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29 January 2016

Fresh Blow to Cameron Over CCS Scrappage Costs

Bill Doubles On UK Climate Targets After Tory Energy Betrayal

The UK government’s mismanagement of the Scottish and UK-wide energy sector has been exposed this week in a letter to Tory energy secretary Amber Rudd from the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the statutory body providing evidence-based advice to government.

In their damning letter, the CCC has issued a stern warning to the UK government that the cost of meeting their global obligations on carbon reduction – as agreed in Paris in December 2015 – will double without carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

The Tory government betrayed a manifesto pledge in November last year in pulling the plug on £1 billion of funding for a pioneering CCS scheme at Peterhead, which would have created 600 jobs in the local economy and helped Scotland become a global leader in clean energy technology.

David Cameron faces fresh criticism for his role in swindling the economy of the North East of Scotland out of vital investment in clean energy. Barely two months after his Tory government scrapped the £1 billion CCS project for Peterhead he arrived in Aberdeen yesterday to announce a meagre £20 million support for the energy industry – including a paltry £1.5 million “Energy Game Changer” fund.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The Committee on Climate Change is the latest in a series of industry experts and business leaders to condemn the decision of the Tory government to scrap the £1 billion CCS investment in Peterhead.

“Not only is it a total betrayal of the North East of Scotland, at the cost of 600 jobs for the local community, but it’s going to prove a costly move by David Cameron and his cronies – doubling the price tag of meeting our global obligations on carbon reduction.

“This week, the Prime Minister had the audacity to show up in Aberdeen to announce £1.5 million for what he calls an ‘energy game changer’ fund just two months after his government pulled the plug on a bonus billion for the energy sector in the North East.

“The Committee is right to call for a ‘rapid’ rethink on CCS – the decision to scrap the promised investment in Peterhead has been exposed as rash and reckless accounting from the Tory government, which will cost all of us.”

Where There's a Will There's a Way

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, highlighted this week the importance of the Succession (Scotland) Bill. The provisions in the Bill will make the relevant parts of the law clearer, fairer and more consistent.

In Thursday's debate entitled: Succession (Scotland) Bill, Mr Stevenson talked about the importance of the Bill as it will at some point affect us all, he said:

“Given that we will all die, I am sure that the bill will ultimately touch us all in the disposal of our assets or debts. Even those who have no assets and no debts cannot be assured that they will escape the bill’s provisions.”

Mr Stevenson went onto say that the future government will have to continue work on the Succession Bill, He said:

“The complexity of and lack of agreement on some succession issues are the reasons why a future Government will have to grasp the nettle of a much more wide-ranging restatement and reform”



A very simple and perfectly proper will (originally hand written and signed)

General Registers of Scotland. Probate Scotland. Sheriff Court, Edinburgh, Midlothian.
14 May 1913. BERRY, David. SC70/4/449.
http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 29 January 2016.

Struggling with Energy Bills? Help is Available, says Local MSP

This week is “Debt Awareness Week” when organisations across the UK seek to raise awareness of the importance of dealing with debt and to mark the initiative Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson is highlighting the availability of free financial help and advice from independent charity, The Scottish Gas Energy Trust (SGET) as well as Scottish Gas and StepChange Debt Charity.

SGET provides grants to help pay off gas and electricity debts and to purchase energy efficient white goods such as washing machines and fridge/freezers.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“January can be a financially difficult time for many so I’d strongly encourage anyone who is worried about their energy bills to get in touch with the Scottish Gas Energy Trust to get help and advice.

“You don’t have to be a Scottish Gas customer to use this helpline and the help given is completely free.”

Imelda Redmond CBE, Chair of Trustees at the Trust, added:

“Keeping on top of winter bills and managing debt is very important, which is why we urge anyone in difficulty to contact us as soon as possible.

“The Trust is committed to helping as many people as possible whether through direct financial assistance, help with the purchase of appliances or through the many voluntary organisations we fund to provide money and energy debt advice."

The Trust has provided more than £85m of help and assistance to 175,000 people since it was established in 2004.

