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23 March 2016

SNP Support Children and Young People

Stewart Stevenson, MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast this week asked the Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell, what the Scottish Government is doing to ensure that children get the best start in life.

The Minister responded, explaining funding that the Scottish government has introduced to Scottish childcare, she said:

“We have also invested about £500 million to expand free early learning and childcare to 475 hours for all three and four-year-olds and disadvantaged two-year-olds. We are recruiting 500 additional health visitors by 2018 to support parents in their children’s earliest years.”

Mr Stevenson welcomed this response and further asked what more could be done in the next parliament, the minister said:

“We fundamentally disagree with the changes that the United Kingdom Government currently proposes and we will continue to develop a Scottish approach to tackle and mitigate the impact of poverty. We are investing £14 million in 2016-17 through our new third sector fund to tackle inequality and help thousands of children, families and communities. We have fully funded free school meals for all primary 1 to P3 pupils, which will deliver a saving for families of at least £380 per child per year and benefit 130,000 children throughout Scotland.”

22 March 2016

MSP Visits Portsoy Salmon Bothy to See Achievements and Find Out About Challenges and Future Plans

Stewart Stevenson, MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, and Jacqueline Hay of Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) visited Portsoy Salmon Bothy as part of a series of MSP visits to museums organised by MGS. The museums national development body has invited all of Scotland’s MSPs to champion their local museums by experiencing first-hand their achievements and challenges.
Dr Anne McArthur from the Salmon Bothy said:

“We are delighted to welcome Stewart Stevenson MSP and the representative from Museums Galleries Scotland to our museum. We have recently been awarded accreditation by MGS and are pleased to have them at our volunteer training day as we prepare for the new season.

“We are an enthusiastic group of volunteers but we continually face the challenge of acquiring new recruits for the museum rota. We hope that this visit will help encourage new volunteers to get involved.”

MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

"Our local museums play a tremendously important role as the custodians of our civic heritage, but should also be places of fun and learning where younger generations engage with their history.

"The Portsoy Salmon Bothy has become one of the focal points in the area for a great many social and cultural events. Linked to the museum on the ground floor of the building, this makes it a tremendous asset for the Banffshire Coast both for tourists and locals alike.”

Joanne Orr, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland, said:

“Museums play a vital role in the lives of individuals, families and communities across Scotland. Their learning and outreach work bridge inequalities in education and mental and physical health provision. They enhance the experience of visitors to Scotland and bring a positive economic impact. They connect people with their community.”

“As difficult decisions are being made about budgets across the country it is vital that the true value of the sector is understood and that is why we have organised these visits.”

MGS delivers strategic development support to a sector of over 450 museums and galleries. MGS will be visiting other museums and galleries with MSPs across Scotland over the coming months.

Last year the Salmon Bothy had to reduce their opening hours from six days to four as volunteers retired or moved away. This year they will open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 2.00pm-4.00pm and by appointment.

21 March 2016

Stevenson Holds Final Surgeries Before Parliament Dissolved

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has held his final round of surgeries prior to Parliament being dissolved for the elections on May 5th.

The SNP MSP held surgeries on Friday in Banff and Fraserburgh, bringing the total number of surgeries he has held during this Parliamentary session to 265.

Since being elected in 2001, Stewart has held an impressive 965 surgeries in total across every community in his constituency.

Commenting on the achievement, Mr Stevenson said:

“I try very hard to be accessible to people in their own communities. In addition to my regular surgeries in the larger towns like Buckie, Banff, Fraserburgh and Peterhead, I ensure that every village and smaller community has a surgery every summer as part of my tour with my Mobile Office.

“In addition, I hold surgeries at summer events and shows so that people can meet me at their convenience.

“Face to face contact with their elected representatives is still very important to people, and constituents can be assured that if I am re-elected on May 5th, I will continue my commitment to being just as accessible as I have always been and holding regular surgeries all across the constituency of Banffshire & Buchan Coast.”

18 March 2016

Transformative Private Tenancies Bill Passes

Welcoming the passing of the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast Stewart Stevenson said:

“The Private Housing (Tenancies) Bill will provide for a transformative change in the private rented sector – providing security for Scotland’s 700,000 tenants.

“The Bill creates a modern tenancy, ends no fault evictions and limits rent increases to once every 12 months.

“This legislation addresses the problem of excessive rent rises by giving councils the ability to apply to introduce rent controls in designated rent pressure areas. This is the first time any such control has been introduced in Scotland and is an ambitious plan to ensure protection for tenants from excessive rent rises.

