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30 August 2016

Stevenson & Whiteford Pay Tribute to Ian Gray

Stewart Stevenson and Eilidh Whiteford have paid tribute to Banff & District SNP councillor Ian Gray after he lost his battle with cancer on Saturday.

Ian Gray was elected to Aberdeenshire Council for the former Durn ward in a by-election in 2002 – notable for being the first all-postal by-election conducted in Scotland as part of an experiment – and subsequently in 2007 for the expanded Banff & District Ward, retaining his seat in 2012.

Stewart Stevenson said:

“Ian was a stalwart of the local Party and as well as serving his constituents diligently also did a tremendous amount of work for the SNP.

“Ian was always ready to lend a hand if asked and frequently assisted me in my annual mobile surgery tour around the villages.

“My condolences go to his family, who can take comfort from the high regard in which Ian was held in his home community.”

Local MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

“This is very sad news indeed. Portsoy and the surrounding communities have lost a great public servant.

“Ian was held in very high esteem by his colleagues on the council and his fellow Party members and his loss will be keenly felt. All our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.”

26 August 2016

Stevenson Welcomes 'Significant Drop' in Moray Crime

Moray continues to be one of the safest places to live in Scotland, with latest figures revealing significant drops in crime, increases in detections and doubling of proactivity. That was the message from the latest police performance figures presented to local councillors as part of Police Scotland's commitment to local scrutiny.

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson welcomed the figures. Congratulating the local Moray policing team he said there can still be no let-up in the fight against crime.
Serious assaults decreased by 38% compared to the same quarter last year (April to June 2016 compared to April to June 2015) with a 100% detection rate, while violent crimes have also reduced by 48% as officers continue to tackle violence and related anti-social behaviour through Operation PINE.

And thanks to other intelligence-led proactive initiatives including Operation Regard and Operation Witton, incidents of vandalism have also reduced by almost a quarter while detection rates for drug offences are at a five year high.

Crimes of dishonesty have also dropped by more than 30% when compared to the 5 year average and 13.5% compared to the same quarter last year. A major drop in motor vehicle crime has also been recorded, down 60% when compared to the 5 year average and 49% compared to last year.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

"I congratulate the local policing team in Moray on these excellent figures. There can still be no let-up in the fight against crime but the numbers tell us that intelligence-led policing - where members of the public can play their part by reporting anything suspicious - helps keep us all safer from crime.

"While these figures are good news, we need to be on our guard against new types of crimes, for example digital or cyber crime, which will become an increasing challenge in the future and is to a large extent already an issue."

Stevenson Backs Bill for Seatbelts on School Transport

'Vital Measure' in Promoting Safety for Children and Young People

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has given his backing to North-east SNP colleague Gillian Martin’s proposal for a Bill to ensure that seat belts become a legal requirement on all dedicated home-to-school transport in Scotland.

SNP MSP for East Aberdeenshire Ms Martin has today officially lodged a draft proposal for a Bill – strengthening measures to improve the safety of children and young people travelling to and from school.

Mr Stevenson has been a long-time campaigner for better safety on school transport and has worked closely with colleagues, including his neighbouring MSP Gillian Martin – to further this.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“The proposed Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill would introduce a statutory duty on local authorities and other education providers to ensure vehicles used in dedicated home-to-school transport are fitted with seat belts, where currently no such legal obligation exists.

“The Scottish Government has a long-standing intention to make seat belts a legal requirement on dedicated school transport and created a working group of key stakeholders to consider the issue over the last two years.”

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“I am very pleased to take forward this bill which would represent another vital step in improving road safety for school pupils, and I hope provide peace of mind for parents and bus drivers with the knowledge of improved safety for children and young people on their way to school.

“No one thinks twice about wearing seatbelts in cars since the historical step changes in UK legislation – and I would hope to see a similar attitude shift stemming from this Bill.

“With this Bill it is hoped that by children getting used to having to wear a seatbelt on contracted school buses, this will translate into their attention to their own safety as they access other public transport.

“The Scottish Government has already worked closely with organisations such as Transport Scotland, COSLA and others in looking at this issue, and I look forward to engaging with a wide-range of stakeholders as we progress the vital Bill to ensure the safety of our young people.”