Contact the Trust on 01733 421060 or via email on bget@charisgrants.com.

Scottish Gas also provides direct help for customers. This includes helping thousands of people, who are having difficulty paying their bills, with an interest free debt repayment plan. The company also helps millions of people with energy saving measures and has 1.5m customers registered on a Priority Services Register, which offers additional help for disabled or chronically ill customers and those of pensionable age.

More than 9,000 people have also been helped by a Scottish Gas/StepChange Debt Charity partnership which sees those in need receive specialist support and advice from trained professionals.

For more information please contact Scottish Gas on Freephone 0800 048 0202.

Stevenson Welcomes Clerkhill Post Office Expansion

Peterhead MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the forthcoming expansion of Clerkhill Post Office.

Following a refurbishment, the new-look Post Office will re-open on Wednesday 2 March with longer opening hours and additional services in the form of on-demand travel money and car tax licensing facilities.

Welcoming the upgrade, Stewart Stevenson said:

“This is very welcome news from the Post Office and will result in longer opening hours, no half-day closing on Wednesday and some new services which were previously not available in Clerkhill.

“Since Buchanhaven Post Office closed a few years ago, the town has been left with only the busy main Post Office in the town centre where cars can be taxed. With the introduction of this service at Clerkhill, it will give people a choice and provide greater convenience for those in the west of the town.

“Post Offices are still the heart of many communities and I am pleased that this investment should secure the future of Clerkhill Post Office.”

27 January 2016

Local SNP Burns Night Success

Cruden Bay, Hatton & Longhaven and Peterhead SNP branches held their 2016 Burns Supper in the Public Hall, Longhaven on Saturday.
The Burns Supper, which attracted around 70 guests, heard speeches from locals and visitors, including an Immortal Memory by Ross, Skye & Lochaber MP Ian Blackford, a Toast to Scotland by East Aberdeenshire SNP candidate Gillian Martin, with some recitations from Peterhead Burns enthusiast Kevin Lamb, and the Address to the Haggis being made by local MP Eilidh Whiteford.

Musical entertainment was provided by John and Liz Slaven of ‘Ficherin Aboot’.

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson, who compered the evening, said:

“This year’s Burns Supper featured fantastic contributions from some very high calibre speakers and some amazing local musical talent, who I would commend to anyone for a good night’s entertainment.

“The turnout was excellent and was a great celebration of the life and work of our national bard, Rabbie Burns. A huge thank you to everyone involved in the organisation of the night and especially to our guest speakers from far and near and those fantastic musicians.”

Local MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

"I was delighted that we had such a great turnout at this year’s event. It was tremendous night. The speakers and entertainers were top notch. All round it was a great way to celebrate our national bard.

“Thanks must go to everyone that took part in and helped organise a very enjoyable event."

26 January 2016

100 Days: SNP Pledge to Keep Scotland Moving Forward

Stevenson Sets Out SNP Campaign on
Strong Record, Positive Vision & Credible Commitments

With 100 days to go until the Scottish Parliament election, Scottish National Party candidate for Banffshire & Buchan Coast Stewart Stevenson MSP has pledged to keep Scotland moving forward as the SNP sets out how the party will campaign on its strong record, positive vision, and credible commitments to the people of Scotland.

Looking ahead to May’s election, Stewart Stevenson said;

“Thursday 5th May is the date when all of Scotland decides who we want to lead our country for the next five years in Government and who we want as our First Minister.

“This week marks 100 days of campaigning in which the Scottish National Party will make clear that we stand proud on our record, and clear on our commitment.

“Over the next 100 days the SNP will set out – in clear, positive and ambitious terms – how we will build on our achievements to keep Scotland moving forward and unlock even more of our country’s vast potential.

"We are literally building for the future. The SNP Scottish Government has exceeded our five year target to deliver 30,000 affordable homes and set out our commitment to go even further with 50,000 more affordable homes over the next parliament.

"We’ve bolstered the NHS budget to record levels, with record numbers of staff. We have reformed our police service with crime rates showing a 41-year low.

