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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.”
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