“The Bill also introduces a new system of redress for landlords and tenants through the new First-tier Housing and Property Tribunal. Housing Minister Margaret Burgess announced this week that there will be no fees for tenants or landlords taking their case to the Tribunal if the SNP are re-elected for an historic third term.

“We want the private rented sector to be attractive to all who live, work and invest in it with provision of good quality homes and high management standards. This Bill is part of our overall housing strategy which seeks to ensure everyone can access a warm affordable home and has seen us exceed our commitment to build 30,000 affordable homes in this term of the Parliament.”

Local Charity Fundraiser Gets Boost from MSP

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has presented a £150 boost to a local fundraiser courtesy of an interview he took part in recently.

Research firm Ipsos MORI asked the MSP to take part in an interview and offered a donation to charity if he agreed to take part. Mr Stevenson did so and nominated the Cystinosis Foundation as the worthy recipient.

Mr Stevenson presented the cheque to Fraserburgh woman Mrs Elizabeth Forsyth who is a well-known local fundraiser for the charity at one of her charity stalls recently.

Commenting, Stewart said:

“I get approached to take part in these surveys and research interviews from time to time in my role as an MSP. Most of them usually offer a fee for taking part and I donate these to good causes around the constituency.

“I know that Mrs Forsyth has been a long-time fundraiser for the Cystinosis Foundation and spends much of her weekends engaged in charity work, so I was pleased to be able to provide a modest boost to her efforts.”

17 March 2016

Stewart Stevenson MSP Welcomes Support for STEM Subjects

Stewart Stevenson, MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, this week asked the Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages, Dr Alasdair Allan, what the Scottish government is doing to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics in schools.

The Minister responded by explaining that the Scottish Government had announced £1.5 million of funding to support science, technology, engineering and maths in primary and secondary schools.

Mr Stevenson went on to ask what steps the Scottish government are taking to address the challenges faced for teacher recruitment in STEM subjects.

Dr Allan responded:

“The Scottish Government launched a teacher recruitment campaign in September to encourage more people to become teachers. We are supporting a collaboration between the University of Stirling and Heriot-Watt University whereby some of Heriot-Watt’s STEM students will train as teachers in parallel with their undergraduate STEM studies. Part of the £12 million transition training fund, which will help people who face job losses in the oil and gas sector to find alternative employment, will be available to support people who want to become teachers.”

15 March 2016

Robertson and Stevenson Follow up Buckie Broadband Meeting

Angus Robertson MP has met with BT following a public meeting held in Buckie recently on the issue of Broadband.

Meanwhile Mr Robertson’s SNP colleague Stewart Stevenson MSP has called on BT to up their game locally.

Commenting after his meeting with BT Moray’s MP Angus Robertson said:

“A good range of issues were raised at the public meeting in Buckie covering both standard broadband and fibre broadband issues in and around the town.

“At that meeting I committed to taking these issues up with BT and I have now met with senior BT representatives who have taken away the concerns that were raised. They have also encouraged people to continue raising any concerns as it is important to identify times, locations and frequency of any problems.

“I also raised the issue of lack of fibre coverage in some communities and there may well be some further progress on this in the near future.

“In the meantime I am continuing to raise specific cases with BT on a day to day basis and I would encourage people who are not getting issues resolved with BT to get in touch with me through my constituency office and I will ensure these cases are taken up at the highest levels with BT.”

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“It's quite clear that BT need to up their game locally. There is a great deal of frustration in the area at the standard of service people are receiving. At the end of the day, BT are a commercial organisation and commercial organisations live or die by the customer service they provide. BT have an opportunity here to step up and prove to people in Banffshire they are a company worthy of their custom."

Rail Boost for NE Strengthens Case for Buchan Rail Link

Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has said today’s announcement from the Scottish Government of a “revolution in rail” in Scotland, which will deliver the largest programme of benefits to rail passengers seen in a generation – with a particular emphasis on additional services and seats in the North-east – strengthens the case for extending the rail network into Buchan.

Scottish Government Transport Minister, Derek Mackay, today announced that ScotRail will introduce 200 new services, providing 20,000 more seats per day, with passengers across Tayside, Stirlingshire, Perthshire, Aberdeenshire and the Borders set to feel the benefits.

Timetable improvements are made possible by the decision by the Scottish Government to retain 13 additional Class 170 diesel trains (39 additional carriages) beyond the terms of their current leases, which were due to end in 2018. These extra trains create the capacity to make timetable service improvements – with input supplied by local stakeholders to find the best fit for local priorities.

