the important task of showing us additional opportunities.

“We continue to lead on climate change and the UK as a whole has led on climate change. Unfortunately, Scotland’s leadership is meeting challenges due the UK Government’s recent policy failures on renewable energy.

“This process is not simple. As Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change I encountered the challenges first hand. Part of our work is creating a society that is prepared to embrace sustainable solutions to transport and heat. There’s a lot of work to do and we need UK policy to help facilitate that work."

Rise in Health Care Staff in NHS Grampian

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson has welcomed new statistics published today showing an increase of 52 since last year in hospital and community healthcare workers in NHS Grampian.

Under the SNP government, NHS Scotland staffing levels are at a new record high, increasing by 9.1% over the last 10 years. Nursing and midwifery is also at historically high levels with 2,378 more dedicated staff.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“Under the Scottish Government, NHS staff numbers have risen to record highs - with more consultants, nurses and midwives now delivering essential care for the people of Scotland.

“Healthcare is a key priority for the SNP and I am really encouraged that there are 52 more dedicated health care workers working in NHS Grampian compared to last year – bringing the total number to 12,047.

“In government, the SNP has ensured that NHS staff numbers have risen to record highs, with nearly 140,000 staff working in hospitals and community healthcare throughout NHS Scotland – an increase of 9.1% over the last 10 years.

“With an increase in student nursing and midwifery intakes over the last four years, we are also keeping an eye on the future. The SNP is committed to both record investment in our health service and ensuring the necessary reforms to deliver the right staff, with the right skills, in the right place, long into the future.”

12 December 2016

MSP Joins Children's Hospice Association Scotland on Anniversary

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson has offered his support for Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS) during anniversary event.

Mr Stevenson joined members of CHAS at a Parliamentary event to mark the first year anniversary of the publication of Children in Scotland requiring Palliative Care: identifying numbers and needs (ChiSP). The report was co-commissioned by CHAS and the Scottish Government for launch in November 2015.
Stewart Stevenson MSP with CHAS Chief Executive, Maria McGill
and Chairman of Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society, Shabir Beg

[Photo Credit: Sandy Young]
The event also provided an opportunity for CHAS to welcome the Scottish Government’s recent pledge to provide approximately £30 million in funding over the next five years and for CHAS to discuss with key stakeholders how these additional resources will be used to improve lives.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“I was proud to join CHAS and to hear about their inspiring work. Palliative care can be one of the most challenging times for families – especially when it’s for a child or baby. It’s absolutely crucial that we support families through these hardships.

“CHAS undertakes incredibly moving work – and now that work will have an even greater impact. I look forward to seeing how they deploy their additional resources and continue to improve the lives of children with life-shortening diagnoses.”

Commenting, Maria McGill, CHAS’ chief executive, said,

“Our research shows that there are many families across Scotland who are not accessing the care they need when their child is dying.

“As Scotland’s national children’s hospice service we want to reach every family who needs us. I am delighted that so many MSPs, partners and families took the time to join us at the Scottish Parliament to discuss how we can meet the needs of the 15,404 babies, children and young people with life-shortening diagnoses in this country.

“Scotland is a world leader in palliative care, and we want to make sure every family receives the support they need, when they need it most. The Scottish Government announcement of increased funding for CHAS is most welcome and will help CHAS do exactly that.”

9 December 2016

MP and MSP Thank Local Posties for a First Class Christmas

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP and Stewart Stevenson MSP visited the Fraserburgh Delivery Office on Friday morning to see first-hand the operation of delivering Christmas post and to pass on season’s greetings to its hardworking staff.

Dr Whiteford and Mr Stevenson were shown around the office by Delivery Office Manager, Chris Share, and were introduced to the postmen and women, who are pulling out all the stops to sort and deliver mail in the Fraserburgh area over the Christmas period.
The Festive Season is Royal Mail’s busiest period, as millions of people shop online for gifts and send Christmas cards and parcels. As Royal Mail’s 500th anniversary draws to a close, this Christmas provides an opportunity to reflect on the centuries of hard work delivering to every single address in the UK.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“At no other time is the hard work and dedication of postmen and women clearer than during the festive period.”

Stewart Stevenson MSP added:

“I thank them for the extraordinary lengths they go to ensure Christmas cards and presents are delivered to loved ones on time, and for all they do year-round.”

Chris Share, Royal Mail Delivery Office Manager, said:

“It was a pleasure to show Dr Whiteford and Mr Stevenson our Christmas operation and to hear their kind words of encouragement and support.

“We are extremely proud of our postmen and women for all their hard work during the Festive Season and for continuing our proud history of delivering Christmas mail.”

8 December 2016

Stevenson Calls for Single Voice on Fishing

Tories Fail to Unify with Fellow Parliamentarians on Fishing

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson has called for all political parties to speak with a single voice on fishing.

Mr Stevenson spoke during the annual Parliamentary debate on sea fisheries and end-year negotiations. Mr Stevenson drew attention to the historical issues facing fishing and called for all political parties to speak with a single voice in support of fishing.
Calls for unity were echoed during the debate and by the Cabinet Secretary for Fisheries, Fergus Ewing. Mr Ewing announced that the Scottish Government would support all amendments to the motion in order to demonstrate to fishing communities that the Scottish Parliament, regardless of party, is completely behind them. The motion was supported by four out of five political parties and passed with all amendments but without support from the Tories.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“There has been a long process of mistakes that have led us to our current position with the Common Fisheries Policy. The SNP has been opposed to it from the beginning. My colleague, Donald Stewart, who was leader of the SNP in 1982, speaking in the Westminster debate on the CFP, said of fishermen, ‘They have been betrayed. The result will be catastrophe.’ And it has been.