"We have boosted Scotland’s economy by getting people into work. Figures published this week show employment in Scotland at a record high, outperforming the rest of the UK, with youth unemployment at its lowest level since 2006.

“There has never been a bigger, more ambitious programme of improvements across Scotland.

"Our most transformational investment in the next parliament will be in education. We’ll almost double current provision of government funded early learning and childcare and right through to college and university level we are determined to deliver further achievement for Scotland.

"We will spend the next 100 days leading an ambitious, national debate about how to keep Scotland moving forward through progressive policies.

"Our mission could not be clearer – to earn the right on our record and our commitment to serve an unprecedented third term as Scotland’s government."

Stevenson Welcomes Results Showing Average Speed Cameras Saving Lives

Commenting on figures issued today which show that between July and December 2015 there were no fatal accidents anywhere on the A9 route, local MSP and former Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the huge improvement in the safety record of the road since average speed cameras were installed and said the technology could be used on major routes in the North-east if the circumstances justified it.

New figures show that in the first year of operation of the new average speed cameras on the A9 (November 2014 to October 2015) there has been a 64 per cent fall in the number of fatal and serious causalities.

Commenting, SNP MSP Mr Stevenson said:

“These new figures show that the introduction of average speed cameras on the A9 has prevented serious accidents and saved lives.

“Average speed cameras were installed in the face of opposition from senior Liberal Democrat politicians – the Scottish Government’s conviction that they would make the A9 safer has now been vindicated.

“While we have not had to face the same problems in the North-east as there were on the A9, if it is shown in future that speed is a factor on any particular stretch of road which is suffering from road accidents then this is a resource which could be deployed now we have the evidence to show it not only works but saves lives.

“Dualling the A9 will make an immeasurable difference and average speed cameras will save lives in the interim but, most importantly, all drivers should avoid taking risks and drive safely on the A9 and indeed any road.”

20 January 2016

Stewart Stevenson Praises the Public Petitions Process

Stewart Stevenson, MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has this week congratulated the Scottish Parliament on their petitions process.

Speaking in a Scottish Parliament debate entitled: Review of the Petitions Process, Mr Stevenson said:

“I have found myself engaged with the Public Petitions Committee, sitting alongside many of my constituents. I cannot think that a single one of them who has come here has been other than delighted with the opportunity to put their case to Parliament, if not always equally delighted with the outcome”

Mr Stevenson went on to highlight the importance of looking at Public Petitions committee process from an external rather than internal view, he said:

“There is always a danger, when we are looking at our processes, that we will focus on our internal view of how successful they are in a parliamentary context, whereas the reality is that we should look at such processes from an external point of view and ask, 'How does this serve the people of Scotland?'”

Mr Stevenson finished by praising the role of the clerks in helping people to come before the committee with a petition:

“We cannot overestimate the value of the clerks in helping people who approach the committee with an idea for a petition. The clerks help to turn those ideas into something that enables a petitioner to come before the committee and speak to their petition with confidence, knowing that it is properly constructed and proposes something that the Parliament can do”

19 January 2016

SPPA Committee sets out Holyrood committee reform proposals

The Scottish Government should be required to publish a post-legislative report on each Act of Parliament, three to five years after implementation.

And Holyrood committees should normally have a maximum of seven members to ensure focused and effective scrutiny of Government.

Key recommendations on Holyrood Committee Reform, by the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments (SPPA) Committee. In its report published today, the Committee said it was not, however, persuaded by arguments for the introduction of elected conveners.

SPPA Committee Convener, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The aim of any change must be to make committees more effective at scrutinising legislation and government policy, and holding the government of the day to account.

“We believe there are already many examples of committees working with great effectiveness - challenging the Government, questioning Ministers, airing public concerns.

“Our recommendations, and a greater emphasis on post-legislative scrutiny, will see committees working at this level of effectiveness, more of the time.”

14 January 2016

Tories' 18% Moray Council Tax Hike a Warning to North-East

Plans by the Conservatives and Independents on Moray Council to massively increase the Council Tax rate by 18% are a warning to residents in Aberdeenshire and other council areas what to expect if the Tories are ever in a position of power again locally.