For the North-east this means:
  • Improved services to Inverness with some of the trains coming from Edinburgh/ Glasgow through Aberdeen to Inverness
  • The introduction of a “local” rail service between Inverurie and Montrose stopping at all stations
  • Reduced journey times to Edinburgh/Glasgow with limited stopping
This improvement will provide for a half hourly service from Inverurie to Aberdeen. Completion of the upgrade of the Aberdeen to Inverurie line will help facilitate this.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“This announcement today by the Transport Minister is very good news for rail travellers in the North-east. In particular, reduced journey times to Glasgow and Edinburgh will be of great benefit to travellers.

“We know that the momentum is building behind the re-establishment of a rail link to Buchan. Passenger usage figures across North-east stations have risen dramatically in recent years. There is no reason to believe that railheads in Buchan would not be just as well-used as other stations in Aberdeenshire, with all the knock-on economic benefits that would flow from that.”

Transport Minister, Derek Mackay, said:

“We have initiated a revolution in rail services across Scotland. From 2018 passengers will benefit from more seats, more services and faster journey times as a direct result of the increased funding that we are putting into the rail network.

“The retention of these units will complement the arrival of our new High Speed Trains, which will allow for new and improved intercity connections. They will also make our rail network more resilient, creating opportunities to run faster services on key commuter routes and offering better connectivity for regional areas.

“This funding is in addition to the £475m investment in Scotland’s rolling stock over the lifetime of the franchise, meaning Scotland’s rail passengers have never been better served, both in terms of the quality of the trains they travel on, and the number of services running on the network.”

Phil Verster, Managing Director of Abellio ScotRail said:

“This is a really significant moment in our mission to transform Scotland’s railway. In three years time, the service that we provide to our customers will be unrecognisable. Our new electric fleet will be running between Glasgow and Edinburgh, our High Speed trains will be linking our seven cities and, thanks to this announcement today, we will have hundreds more services and thousands more seats available to customers across Scotland – particularly in Aberdeen, the North East and Fife.

“I really cannot overstate just how big a change to our service that this announcement represents. This is not a slight amendment to the way we do business, it is a fundamental change. These new trains will allow us to completely recast our timetables, meaning more regular, local services combined with a high speed intercity offering.

“This transformation means that we can set about delivering on our vision of a railway that connects people with jobs, businesses with customers and communities with the opportunity to grow and prosper. A railway that delivers for Scotland – not just because of what it is, but because of what it allows our country to do.”

14 March 2016

MP and MSP Hail New Ambulance for Peterhead

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson, and Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford, have welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement of increased emergency ambulance cover for the Peterhead area, which will see an additional full-time ambulance 24/7 based at Peterhead.

The announcement follows a sustained campaign by the MSP and MP for enhanced ambulance provision in the north of Aberdeenshire, and builds on earlier commitments to increased provision and a recruitment drive. As a result of today’s announcement, the Scottish Ambulance Service stands to benefit from a £5 million injection from the Scottish Government.

The new Peterhead ambulance will be available 24/7, with new crew being trained to get the vehicle on the road as soon as possible.

Speaking following the announcement, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said the news was ‘fantastic’.

He said:

“Eilidh and I have been working closely with the Scottish Ambulance Service in recent months, following concerns from constituents that the service was being too thinly spread in the north-east, and response times were below target.

“I have been contacted by a number of constituents recently regarding the provision of Ambulance services in the North-east. I fully expect the increase in capacity, which has been funded by the Scottish Government, will improve the ability of the service to respond to calls in the town and surrounding area.

“This new ambulance won’t only benefit Peterhead. The surrounding towns and villages will benefit from the knock on effect of the new vehicle, which will take pressure off the neighbouring stations.”

Westminster MP, Eilidh Whiteford, added:

“It is great to hear that the Scottish Ambulance Service has allocated an additional Ambulance to Peterhead. I want to pay tribute to the local crews and members of the public who drew attention to the challenges facing the service, and who worked with us to make the case for additional resources.“

The funding from the Scottish Government will also provide 50 Specialist Paramedics with enhanced clinical skills to allow them to work more autonomously with an extended range of medicines, offering more treatments in communities alongside GPs and other health professionals.

The initiative will also see more than 60 new staff recruited and trained for deployment in Ambulance Control Centres across Scotland.

Health Secretary, Shona Robison said:

“Our ambulance workers provide a first class service, often under challenging circumstance and we value their dedication extremely highly. This recruitment drive will enhance the service on offer, and ensure that staff are equipped with the appropriate skills, training and clinical support to be able to deliver even more care in the community.

“Through the 2016/17 budget we are investing an additional £11.4 million in the Scottish Ambulance Service, which will assist with the recruitment and training of more staff over the next five years. This will allow the ambulance service to be better prepared to meet future needs and demands.”