“In Peterhead and Fraserburgh landings were worth about £150 million. That shows you what a massive impact these negotiations will have on my constituents – but it goes beyond them. Scotland has fishing communities from Lerwick in the north to Eyemouth in the south. Fishing communities across Scotland are watching these negotiations and it’s vital we get them the best deal possible.

“During the debate I made it clear that fishing needs support across the political divide – Our fishing communities need us to unite behind them. I was very pleased to hear the Cabinet Secretary echo this sentiment. The Scottish Government sought to use this opportunity to unite the Parliament behind our fishermen. I’m disappointed that the Tories failed to support the motion – the Conservative amendment was accepted and four of the five parties in Parliament supported the motion. The Tories had an opportunity to send Scottish and UK fishing a clear message of support – instead they once again demonstrate that they’re only here to protect their own narrow political interests."

MSP Tables Parliamentary Motion Congratulating Modo on Funding Success

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson has tabled a motion congratulating Modo – Circus with Purpose on successfully applying to Awards for All Scotland.

Modo – Circus with Purpose has secured £9, 980 and will use the funding to deliver a new workshop programme. The programme “Oot and Aboot” will provide a youth café for people in disadvantaged circumstances and also increase Modo’s work with young people.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“I’m very happy that Modo has secured the £9,980 funding from Awards for All Scotland. Modo already provides some great programmes – It’s amazing what they teach their participants. I’ve personally seen the confidence that Modo instils in young people and I’m sure this additional funding will allow Modo to create a beneficial environment to reach even more young people.

“Awards for All Scotland is an excellent programme that gives groups across our country the opportunity to apply for grants of between £500 and £10,000 for various projects. I encourage all of our community groups to apply for funding.

“These projects bring communities together, improve local space and help communities become more active. Modo’s youth café, as part of their ‘Oot and Aboot’ programme, will be a great place for young people to come together and get involved in some exciting performance work. I’m sure the community is grateful to see more funding for such a fantastic organisation. I’m thrilled at their success and look forward to hearing more about their new workshop programme.”

7 December 2016

Local MSP Backs Scottish Government on Renewables

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson has backed the Scottish Government’s continuing support for Scottish renewables.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate on support for Scotland’s renewables. Mr Stevenson spoke about the important role renewables had to play in climate change and the need for the Government to be more supportive of the renewables sector.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“Scotland has made some incredible progress on tackling climate change. We’ve managed to beat our climate change targets six years early. That is largely due to an incredibly aggressive investment and support of our renewables sector.

“We need to ensure that our renewables energy can thrive. Climate change is a real threat – John Brennan of the Central Intelligence Agency has been quoted saying climate change is one of the ‘deeper causes’ of instability in the world. It is one of the key challenges to global stability and that is why we need to take our dialogue on renewables very seriously.

“The UK Government needs to adopt a more serious approach to renewables. The UK Government is more concerned with throwing £18 billion away on a nuclear power station, Hinkley Point C – agreeing to pay twice the market rate for energy, on a technology that is unproven and that will still leave the hazards of nuclear waste. Scotland and the UK have the skills that make investment in renewables a great potential source of job opportunities – it’s vital that we seek to re-exploit those skills as much as possible.”

5 December 2016

Local MSP Secures Debate on SFF's 'A Sea of Opportunity' Campaign

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has secured a Parliamentary Members’ debate on the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s (SFF) ‘A Sea of Opportunity’ campaign.

Mr Stevenson secured cross party support for a Members’ debate on the points made by the SFF ‘A Sea of Opportunity’ campaign. The motion draws attention to the opportunities that will emerge for Scotland’s coastal communities resulting from full control of fishing in the offshore economic zone. The motion continues by emphasising the assertion by the SFF – that UK fishing interests can be best protected by allowing a minister from Scotland to lead upcoming Brexit fishing negotiations.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“It’s essential that the Scottish Parliament have these kinds of debates. Scottish fishing has historically been underrepresented in international negotiations – it’s time that ended. It’s time we listen to our fishing communities and this debate is part of that listening process.

“This debate will allow us to discuss how to ensure a thriving, sustainable UK fishing industry. Full control of our coastal waters is an incredible opportunity for our coastal communities – It’s vital we protect that.

“By responding to the ‘Sea of Opportunity’ campaign, the Parliament has the chance to clarify its own position and recognise the role the Scottish Government should have in fishing negotiations. The SFF believe it’s important that the Scottish Government have a lead role in future negotiations and I look forward to supporting that position.”

3 December 2016

SNP MSP Offers Support for Small Business Saturday

Stewart Stevenson Encourages People to Support Local Economy

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has offered his support for this weekend’s Small Business Saturday – which encourages people to shop locally and support their local businesses.

Mr Stevenson visited Duncan Leel owner of Dicks Sports in Fraserburgh and was accompanied by local Federation of Small Businesses representative and small business owner Archie Miller of Macrae Stephen & Co as part of Small Business Saturday. Mr Stevenson took the opportunity to point out SNP Government action to support small businesses across Scotland, including the small business bonus and the £500m growth fund.
Statistics from the Scottish Government show there are 13,935 small enterprises across Aberdeenshire – contributing greatly to the local economy.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“Small Business Saturday is an excellent initiative and one which helps to support local businesses throughout the North-east.

“The SNP in government has always made efforts to support small businesses across the North-east, from introducing and extending the small business bonus to launching a growth fund worth £500m to deal with the new challenges created by Brexit.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of Scotland’s economy, supporting jobs and growth in our communities, as well as providing an invaluable service to people across the North-east. With almost 14,000 small enterprises across Aberdeenshire Council Area, there’s plenty of opportunity for people to get out and shop locally.