Brexit Threat to Vital Seafood Sector Says Local MSP

Sector Supports Hundreds of Jobs in Buchan

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson says the scale of European trade and investment shows that Brexit threatens the future of the vital seafood sector, which continues to be of significant importance in areas like Buchan.

Seafood accounts for over 60% of Scotland’s food exports to the EU – with EU membership benefiting the industry to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds in trade and investment.

With two of the country’s biggest fishing ports and a significant amount of seafood processing taking place locally, supporting hundreds of local jobs, Mr Stevenson says answers from the Tory Government and others who campaigned for Brexit on how the industry will be supported are still nowhere to be seen.

Figures revealed by the Scottish Government in response to a series of Parliamentary Questions show that Scotland exported £438m of fish and seafood to EU countries in 2015, while £77m of EU investment has created or safeguarded 2000 jobs in the industry since 2007.

Scotland should receive €107m from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, 46% of the UK allocation, by 2023 – investment that is jeopardised by Brexit.

Commenting Stewart Stevenson said:

“Fishing areas like Buchan support hundreds of jobs from catching fish through to processing, as well as all the support businesses that operate around harbours and food processors.

“Seafood is a prime example of the benefits of trading without barriers across Europe – and is by far our largest food export.

“Without tariff-free access to trade with the EU, rural Scotland would risk losing vital trade that sustains hundreds of jobs in Buchan and thousands across Scotland. In addition there is tens of millions of EU investment that supports our seafood and agricultural industries.

“Over two months on from the referendum, the Tories and other Brexit campaigners are no closer to answering any of the central questions about what Brexit will look like – which is why it is absolutely right that the Scottish Government remains determined to stop Scotland being dragged out of Europe against our will.”

25 August 2016

Stevenson Welcomes Grant Award for Deveron Coastal Rowing Club

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the grant from Awards for All Scotland for the purchase of equipment and training.

The Deveron Coastal Rowing Club has secured £5,000 which will be used to purchase necessary equipment and training to develop the club and skills of members to a standard that will allow it to compete in the 2016 World Skiff Championships.
Photo: Allan Robertson Photography
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“I am delighted that Deveron Coastal Rowing Club has secured this £5,000 grant from Awards for All Scotland. It is a great investment toward their future ambitions and will attract more people to this traditional sport.

“The Awards for All Scotland Programme continues to demonstrate its incredible value. It is a fantastic programme that gives groups across our country the opportunity to apply for grants of between £500 and £10,000 for many important community projects.

“These projects do a great job of bringing people together, improving local space, and helping people become more active in their communities. This grant will help local people to take part in an exciting traditional sport and allow them to enjoy the beautiful coastal environment of the North-east. I congratulate the Deveron Coastal Rowing Club on their award and wish them the best of luck with their new equipment and training.”

16 August 2016

SNP MSP Urges Extension of Funding Guarantee

EU Funds "Vital" for Scotland's Rural Economy

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson has backed the Scottish Government’s Rural Secretary Fergus Ewing in calling for EU funding guarantees to be extended by the UK Government in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

The call for extension comes after the UK Government only guaranteed certain levels of expenditure over a certain time period – with the Scottish Government calling for this funding to be extended to cover at least £300 million of CAP Pillar 2 funding and £60 million of EMFF funding. There is considerable doubt that this will be able to be agreed by the Autumn Statement for commitments running to 2020.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“European Union funding is vital to our rural communities and rural economy as a whole – and it is imperative that the UK Government commits to maintaining current levels of investment that are under threat following Brexit.

“The subsidies help to support farmers and fishermen across the North-east, as well as boosting our rural economies as a whole by helping to create and sustain jobs in the area. The guarantees the UK Government have made so far have removed some uncertainty, but they by no means go far enough.

“I am backing the Scottish Government’s call for Westminster to go further in its commitment and to guarantee the £360 million of funding that remains uncertain. The funding is vital for our rural communities in the North-east and the Tory government must provide them with the clarity and certainty that rural Scotland desperately needs.”

Stevenson Holds 1,000th Surgery for Constituents

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has held his 1,000th surgery for constituents.