Pauline Howie, Chief Executive, Scottish Ambulance Service, said:

“The continued investment in more frontline resources is fundamental to delivering our ‘Towards 2020’ strategy which aims to provide the most appropriate care to every patient, whether at home or in the hospital. This year’s recruitment plan is the first phase of a 5 year programme that will enhance the clinical skills mix of our staff and introduce new ways of working to best meet the needs of patients in all of our communities.”

The Service currently employs around 1300 Paramedics, 1100 Ambulance Technicians and 350 control room staff on frontline emergency operations.

11 March 2016

Stevenson Hosts Fishing Meeting with Cabinet Secretary

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson hosted a meeting for local fishermen and those involved in the fishing industry last week.

Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead MSP addressed the meeting and took questions from the floor. The meeting was chaired by Stewart Stevenson and took place at Findlay’s Hotel in Fraserburgh.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I’m very pleased that Richard Lochhead again agreed to do another of these events in my constituency. The idea originally arose out of a conversation with one of my constituents on fishing issues and we tried this out a couple of years ago and got a very good turnout, so we were keen to offer people the opportunity once again.

“I was very pleased at the turnout we got, which filled our venue to capacity. I think it is vitally important that opportunities are arranged to allow local fishermen and those involved in the industry the chance to put their views directly to the Cabinet Secretary as well as hear from him on a range of issues.

“I should like to thank everyone who attended and I hope they found the opportunity useful.”

Stevenson Welcomes Farm Subsidy Support Plan

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that farmers and crofters still waiting for a direct subsidy payment at the end of March will receive a cash advance from the Scottish Government.

The First Minister has confirmed the Scottish Government will use up to £200 million of national funds to provide cash support while Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) claims are being processed.

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“This is a welcome move from the Scottish Government and the First Minister.

“It’s clearly a very complex situation with different factors impacting on the processing of payments, not least having to have a new and untested IT system. However, I believe it is right those of our farmers and producers who are not in the majority who have already received payment are supported through what could be a difficult time in terms of cash flow.”

Commenting, the First Minister said:

“The transition to a new, more complex CAP that is affecting payment schedules right across Europe is happening as farmers and crofters are dealing with poor market prices and challenging weather conditions.

“We are less than half way through the payment window allowed by Europe, and the majority of Scottish producers – more than 10,000 – have already received a subsidy payment. However, payments are not being made as quickly as we would like.

“I very much recognise the cash flow issues facing Scottish agriculture, which underpins our £14 billion food and drink industry. That is why the Scottish Government has earmarked up to £200 million of national funds so that any farmer or crofter who has not received an instalment by the end of March receive a nationally-funded payment from the Scottish Government in April.”

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has confirmed that today’s announcement will also enable Scottish Beef Scheme payments to be made in the middle of April, in line with previous years.

It comes just days after the Cabinet Secretary announced national funds will also be used to ensure hillfarmers and crofters in Scotland’s most fragile and remote rural areas who rely on Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) funding will receive a payment in March as usual.

Richard Lochhead added:

“In Scotland, we are implementing decisions taken with the industry to tailor the policy to deliver better outcomes for Scottish agriculture. I have always been clear that adding this extra complexity would prove extremely challenging to implement, but it is taking longer to make payments than we had hoped.

“Europe’s deadline for making direct payments is June 30, and the majority of Scottish farmers and crofters have now received a first instalment worth about 80 per cent of their basic and greening claim.

“We are continuing efforts to speed up progress, such as taking on extra staff, but given the current difficulties facing Scottish agriculture the Scottish Government will use national funds to ensure farmers and crofters will receive support, totalling hundreds of millions of pounds, in the coming weeks.”

Stevenson Supports Marie Curie's Great Daffodil Appeal

Local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson got behind the daffodil to lend his support to the Great Daffodil Appeal at the Scottish Parliament this week.

Mr Stevenson met staff and heard about the work of the charity that last year provided care and support for more than 7,400 people living with a terminal illness in Scotland.

The Great Daffodil Appeal is Marie Curie’s biggest fundraising campaign which takes place throughout March. The charity asks people to make a donation in return for a daffodil pin. All funds raised help Marie Curie Nurses provide care and support to people living with a terminal illness and their loved ones, in their own homes or at the charities two Scottish hospices in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“Marie Curie has 2000 nurses in the UK and provides care and support for more than 7,400 people living with a terminal illness across Scotland.

“The work carried out by Marie Curie nurses is exceptional, and the Great Daffodil Appeal is vital to generate the funds needed to carry out the work that they do.”