"I had some excellent discussions with small business owners Duncan and Archie. They've got great ideas about what else we can do to keep Scotland's small enterprises and the Scottish economy thriving – from the digital economy to partnering with local schools to provide young people with work experience. It's great to have these kind of innovative businesses in my constituency – they are vast assets to our local communities.

“I encourage all constituents to support their local independent businesses all year round, but particularly on Small Business Saturday. With the week coming just weeks before Christmas in the busiest retail time of the year, people should use the opportunity to look at what is on offer in the local shops in the North-east.

“Last year’s event saw £623 million spent across local businesses in the UK, and by getting more people out in their local shops this weekend we can achieve even more – helping to support jobs throughout the North-east.”


2 December 2016

Stevenson Congratulates SCARF School Calendar 2016 Winners

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson has congratulated two local students on their Scarf School Calendar Competition award.

Mr Stevenson attended the award ceremony in the Scottish Parliament where the event recognised winners of the Scarf School Calendar Competition. Among the winners were local students Robyn Wallace-Jamieson of Crossroads Primary School, Grange and Jake Watson of King Edward School, Banff, who won for their artistic submissions demonstrating how to be energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions.
The event was attended by winners from schools across Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Dundee City and Moray Council local authority areas and their parents. The 2016 calendar attracted hundreds of fantastic entries from primary schools throughout the region. A total of 14 pupils were selected for the calendar.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“I am very proud of my young constituents and for all those who took part in the calendar competition. They’ve created beautiful pictures that reflect creative solutions to saving energy and protecting our communities from climate change. As former minister for environment and climate change, I’m highly impressed by their work and participation.

“Both Robyn and Jake managed to create interesting, thought provoking art. They’ve clearly put a lot of work into their submissions and the calendar is lucky to have them. I would also like to congratulate all the young people who took part – their creativity, work ethic and awareness are the foundation for combating climate change and creating a world that’s more energy efficient.

“Well done to Scarf for hosting another great competition. They really are playing a key role in creating an energy aware culture among our young people. I’m glad they continue to inspire our young people and I wish them the best of luck for next year’s competition.”

SNP Taking Action to Reduce Nuisance Calls in North-East

Local MSP to Raise Problem with Nuisance Calls Commission

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson has pledged to support Scottish Government efforts to cut down on nuisance calls – after it was announced that a new commission is meeting this week to tackle the issue in Scotland.

Nuisance calls can be particularly disruptive for vulnerable people across the North-east, causing distress and even financial hardship – sometimes leaving people too scared to even answer their phone.

Stewart Stevenson MSP plans to raise the problem of nuisance calls in the North-east with the Nuisance Calls Commission, and invites any constituents plagued by cold calls to contact the Scottish Government Consumer and Competition Policy Unit by email at consumerandcompetition@gov.scot.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“Cold calling can be very distressing, particularly for vulnerable people across the North-east – and can go as far as causing financial hardship and even leave people too scared to answer their phones.

“The Scottish Government has been taking action to prevent nuisance calls, and this new Nuisance Calls Commission will help give individuals and businesses more power to stop cold calling, whilst exploring if stronger regulation is necessary.

“I intend to raise the issue of nuisance calls in the North-east with the Commission – and invite any concerned individuals to get in touch to talk about their experience.

“The Commission is an important step in helping to tackle the problem. Whilst the UK government announcement on banning pensions cold calling is welcome, more can be done to protect individuals – and the Scottish Government intends to use newly devolved powers to do what it can to prevent nuisance calls, whilst urging the UK government to do more and to work with them to take concerted action.”

28 November 2016

Local MP & MSP Urge Maintenance of Dispensed Medicines in Gamrie

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson and Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford were in Gardenstown this morning as part of their campaign to retain a dispensary facility for prescriptions in the village.

The MP and MSP were presenting their case to a panel appointed by NHS Grampian which was taking evidence for individuals and community groups in the village.

NHS Grampian has been consulting with the patients of six GP practices who currently get, or who are eligible to get, dispensed medicines from their GP practice. A Review Group will be analysing all the responses to the consultation and will make recommendations to the Board of NHS Grampian.

Speaking afterwards, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The key issue here is one of transport, distance and the difficulties that presents. I believe a strong case has been made for retention of this service and today was a very important part of the process of ensuring that people in Gardenstown continue to have access to their prescription medicines locally.”

Local MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

“I made the point to the panel that for health officials sitting in Foresterhill, this would be the equivalent of them having to go to somewhere like Portlethen to get a prescription – the difference being that there is a bus every 15 minutes or so to Portlethen.

“This is a very important local service and I hope that, working with the community, this facility can be retained.”

25 November 2016

SNP MSP Condemns Chancellor's Autumn Statement

Announcements Show Brexit "Will Hit Poorest Hardest"

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has condemned the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement – which drove home the fact that Brexit and continuing austerity will hit poorest families hardest.

Philip Hammond revealed the staggering level of borrowing needed to fill the Brexit blackhole in government finances and failed to halt the Tories’ austerity onslaught – policies that have proven so damaging to families and communities throughout the North-east.

The Chancellor announced a rise in insurance premiums which will mean rising costs for hard pressed families in the North-east. The Autumn Statement came alongside forecasts from the OBR, predicting consumers will be squeezed by the rising cost of exports due to a weak pound caused by Brexit – which will hit family budgets in supermarkets and shops across the North-east.

The retailer, Mothercare, and former Sainsbury’s boss Justin King have both warned this week of expected price rises of around 5% in children’s clothes and groceries due to Brexit.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The Chancellor has just proved that this UK government simply does not care for working families across the North-east – with the full impact of Brexit yet to come.