The milestone was reached when he pulled up in the picturesque village of Fordyce with his Mobile Office as part of his summer surgery tour of rural communities.
Mr Stevenson’s record of holding surgeries is second to none and makes him one of the most accessible MSPs in the country.

Commenting, Stewart said:

“It’s incredible to think that I’ve now held 1,000 surgeries for constituents and I’m delighted to have reached such a milestone achievement.

“While the bulk of contact from constituents now comes via e-mail of through my website, a significant amount of casework I deal with comes from people who turn up at my surgeries. In some cases, there is still a real need for face-to-face contact to discuss an issue or to view something at first hand.

“Over the years, many thousands of people have been in touch through one of my surgeries. It’s not always possible to achieve the outcome that people are seeking with a particular issue or problem, but on many occasions, simply the act of writing a letter on Parliamentary-headed paper on someone’s behalf is enough to make the powers that be or private companies sit up and pay attention to someone’s problem. Being able to help people in this way is both a pleasure and a privilege and I’m pleased to be able to do so.”

Arrangements are already being made for Stewart’s next surgery, which will be held next month.

Stevenson Hails Scottish Government Action on Monkfish Quota

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has welcomed the Scottish Government’s securing a lifting of the ban previously imposed by the UK Government on overseas trading of skates and rays quotas.

Mr Stevenson asked the Scottish Government what discussions it had with the UK Government regarding the lifting of the ban on overseas trading of skates and rays quotas.

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy & Connectivity, Fergus Ewing, stated that he had written to and held a number of meetings with Ministers from the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in June. The Scottish Government insisted that the Scottish fleet be able to access the full amount of monkfish quota available internationally and rejected UK suggestions that the ban continue over summer.

Relaxing of the ban has allowed Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation vessels the opportunity to land the additional monkfish quota, with a value of up to £600,000. The additional supply will also be welcomed by fish processors.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The decision of the UK Government to have a ban in place is another example of how the UK Government is out of touch with Scottish fishing. This problem was unnecessary and threatened to cost Scottish fisherman and processors an important source of revenue. Had the Scottish Government not intervened, the issue could have gone on for months.

“Once again, the Scottish Government has shown its commitment to the fishing industry throughout Scotland. Through superior knowledge and persistence the Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing, has secured a positive resolution.

“I welcome the decision to relax the ban and also the effort made by the Scottish Government to correct this issue. It is a boost for Scottish fisherman and I know they will appreciate that action was taken to ensure common sense prevailed.”

Local MSP Backs Drive to Recruit GP Trainees

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has backed a recruitment drive to encourage junior doctors to consider a career in general practice.

The drive coincides with the opening of applications for 100 new GP training places in Scotland. A proportion of these 100 will come with a £20,000 incentive for trainees who choose to take up posts in hard to fill locations, such as remote and rural areas.

The drive aims to highlight the benefits of living and working as a GP in Scotland. These new 100 new places bring the total number of GP specialist training posts advertised this year to 439, following a recruitment round earlier in the year.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“This latest drive to recruit GPs is a testament to the Scottish Government’s commitment to the NHS in general, and tackling the GP vacancies in the North of Scotland in particular. General practitioners are essential in making sure our communities get the care they need.

“The decision to incentivise trainees is a brilliant move that will attract more professionals to areas that otherwise have a distinct disadvantage in recruitment. There can be several barriers to recruitment that rural areas are faced with and the financial incentive is a great way to counteract them.

“This campaign will once again reiterate the value of GPs and that it is a good time to be a GP in Scotland. It is a great career opportunity for junior doctors, and attracting GPs to areas like the North-east is of critical importance.”

12 August 2016

Stevenson Welcomes Increase in NHS Grampian Nursing Staff

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has welcomed the announcement that NHS Grampian has recruited nearly two hundred new nurses.

A total of 186 extra nursing and midwifery staff have joined the wards over the last year and consultant vacancies halved during the same period.

NHS Grampian also confirmed that its total workforce rose to 14,442 people, an increase of 1.25% on 2015 and has committed to continue their recruitment drive.