Richard Meade, Marie Curie Head of Policy and Public Affairs Scotland said:

“We’re calling on everyone in Scotland get behind the daffodil and join Stewart supporting people living with a terminal illness by donating and wearing a daffodil pin. Your support will help us provide more free hands-on care and emotional support to people living with a terminal illness and their families.”

To support the Great Daffodil Appeal call 0845 601 3107 (local rate) or pledge £5 by texting DAFF to 70111. Visit www.mariecurie.org.uk/daffodil.

4 March 2016

New Report Adds Weight to Criticism of Tory Carbon Capture Betrayal

Cameron has Questions to Answer as North Sea ‘Ideal Location’ for CCS

The North Sea would be an “ideal location” for storing carbon dioxide, a report by the Global CCS Institute has said – putting further pressure on David Cameron to U-turn on his betrayal on investment in Peterhead.

The intervention comes as the deeply unpopular Prime Minister visits Scotland for the Scottish Tory conference.

Cameron betrayed an election vow to invest £1bn in Carbon Capture and Storage technology which was widely expected to be based in Peterhead.

The broken promise has cost 600 jobs in the North East while shirking the UK’s responsibility to tackling climate change.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“This intervention has added weight to the growing criticism of the Prime Minister’s betrayal to the North East.

“Peterhead was expecting to benefit from huge investment, creating hundreds of jobs in a cutting edge field. Yet the miserly Prime Minister has betrayed his election promise – hurting the local economy as well as our planet.

“David Cameron’s flying visit to Scotland is a perfect opportunity to talk substance on future of north sea CCS rather than lecturing Scotland and making personal jibes – he should deliver on his promise to Peterhead and invest in this much-needed green technology.”

3 March 2016

Stevenson Welcomes Support for Aberdeenshire Tourism

Stewart Stevenson, MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, this week asked the Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing, what the Scottish Government were doing to support tourism in Aberdeenshire.

The Minister responded:

“We work closely with a range of public bodies—including Visit Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Natural Heritage, Skills Development Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland—and with industry to increase tourism throughout the country, including in Aberdeenshire.”

Mr Stevenson went on to welcome the support that had been given to Aberdeenshire recently, he said:

“I thank the minister for the substantial support that is being given to tourism delivery in Aberdeenshire. I invite him to join me in welcoming the formation of the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire tourism company, which is consolidating what has been a fragmented approach to tourism in Aberdeenshire. With more than £1 million of initial funding, it looks set to deliver much more for Aberdeenshire in that important economic sector.”

Mr Ewing responded highlighting his support for the new tourism company, he said:

“The establishment of the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire tourism company represents an opportunity for even more success. I am delighted that there has been support from all parties, including Sir Ian Wood’s Opportunity North East—ONE—initiative, to build on the success of tourism in Mr Stevenson’s part of the world”

1 March 2016

North-East Benefits from 'Cashback for Communities' Scheme by £5.5million

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed figures which show that the North-east has received nearly £5.5million from the Scottish Government’s ‘Cashback for Communities’ scheme.

The scheme is a Scottish Government programme which takes funds recovered from the proceeds of crime and invests them into free activities and programmes for young people across Scotland. Up to March 2015, £5.5million recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act has been committed to the Cashback for Communities Programme and other community initiatives in the North-east. The total number of activities the programme has funded in the North-east is over 250,000.

Mr Stevenson raised the issue with the Cabinet Secretary for Justice at Question Time in Parliament. He said:

“I very much welcome the £5.5 million that has been recycled from the pockets of criminals for the benefit of the public good in North East Scotland, as has happened elsewhere in Scotland.”

Commenting afterwards, Mr Stevenson continued:

“We should be rightly proud of the unique Cashback for Communities scheme, seizing the proceeds of crime from the criminal elements in our society and turning that round and using that money for the benefit of young people and youth groups locally.”

Stevenson to Host Fishing Meeting with Cabinet Secretary

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson will be hosting a meeting for local fishermen and those involved in the fishing industry on Friday (4 March).

Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead MSP will address the meeting and will take questions from the floor. The meeting will be chaired by Stewart Stevenson and the event takes place on Friday 4 March at 4.00pm at Findlay’s Hotel, Smiddyhill Road, Fraserburgh.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I’m very pleased that Richard Lochhead has again agreed to do another of these events in my constituency. The idea originally arose out of a conversation with one of my constituents on fishing issues and we tried this out a couple of years ago and got a very good turnout, so we were keen to offer people the opportunity once again.

“I hope that by arranging this, we can allow local fishermen and those involved in the industry to put their views directly to Richard as well as hear from them on a range of issues.”

Those wishing to attend are asked to e-mail msp@stewartstevenson.scot to register their attendance.
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