“We are already seeing the impact of leaving the EU hitting consumers, with OBR figures showing that the rising cost of imports due to a fall in the value of Sterling will cause prices of products to rise in our supermarkets and shops – as industry leaders have warned in recent weeks. Insurance premiums are also on the rise – yet another UK government policy that will hit the poorest hardest.

“The Chancellor has completely failed to protect those on low incomes – continuing with the failed austerity onslaught that has been deeply damaging to families and communities across the North-east. Think-tanks and charities have rightly condemned this, with lower earnings, benefit cuts and higher costs providing a bleak outlook for people throughout the North-east – and this is before the full impact of Brexit is felt.

“We already know that Brexit could cost up to 80,000 jobs in Scotland and take £11.2 billion from our economy every year – and the Chancellor has not done enough to help prevent this happening, or to fill the forecasted £220 billion Brexit black hole.

“Piecemeal offerings from Philipp Hammond have been more than offset by the deeply damaging impact of this Tory government’s policies – and people across the North-east will be feeling the effects of the Tories’ regressive policies for a long time to come.”

Stewart Stevenson Backs Scotland's Island Communities

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has backed strengthening Scotland’s island communities.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a debate on supporting and strengthening Scotland’s island communities. Mr Stevenson recognised the valuable economic and cultural contribution of Scotland’s islands. He went on to emphasise the need to promote unique solutions for the unique circumstances of Scotland’s island communities.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“Our islands are, economically, one of the most valuable parts of Scotland. One need only consider that much of our fishing grounds and access to oil and gas is gained from our offshore economic area – our islands are directly responsible for much of that.

“We need to return value to our islands. We do that by supporting and strengthening them. One way of doing that might be through aviation transport. This could be done by changing restrictions on single-engine aircraft or we could exempt small island aircraft from having to pay VAT on aviation gas. In Norway, single-engine aircraft operate full services in instrument conditions – this is the kind of transformative thinking our islands should lead on.

“I’m glad we’re taking the next step toward strengthening our island communities. I’ve travelled to many of our populated islands and enjoyed the unique culture they had to offer. There is an immense amount of potential in our island communities and I believe this process will help unlock even more of it.”

Stevenson Condemns Tories as They Balloon UK Debt

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has condemned the Tories for their economic incompetence.

Mr Stevenson spoke during First Minister’s Questions where he asked whether the significant additional debt burden caused by the Tories pursuit of a hard Brexit would impede the Scottish Government’s ability to deliver social justice. He also highlighted that the £350 million per week promised by the Brexiteers to the NHS is now being replaced with a £225 million per week increase in debt.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The Tories claim to be experts on the economy – that’s just more hot air. We were told the NHS would have an additional £350 million per week from Brexit, the reality is they’re plunging the UK deeper into debt – an additional £225 million per week to be exact.

“Tories, now ministers at Westminster, sold many working people on the idea there would be more money for the NHS, more money for services and more money for social justice. All of it utterly false. The Tories are destroying sources of revenue while putting a massive debt burden on the people of the UK. They, like their Labour predecessors are ballooning UK debt.

“We can’t allow the Tories vision of a hard Brexit, debt-ridden UK to succeed. We must continue to pursue single market access and do whatever it takes to stop this Tory incompetence.”

MSP Secures Update on Protection of Vulnerable Groups Review

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has secured an update on the Scottish Government’s plans to review the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme.

Mr Stevenson asked the Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark McDonald, whether the Scottish Government could provide an update on plans to review the PVG scheme during Portfolio Questions. Mr Stevenson went on to ask for further detail as to how the disclosure system might emerge after the review.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The scheme has been running for five years and there will be a review – as promised. The PVG scheme plays an important role ensuring people with regular contact with vulnerable groups don’t have a known history of harmful behaviour. Many people rely on it and a review will give us an opportunity to make it even better.

“The minister has made it clear that the frame of reference will be drawn from working with stakeholders. This is the best opportunity for us to make improvements. These organisations have had five years working with the system – that means they are best placed to help ministers develop a frame work.

“The review will likely cover the digital delivery of services, the importance of safeguarding the vulnerable and the financial stability of the scheme – that’s a great start. What I find most important is that the Scottish Government has reaffirmed that stakeholder engagement will be central to the review process – including the disclosure system. We’re making good progress on this and I look forward to seeing the final frame of reference for the review in February 2017."

18 November 2016

Stevenson Hails Vision for Scottish Innovation

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has hailed the Scottish Government’s ambitions for Scotland’s Innovation Centre Programme.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate on the contribution Scotland’s innovation centres can make to driving innovation in key sectors of the economy. Mr Stevenson’s contribution emphasised the important role innovation centres can have in bringing thinkers together and allow them the space to innovate and collaborate.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“Innovation is one of the basic drivers of economic success. The thing is, it isn’t instant – it’s a process. Massive leaps in innovation are usually the product of years of preparation and threads of knowledge coalescing to finally create something new.”

“If we want to assist that process, we need to create the right environment for it. We need to give people the right space, support and avenues for collaboration. Only by creating that environment can we continue to generate cutting edge thinking.

“The Scottish Government is empowering our innovation centres specifically for this process. We are creating the environment that will allow different minds to come up with those revolutionary ideas that will be so important to our future. Scotland’s innovators have huge potential and I’m glad to see we’re taking this journey with them.”

Parliamentary Recognition for Banff Firefighter

Banff Firefighter Kevin Smith has been recognised in Parliament for his bravery in helping to rescue a woman from a sinking car in Macduff Harbour.

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson tabled a Motion in parliament commending Mr Smith’s actions and congratulating him on his award from the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals after being contacted by one of Mr Smith’s colleagues highlighting that he was to receive the award.