Commenting on the announcement, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“I welcome these figures as they are both highly encouraging and demonstrate a very successful recruitment drive. Despite challenges, there continues to be excellent progress in attracting people to work in NHS Grampian.

“In order to deliver the level of care that we demand of our NHS, we need the medical professionals that are central to that process. This rise in the number of nurses will improve NHS Grampian and allow it to deliver the high level of care that is expected of the NHS.

“I congratulate everyone involved in achieving these figures. I welcome their commitment, and wish them continued success in recruiting the medical professionals that are so important to our communities in the North-east.”

MSP Seeks Assurances from Bank of Scotland on Cash Machines

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has sought assurances from Bank of Scotland on the continued availability of cash machines in Portsoy, Cullen and Macduff following the announcement that the bank’s branches in all three communities are to close in November.

Bank of Scotland plans to offer a mobile branch banking service in the communities affected, a service which currently runs in other communities across the North-east.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“It was disappointing to hear of the proposed closures of three Bank of Scotland branches within my constituency. I have received assurances from Bank of Scotland that staff in the Cullen Portsoy and Macduff branches will be redeployed and customers will be able to access counter services through mobile banking.

“Nevertheless, I am writing to Bank of Scotland to express my concerns and to seek clarification on whether the ATM service, which all of these branches possess, will remain available. As well as convenience for customers, tourism is very important along the Moray Firth Coast and access to cash machines is clearly very useful if we want tourists to spend money locally.”

10 August 2016

New UK Energy Secretary Told to Live Up to North Sea Pledges

Action "Long Overdue" to Help Oil and Gas Sector Through Current Challenges

The SNP have today demanded that the new Westminster Energy Secretary puts his money where his mouth is and supports the oil and gas sector – after he claimed it was a “huge priority” for the UK government on a recent trip to Aberdeen.

Greg Clark visited Aberdeen for the first time in his new role yesterday, and the SNP have challenged him to deliver where his predecessors have failed – to support the sector through its ongoing challenges.

The SNP Government have consistently taken action to support jobs and workers across the North-East by investing in infrastructure, committing extra funding to the Aberdeen City Region Deal and working with the industry to help retrain staff to get them back into work.

Commenting, SNP MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, said:

“It is vitally important to jobs and the economy across the North-East that Mr Clark doesn’t simply talk about making North Sea oil and gas a ‘huge priority’ but actually delivers on this.

“The UK government have failed miserably to support the North-East in these challenging times – action is long overdue from a government that happily reaps the benefits from the industry when times are good, but quickly deserts it when times are tough.

“The Tory government needs to show the same level of commitment to the North-East as the Scottish Government has – and take action to protect the industry, such as reducing fiscal barriers to exploration and improving access to decommissioning tax relief.

“The new energy secretary must live up to his pledges on the sector and take action now to protect jobs and livelihoods across the region. His predecessors have failed miserably to do this – Greg Clark must put his money where his mouth is and ensure he doesn’t become yet another member of the Tory government with a dreadful record in protecting jobs in the North Sea.”

MSP Supports Child Poverty Consultation

Scottish Government Setting Framework for Child Poverty Eradication by 2030

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has welcomed the Scottish Government’s newly launched consultation on ending child poverty. The consultation comes ahead of the Child Poverty Bill which will be introduced next year and will form part of the overall approach to tackle poverty and inequality in Scotland.

The Scottish Government aims to eradicate child poverty – and this consultation asks for comments on the proposals to introduce four statutory income targets seeking to drastically reduce child poverty by 2030, as well as how existing work can be strengthened.

These next steps will build on the range of work the Scottish Government already has underway to tackle poverty and inequality, such as the commitment to the Living Wage, free school meals, expansion of funded early learning and childcare, and the Scottish Attainment Challenge.

Commenting on the consultation launch, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The launch of this consultation shows that the Scottish Government is taking vital action to tackle poverty and inequality across Scotland.

“I am delighted to see the Scottish Government taking this active approach to end the blight of child poverty. Tackling deep-seated inequalities is the job of all society so we need everyone across local authorities, business, the third sector and those who experience poverty to work together.

“The Child Poverty Bill consultation will allow further evidence and ideas to emerge, helping to build on efforts already underway – such as free school meals, a commitment to the Living Wage of £8.25/hour, the Scottish Attainment Challenge and duties to tackle inequalities of educational outcome due to socio-economic disadvantage.