Commenting on the extraordinary announcement, Stewart Stevenson said:

“In a week when Royal Mail are delivering a leaflet from the Tories telling people that a vote for them is a vote against tax rises, we have the evidence right here in the North-east that Tory councillors are falling over themselves to inflict a punishing 18% council tax rise on the public.

“The council tax freeze introduced when the SNP formed the Scottish Government in 2007 has been a real lifeline to local families in these times of austerity and pay freezes. Prior to that, council tax rates had increased year-on-year to the extent that people were paying nearly double what they were in 1996.

“Finance Secretary John Swinney has had to deal with a massive cut in the Scottish Government’s budget which is handed down from Westminster, but nevertheless put measures in place that the council tax freeze could continue in order to support families. The Tories and their Independent colleagues are now undoing all the good work which was done to protect people in this time of austerity.”

Mr Stevenson has tabled a Motion in Parliament condemning the move.

The SNP Opposition Group in Moray Council have also slammed the Independent/Tory Administration’s plans to hike Council Tax by 18%.

SNP Opposition Group Leader, Cllr Gary Coull, added:

© The Moray Council
"Once again we are seeing this Independent/Tory Administration getting Moray in the national headlines for all the wrong reasons.

"This is a massive hike being proposed by the Independents and Tories and will really hit the pockets of Moray people who are already facing high living costs combined with frozen wages.

"It is even more galling that a rise is supported by the Tories and Labour in Moray. Something which has, no doubt, encouraged the Administration to come forward with this ridiculous hike. The Tories want a low tax economy nationally but obviously don't care about the level of local taxation.

"Group leaders in Moray met yesterday to have, in the words of the Council’s Convener an ‘open and transparent discussion’ on the budget and absolutely no mention of this hike was made. With this Council Tax announcement less than 24 hours later the Administration clearly have no intention of working with us to tackle this budget issue, which is extremely disappointing.

"The Council Tax freeze has saved families over 1,500 pounds and has been welcomed by local people. A survey in Highland showed that 62% of people would reject an increase and I have no doubt Moray would produce similar results.

"It really is unbelievable to see this administration proposing such a blow to Moray people's pockets while they continue to peddle vanity projects such as the Western Link Road in Elgin."

13 January 2016

Stewart Stevenson Highlights the Importance of Informal Education

Stewart Stevenson, MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has this week highlighted the importance of informal education.

Speaking in a Scottish Government debate entitled: Delivering a World Class Education System, Mr Stevenson said:

“We should not imagine that all education takes place in school. It is important that parents and relatives are equally equipped to answer the intelligent questions that our youngsters inevitably come up with.”

Mr Stevenson went on to highlight the importance of trying new ideas in our education system, as highlighted in the OECD report, he said:

“The OECD report refers to international examples, including the Ontario teacher leadership and learning programme and the Alberta initiative for school improvement. That gives a fascinating insight into what can be done elsewhere. We have to accept that there is no single answer and that, actually, the most important thing is that those who are engaged in education are committed to picking up and trying new ideas.”

Mr Stevenson finished by praising the OECD report as a good interim report, commenting:

“There is more to do, but I am confident that the Government is willing and able to do it and is actually doing it.”

11 January 2016

MP & MSP hail productive Fraserburgh development meeting

Fraserburgh MP Eilidh Whiteford and MSP Stewart Stevenson have hailed two productive meetings on Monday which highlighted job opportunities and development needs in the Fraserburgh area.
Business Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP visited the town to meet with local business representatives to discuss taking the town forward following the recent challenges faced by Young’s. Among those meeting with the Business Secretary were representatives of local businesses, Aberdeenshire Council and PACE representatives tasked with ensuring the availability of work for those affected by redundancies in the seafood processing sector.

The views expressed will inform the Economic Recovery Plan that the Fraserburgh Task Force is producing. A major jobs fair will take place at the College in Fraserburgh on January 28 from 1000 until 1600, to help workers at Young’s Seafood find employment. Mr Ewing heard from businesses in the area about current vacancies, plans to create new jobs and ideas on how to develop business.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Ewing said:

“I came here today to meet with a cross section of businesses from Fraserburgh and surrounding area, and with the seafood sector, to hear first-hand about local job opportunities and market conditions.