Mr Stevenson also took the opportunity of tabling the Motion to underline the valuable role of retained firefighters in the local community.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“Kevin Smith performed a very brave act and helped to rescue a woman whose car had plunged into Macduff Harbour. In the media coverage of his award, Kevin has come across as a very modest individual who says he was only doing his job and lays great emphasis on the two fishermen who also took part in the rescue. They also deserve commendation for their actions, which resulted in a life being saved.

“I was very pleased to be able to put a Motion down in Parliament recognising the award received by Kevin for his part in the rescue. It was also an important opportunity to highlight the vital role which retained firefighters play in the safety of their local community.

“The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in this area relies on retained firefighters and are always on the lookout for new recruits. I hope this may help prompt some interest from people to consider serving their local community as a retained firefighter."

16 November 2016

Local MSP Comments on Portessie Post Office Closure

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has expressed concern after Post Office Limited confirmed to him that Portessie Post Office will close from 5.30pm on Monday 5 December.

The closure is owing to the resignation of the current Postmaster and is deemed by Post Office Limited to be a “temporary closure”.

Commenting, Stewart said:

“This will be a disappointment to the local community as our local Post Offices still perform a valuable role and very often, as in this case, also help support the local shop.

“I am aware from the local community that there are some expressions of interest in taking over the shop and Post Office and I am offering my encouragement and support to those individuals.

“Clearly, any buyout will be a commercial matter between the owner and prospective purchasers, but in the meantime I am encouraging Post Office Limited to commit to maintaining a service locally, whether that is – hopefully – in the currently location, or elsewhere.”

14 November 2016

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson Backs STEM Education Consultation

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has backed STEM subject education consultation.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate where science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and training strategies were discussed. He highlighted the contribution of women to computing and emphasised the importance of establishing a culture more comfortable with numeracy.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

Wikipedia - Grace Hopper
"The great heroes of computing are mostly female. I don't think that is talked about enough. It was a women that developed the first algorithm for computer programming, a Miss Ada Lovelace. And more recently Rear Admiral, Grace Hopper, another women, created the method we use to develop computer programmes. If we are going to make progress in our STEM strategies, we need a holistic view which encourages and recognises the important contribution women have made to the field.

"Overall, the key to any STEM strategy is making sure parents and families create a number-friendly environment at home. Families have a huge role to play in a child's attitude towards numbers. Families should make numbers and science enjoyable — I know from experience with my four-year-old goddaughter, that it works.

"The essential point that we need to realise is that we are trying to encourage questioning minds. I want to see successful, happy, engaged people in STEM subjects. If we each contribute, individually, as parents, and as families – we will make substantial progress towards our goal. I hope our final strategy reflects that."

11 November 2016

Stevenson Calls for Common Cause on Islands Renewables

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has called on cross party support for remote onshore island wind projects.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a Ministerial Statement by Cabinet Secretary for Environment & Climate Change, Roseanna Cunningham, on Scotland's contribution to international climate change and the Paris agreement. He asked the Cabinet Secretary if the Scottish Parliament should seek cross party support to put pressure on the UK Government to reconsider their position.

Commenting, former Minister for Environment & Climate Change, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

"It is incredibly disappointing that the UK Government has backtracked on supporting island renewables. This decision will hit island communities hard and the UK Government gave no indication that they would put off allowing island communities to compete for contracts.

"The decision doesn't make sense. Our island communities have some of the greatest potential for renewable energy generation in all of Europe. This decision delays economic benefits to the islands and it further hinders us in the fight against climate change.

"I find the timing of this announcement incredibly suspect. The Conservative UK Government decided to announce this on one of the busiest news days of the year — when we are receiving results from the US Presidential election. It is vital that we make clear our opposition to this decision and get cross party support for such important climate change infrastructure. If we are going to make our contribution to climate change and the Paris agreement, we need to act now and act quickly."

7 November 2016

North Sea Industry Demand Support in Autumn Statement

Oil and Gas UK have backed SNP demands that the UK Government use the Autumn Statement to incentivise North Sea exploration and development.

Both the SNP and the oil and gas industry are urging the UK Chancellor to use the upcoming Autumn Statement to commit to the future of the industry - sending a signal of support and confidence to attract global investment.

Oil & Gas UK's recently published Economic Report 2016 demonstrates that urgent action is required if the industry is to maximise the potential of the up to 20 billion barrels of oil and gas in the North Sea.

Industry experts say the reduced cost of doing business in the North Sea and increased production efficiency has enhanced the potential of the industry as a global competitor. Chief Executive of Oil & Gas UK, Deirdre Michie, said the Autumn Statement is an opportunity to “send a clear message to investors that the North Sea is a great place to do business”.

Theresa May would not commit to supporting the oil and gas industry in the Autumn Statement when asked by Callum McCaig SNP MP, Westminster’s energy spokesperson, at last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

Stewart Stevenson MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast said:

“Now is the time for the UK government to listen to common sense and commit to the future of oil and gas – a vital industry to the UK economy - in their Autumn Statement.

“Exploration and development are integral to the growth of the sector and further incentives to invest, including tax breaks, would boost investor confidence and encourage them to bring their business to the North Sea.

“Thousands of jobs depend on oil and gas thriving in a competitive global marketplace, and the UK government needs to use this Autumn Statement to make substantial commitments and show that they understand the importance of this industry to the UK economy.”

4 November 2016

Fuel Poor Funding Boost

North-East Set to Benefit from Additional Winter Fuel Funding

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has hailed the announcement that winter fuel funding will increase.

Families across Aberdeenshire Council area are set to benefit from £312,000 of additional funding to keep their homes warm this winter, the Scottish Government has announced.