“The Scottish Government sees child poverty as a priority – and this Bill consultation shows that the SNP in Government will work hard to end the cycle of poverty in Scotland once and for all.”

Stewart Stevenson Backs SNP Stimulus in Brexit Aftermath

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has backed the Scottish Government’s commitment to stimulate the economy with new infrastructure funding in the wake of the EU referendum.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced an additional £100m of funding in this financial year to speed up the delivery of health and other infrastructure projects – as well as the establishment of a new service to provide information and support to businesses affected by the EU referendum.

Projects will be assessed for accelerated funding against a range of criteria including how quickly work can start, the number of jobs that will be supported or created, the likely impact on the supply chain and geographic spread.

Stewart Stevenson has called on the UK Government to urgently announce its own economic stimulus package, which would enable the Scottish Government to do even more to accelerate capital spending to support communities in Banffshire & Buchan Coast and across Scotland.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“Nicola Sturgeon has been clear that the Scottish Government will pursue all possible options to protect Scotland’s relationship with the EU.

“But in the meantime we must do all we can to ensure that our economy doesn’t suffer, hitting jobs and investment in Banffshire & Buchan Coast and across the country.

“It’s up to the UK Government to match the Scottish Government’s ambition and begin fixing this mess of their own making. Theresa May must take meaningful action to alleviate uncertainty and announce a UK wide stimulus, allowing the Scottish Government to do even more to secure jobs in Banffshire & Buchan Coast and beyond.”

2 August 2016

Stewart Stevenson MSP Welcomes Access to Elected Office Fund for 2017 Local Elections

Money Will Assist Disabled People to Participate in Politics

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has warmly welcomed the opening of a £200,000 fund aimed at encouraging more disabled people to participate in politics and stand as councillors in next year’s local council elections.

The fund – which will help cover additional costs for accessible transport and communications support – underlines the Scottish Government’s commitment to ensuring equal opportunities for more people from under-represented groups.

Disabled people are significantly under-represented as local councillors – and the fund will back up wide-ranging support to help correct this imbalance.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“Everyone should have equal access to politics, no matter their own personal background or whether they are disabled or not – and this funding will help ensure this is the case by alleviating some of the additional costs that disabled candidates can encounter.

“It is vital that barriers are broken down to encourage people from all areas of society to get involved in politics – which will help make policies more representative of society as a whole. The fund isn’t about giving anyone an advantage, but rather levelling the playing field and making it fairer for everyone.

“I hope people from across Aberdeenshire access this funding. It will help create equal access to politics for disabled people who wish to stand for selection or election in next year’s local government polls.”

Scotland "Left on the Outside Looking in" to UK Government's Economic Taskforce

The SNP has criticised the UK Government for failing to take Scotland’s unique economic interests into account – after new Tory Prime Minister Theresa May snubbed Scottish Secretary David Mundell by excluding him from a new economic taskforce with a remit to encourage economic growth across the UK.

The taskforce, consisting of more than 10 secretaries of state, has been launched by Ms May in an attempt to “drive growth up and down the country” – but with the UK Government’s man in Scotland conspicuous by his absence.

Questions have been raised at Mr Mundell’s omission from the taskforce given the current challenges facing Scotland’s oil and gas sector.

Separately, the Press and Journal reports widespread criticism of the decision to split responsibility for oil and gas between an unelected peer and a junior minister with no prior front bench experience.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“If David Mundell’s job as Scottish Secretary isn’t to be at the table when his colleagues are making decisions about UK wide economic policy then it’s not clear what his job actually is.

“The Tories can’t even claim that the interests of Scotland’s vital oil and gas industries will be represented by the UK Energy Secretary – as they have downgraded that post and divvied up responsibility between an unelected Lord and a newly appointed junior minister.

“The Scottish Government has made supporting the oil and gas industry during the current period of uncertainty an absolute priority. The SNP will support any measures from the UK Government that will do likewise, but despite raised expectations after a change of government at Westminster – it is already starting to feel like Scotland is being left on the outside looking in.”
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