“With a major jobs fair in a fortnight to help Young’s staff and local people find new employment, it’s imperative there is a slick and effective process to capture and advertise vacancies widely.

“We continue to support Young’s staff in their bid to stay in work through our initiative for responding to redundancy situations, Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE). PACE is providing on site skills development and employability support to all Young’s Seafood staff.

“Local companies also told me of their priorities to increase competitiveness and I took away useful and practical suggestions to feed into the emerging Economic Recovery Plan for the area.”

Dr Whiteford, who represents the area at Westminster, commented:

"Obviously, these remain challenging times for many of the Young's workforce in Fraserburgh. However, we heard today that a significant number of those laid off have already secured alternative employment, and other potential opportunities were highlighted.

"The Scottish Government is working hard to maximise support for everyone affected. The Jobs Fair to be held on January 28 at NESCOL in Fraserburgh will be an excellent opportunity for local employers to engage with what is a highly skilled workforce."

Stewart Stevenson MSP added:

"This meeting was an excellent opportunity for local businesses to discuss what Fraserburgh needs, and what the Scottish Government can do to facilitate that. We had some very useful contributions from local businesses and everyone concerned will have come away with a clearer picture of what needs to be done going forward."

6 January 2016

UK Government Must Review Unfair CAP Funding Allocation

£190 Million Lost to Scotland’s Rural Economy

The SNP has today called on the UK Rural Affairs Secretary to undertake a review of how the UK Government allocates Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding, following the decision last year not to pass on £190 million of convergence funding to Scotland.

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead MSP, has today confirmed that he has written to his Westminster counterpart calling for her to honour a commitment made by her predecessor to review the allocation of CAP funding within the UK.

© Crown Copyright
The UK Government received an additional £190 million uplift in CAP funding as a result of Scotland’s low payment rates. However, only a fraction of this was passed on to the Scottish Government.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The decision of the UK Government not to pass on to Scotland the funding it received solely due to Scotland’s historic low payment rates was sheer larceny.

“Scotland’s farmers and crofters received only a fraction of the £190 million that they should have benefited from, funding which undoubtedly would have led to a far greater benefit for the rural economy.

“The former UK Secretary of State gave a reassurance that the grossly unfair allocation of CAP funding would be reviewed in 2016. Now that it is 2016, it’s time for his successor to get on with this review and to do so quickly.”

1 January 2016

Latest NE Rail Passenger Figures Back Case for Buchan Rail - Stevenson

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has said the latest figures for rail passenger numbers across North-east stations back the case for extending the rail network to Buchan.

Figures for 2014/15 which have been released show 823,866 passengers used Dyce Station, which was controversially closed by Beeching and re-opened in 1984, compared with just under 270,000 in the same period ten years ago.

Laurencekirk Station, which was officially re-opened in May 2009 by Mr Stevenson as then-Transport Minister, was estimated at that time to see 36,000 passengers per year. The figures for its first year smashed the forecasts with over 56,000 passenger journeys from the station. Now, six years on, that figure has doubled to over 112,000.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“These figures show a spectacular growth in rail passenger journeys in the North-east over the past decade. The investment in rolling stock and infrastructure and support for the railways from the Scottish Government has helped, but more and more people are coming to realise that for many journeys, rail offers convenience and comfort.

“When I officiated at the re-opening of Laurencekirk Station in 2009 I said at the time the new station will provide a real boost to the local community delivering more trains and new services for commuters and improving access to jobs, education and leisure. The same can be true of a rail link to Buchan. And just look at how popular the Borders Railway has proved in its first few months of operation, breaking all forecasts.

“Investment in our transport infrastructure – road and rail – is vital if we are to achieve the twin goals of improved connectivity to the rest of the country and also making our area more enticing for the people we need to attract to fill key vacancies in teaching and medicine.

“These figures make an excellent case for Buchan Rail.”
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