Housing associations and councils in North-east will be given a share of a £9 million national fund to help improve the housing of those most in need, and help to ensure that social housing meets energy efficiency standards – making it easier for tenants across North-east to heat their homes.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The Scottish Government has made tackling fuel poverty a priority – and this funding for the North-east is further evidence of that.

“The £312,000 that has been dedicated to Aberdeenshire Council and will go some way to helping the Council and housing associations tackle fuel poverty and ensure that some of the most vulnerable households in the North-east are able to heat their homes.

“The Scottish Government is dedicating half a billion pounds to tackle fuel poverty and to improve energy efficiency, which will make it easier and cheaper for tenants to heat their homes.

“It is vital that we continue this action and target it in a way that makes a difference to those who need it most across the North-east.”

Stevenson Champions International Co-operation on Justice and Security

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has called for international cooperation on matters of justice and security.

Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate in which he championed the need for international exchange of information, resources and skills. He went on to restate the dangers posed by technologically advanced crime and how combined international resources play a huge role in combating it.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“We cannot allow ourselves to be cut off from the world. New technology means criminality is becoming more about breaking cryptography and codes. It is about protecting our data – that is the very basis of our national security. If we are going to do that, we need to work internationally.

“People come from around the world to study at our universities, sharing both intellect and ideas. This is the kind of environment we need if we are going to counteract cyberwar and cybercrime. We need to make sure that we maintain links with European institutions and allow people to come here ­– giving us the multinational intellectual capacity to fight security problems over the internet.

“Scotland and the UK must continue to work internationally on issues of justice and security. We should not create additional meaning where there is none. People across the UK didn’t vote to leave the European convention on human rights – the brainchild of Winston Churchill. The ballot was not a vote to end working internationally on cybercrime or terrorism – therefore let’s not pretend it was.”

Stevenson Backs Cub Scouts on 100th Anniversary

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has congratulated the Cub Scouts on reaching their hundredth year.

Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate in which he hailed the achievements of the Cub Scouts and wished them a successful next hundred years. The Cub Scots will be celebrating their hundredth anniversary on the 16th of December 2016.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The Cub Scouts are a great part of a young person’s development. I myself owe much of my own development to it. It helped me grow in confidence, make friends and even develop some adventurous cooking skills.

“The Cub Scouts instil young people with a great sense of duty to help others. One of my own constituents, a Cub Scout leader Corey Tocher, exemplifies this spirit. Just a few months ago, this young man travelled to London to donate stem cells to the Anthony Nolan Trust – an action he undertook in order to save a life. These are the kind of values he is sharing with his Cub pack.

“Cub Scouts is a wonderful organisation and has done great things over the past hundred years – teaching young people the value of helping others and to always do their best. I wish all the Cub Scouts a very happy 100th birthday for the 16th of December and hope the next hundred years is just as great.”

31 October 2016

Local MSP Hails Funding Boost for Rora Committee

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson has hailed Rora District Amenities and Public Hall Association on successfully applying to Awards for All Scotland.

Rora District Amenities and Public Hall Association have secured £5,909 and will use the funding towards roofing repairs. Rora District Amenities and Public Hall Association operate a well-used community building in rural Aberdeenshire.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“I welcome the £5,909 award from Awards for All Scotland to Rora District Amenities and Public Hall Association toward funding their roofing repairs. This funding is great news for an organisation that has worked very hard to maintain such an excellent community space.

“Awards for All Scotland is an excellent programme that gives groups across our country the opportunity to apply for grants of between £500 and £10,000 for various projects. I encourage all of our community groups to apply for funding.

“These projects bring communities together, improve local space and help communities become more active. This funding will allow Rora District Amenities and Public Hall Association to improve a great public space that delivers a range of activities – I’m sure the improvements will be very welcome by the community. I’m delighted to see their success and wish them luck in repairing the roof.”

Stevenson Applauds Funding Boost for Buchanhaven Harbour Committee

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson has commended Buchanhaven Harbour Committee on Awards for All Scotland funding success.

Buchanhaven Harbour Committee has secured £10,000 and will use the funding towards creating a new community space and boat shed on some recently acquired land. The Buchanhaven Harbour Committee is a charitable unincorporated association set up in Peterhead. The group provides and maintains facilities in the local area and raise money for local issues.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“I welcome the £10,000 award from Awards for All Scotland to Buchanhaven Harbour Committee for their new community space and boat shed. This is a boost for a very active local organisation that continues to make great contributions to our part of the world.

“Awards for All Scotland is an excellent programme that gives groups across our country the opportunity to apply for grants of between £500 and £10,000 for various projects. I encourage all of our community groups to apply for funding.

“These projects bring communities together, improve local space and help communities become more active. This funding will allow the Buchanhaven Harbour Committee to revitalise their facilities and create a fantastic new space for the community. I wish them luck with their project and I’m excited to see what they come up with.”

28 October 2016

Local MSP Urges 'Get Ready for Winter'

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson has today called on his constituents to ensure they are taking advantage of free help and support with energy bills.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“It’s really important to be prepared for winter. I want everyone in the North-east to understand what help is available for them, and for their family and friends. Being energy efficient and keeping bills under control is really important, so I’d encourage people to get in touch with their energy supplier to find out what support is on offer.

“There are a number of simple steps that every constituent should take to make sure they’re doing all they can to keep their bills down and their home warm.”

Commenting, Sarwjit Sambhi, Managing Director of UK Home at Scottish Gas, said,

“Winter can be a challenging time for households and many people may be concerned about their winter energy bill. Help is available and we urge customers to get in touch so we can offer them advice and support.

“In the long term, energy efficiency is still the best way to save money on bills. Scottish Gas is proud to be leading the roll-out of smart meters across Britain, which enable you to see how much energy you’re using in pounds and pence and identify where savings can be made.”

Stevenson Calls for Maintaining Links to International Bodies on Climate and Environment

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson called for the UK to allow nations of UK to continue to work with international bodies on issues of climate change and the environment.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate where he called on the UK Government to ensure Scotland maintains a fully functional relationship with other countries in Europe on environment and climate issues. He stressed the benefits of international co-operation on environmental policy and criticised Tory interference.

Commenting, former Minister for Environment & Climate Change, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The Scottish Government continues to deliver on the environment, delivering in 2014 what should have taken us till 2020 - six years ahead of schedule. The UK Government meanwhile continues to interfere and hinder the Scottish Government’s environmental ambitions. Their interference on renewables is just one of several examples. It is ridiculous for the Tories to suggest otherwise.

“The suggestion by Nigel Farage and friends that the EU is restraining the UK with detrimental regulations is a joke. Out of 2,466 decisions on laws, the EU Council of Ministers overruled the UK 56 times – less than 1 per cent of the total decisions. The UK Government chose not to reject the overwhelming majority of regulation.

“The environment is an international issue – it affects people across Europe and beyond. International co-operation has encouraged our focus on environmental policy – this led to Scotland leading the way for countries across the continent. We must continue to have the highest possible standards and not allow the Tories to undermine our international agreements to support the environment.”

26 October 2016

Stevenson Backs Successful 'Adopt a Station' Programme and Borders Rail

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson has backed the ‘Adopt a Station’ programme and its success along the new Borders Railway.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate where he backed the work of volunteers along the Borders Railway and emphasized its success as encouraging for the continued development of Scottish rail.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The ‘Adopt a Station’ Programme has invigorated stations along the Borders Railway. The programme brings libraries, flowers and other welcome amenities. It’s been a great combined effort from volunteers and ScotRail – it shows how proud they are to have the Borders line.

“The Borders Railway itself has been a huge success – over a million passengers in its first year – well above predicted usage. There also appears to be a higher incidence of end to end travel – another encouraging sign. Hopefully any future assessments of extending rail in the North-east will consider that the Borders railway outperformed its own usage predictions.

“I congratulate all involved in making the Borders Railway so welcoming and successful. The railway has dramatically opened up rural communities and bestowed substantial economic benefits. There is far more potential to be opened up for Scotland’s rail and while I love the Borders Railway – I would love to adopt a station on a Buchan line even more.”

17 October 2016

Stevenson Supports Call to Scale Down Cancer

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, is backing Cancer Research UK’s new Scale Down Cancer campaign to help prevent obesity-related cancers across Scotland.
Scotland has one of the heaviest populations in Europe, with two in three adults in Scotland overweight or obese.

And according to new calculations by Cancer Research UK, almost 83,000 children have started primary school overweight or obese in Scotland over the last decade.

Given that obesity is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, it is important that action is taken to tackle Scotland’s obesity challenges.

The new Cancer Research UK campaign asks politicians to support a call to ensure cancer is scaled down to size in Scotland.

Cancer Research UK wants to see a comprehensive strategy for tackling obesity in Scotland, including measures that focus on tackling the wider factors that lead to the overconsumption of unhealthy foods – such as restricting the advertising of unhealthy food to children and curbing multi-buy discounts.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“Four in ten cancers are preventable, yet not enough of us know that obesity is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking. Given the devastating impact that cancer has on families in Banffshire & Buchan Coast, it’s vital we take action on obesity.

“We mustn’t let obesity continue to be the new normal in Scotland, and that’s why I’m joining forces with Cancer Research UK and the Scale Down Cancer campaign.”

Join the conversation on twitter via
@CRUKScotland and #ScaleDownCancer

Stewart Stevenson Demands Protection of Scottish Fishing Interests

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson has demanded the Westminster Government protect the Scottish fishing sector and coastal communities.

Mr Stevenson spoke at SNP Conference where he proposed the resolution on the future of Scotland’s fishing interests. He spoke on the Common Fisheries Policy as a policy that diverts economic benefits away from Scottish coastal communities, and the need to maintain access to labour and non-tariff access to the European single market for fish processing.

Mr Stevenson slated Westminster for their failure to provide any certainty for Scottish fishing and demanded they not sell-out the industry again. He made clear that Scotland’s only Tory MP, David Mundell, has no relationship to fishing interests, is out of his depth, and called for a Scottish Minister to lead post-Brexit fisheries negotiations.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The SNP will always stand up for Scotland- that includes Scottish fishing. We’ve always been opposed to the CFP and will do whatever it takes to get the best deal for Scottish fishing. It is not acceptable that the majority of fish caught in our waters are loaded into foreign vessels, nor is it acceptable that Scottish vessels are stopped from fishing active spawning grounds while vessels from other countries continue to fish them.

“If we are to protect our coastal communities, we need to make sure we protect our fishing communities as a whole. That also means protecting the single market and the free movement of people. We need tariff-free access to the biggest single fisheries market in the world, and we need the many hard working Europeans that help drive the processing industry.

“David Mundell has said he doesn’t think control of our own fishing is ‘realistic.’ Meanwhile, George Eustice has changed his mind from ‘automatically’ devolving fishing, to needing a ‘UK-wide framework.’ It’s vital we ensure the Tories can’t turn that kind of flimsy thinking into policy. The only way to do that- let a Scottish Minister lead on fishing negotiations.”

11 October 2016

Local MSP Calls for BBC to Reflect Cultural Nuance

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson called for the BBC to better reflect the nuanced experience of those living in Scotland and other parts of the UK.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate where he called for the BBC to better report, explain, and reflect issues faced by people across the nations of the UK.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The BBC produces some of the best current affairs programmes around- “Eòrpa” for instance is a Gaelic programme, that allows us to see current events in Europe from a Scottish perspective. It is one of many great programmes that only the BBC could produce.

“But there are coverage issues. Radio 4 did a piece on Sunday trading where the comments were all from an English perspective. They made no reference to the fact that Scotland has had Sunday trading for years. Critically, the situation wasn't explained for those listening in Scotland.”

“These mistakes fail to represent Scotland to England and vice-versa. They fail to represent the nations of the UK to one another. While I agree, the BBC is a vital public service, it should better embody the different perspectives and cultural nuance between the nations of the UK.”

10 October 2016

Stevenson Condemns Hate Crimes Against Polish People Living in UK

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson has condemned the recent rise in hate crimes in the UK.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate where he condemned attacks against Polish people and highlighted the positive relationship between Scotland and Poland throughout history.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“There is no place for this kind of behaviour in the 21st century. These are people who have chosen to make their lives here. They contribute to our society and have every right to expect and demand safety.

“The people of Scotland have a deeply positive relationship with Poland. For centuries Scottish people have travelled there to live and work. There are still places in Poland that reflect this – like areas of Gdańsk, called Nowe Szkoty­ – New Scots, and Stare Szkoty – Old Scots.

“Our cultural exchange is to be celebrated. Polish people have enriched Scotland just as Scottish people have enriched Poland. There is no place for this racism, ill-treatment or violence. In Scotland we have a message for our Polish friends – We are with you; stay with us.”

2 October 2016

Scot Lib dems Signal Surrender on Scotland in EU

Rumbles Also Sells Out on Farm Cash

Scottish Lib Dem Leader Willie Rennie has been challenged to renew his party’s support for keeping Scotland within the EU after one of his MSPs suggested leaving the EU was inevitable.

In an interview on Sunday Politics Scotland, MSP Mike Rumbles let his guard down stating “WHEN Scotland leaves the EU” rather than "IF" — contrasting sharply with the commitment given by his party leader to back the Scottish Government in negotiations to protect Scotland’s place in Europe.

Mr Rumbles also suggested that he was in favour of scrapping EU support for farmers which currently injects around a billion Euros of subsidies and development funding into Scotland’s rural economy.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“These are staggering revelations from Mike Rumbles who appears to be unilaterally repositioning the Scottish LibDems alongside the Tories as a party of born-again Brexiteers — resigned to Scotland being dragged out of the EU despite our overwhelming vote to remain.

“Willie Rennie should urgently renew his party’s commitment to the Scottish Government’s efforts in working to secure our place within the EU. And he needs to rein in those in his party who would seek to undermine those efforts in the course of political sniping.

"Aligning themselves with the Tories in 2010 and the independence referendum is what lost the LibDems hundreds of thousands of votes. Are they about to do the same again?

“Farmers across Scotland will also be dismayed by LibDem calls for vital CAP and rural development support to be scrapped — we’re talking about people’s livelihoods. It’s utterly reckless for Mike Rumbles to be fanning the flames of uncertainty rather than working with the SNP to protect the interests of Scottish farmers.”

30 September 2016

Stevenson Welcomes Scottish Government Action on Fuel Poverty

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement that £660,700 has been allocated to improve energy efficiency in Aberdeenshire.

The funding will be used to install energy efficiency measures to social and private housing. In addition, the money will be used for infrastructure for biomass combined heat and power district heating systems and insulation of various commercial buildings.

The funding is part of over £9 million pounds that have been awarded to improve energy efficiency throughout Scotland. Homes in Aberdeenshire will be warmer and cheaper to heat thanks to the Scottish Government funding.

Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Programme (SEEP) Pathfinder Fund is being directed at businesses, community groups and individuals working and living in areas with particularly high levels of fuel poverty.

Commenting, former Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“As a government we are here to help those who need it most. No one should have to live in the cold because they can’t afford heating. The Scottish Government is taking the right approach by being proactive and funding energy efficiency.

“These are the kind of simple changes that can massively improve peoples’ lives. The days are getting colder and heat is as important as food or water. Giving everyone the chance to be warm has unquestionable social and economic benefits.

“There is an added bonus beyond making our homes warmer and heating cheaper – this funding will also reduce our carbon emissions. As a former Minister for the Environment I know first-hand the importance of tackling climate change. What we are really protecting is our future. This programme holds great opportunities for everyone in the North-east and across Scotland.”

Stevenson Welcomes Age Scotland's 'Lets Get Moving!' Campaign

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson has welcomed Age Scotland’s ‘Let’s get moving!’ campaign. Stevenson met with Age Scotland during their campaign launch in Scottish Parliament.

Age Scotland have launched a new campaign to encourage people to get active. The campaign, entitled Let's get moving!, is about encouraging older people to get active by telling the stories of what people, from right across the country do to keep active. To get the ball-rolling, Age Scotland launched the campaign at the Scottish Parliament and asked MSPs to tell us what they do to keep active.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The benefits of even the simplest activity can’t be overstated. Personally, I really enjoy walking and being outside – staying active is not about running marathons, it’s simple as getting out for a good walk. I commend Age Scotland for their campaign and wish them success in helping to get people active. A reduction in illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure will not only be a benefit to public resources but will also help to improve the quality that people have in later life.”

Commenting, Keith Robson, Head of Charity Services for Age Scotland said,

“We all know that we could do with getting more exercise, indeed, in a recent survey the charity conducted, we found that only 55% of respondents were getting the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week.

“Instead of telling people off for not doing exercise, Age Scotland is taking a different approach and telling the stories of what people do to keep active and why. We’ve heard from 81 year old ladies who can plank for a minute, grandads taking part in Walking Football and hundreds more and by telling these stories, we hope to inspire more people to get moving!”
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