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18 August 2017

It’s time for Parliaments to do more on Brexit says MSP Stevenson

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has called for a multi-parliament “grand committee” to process legislation in the Brexit negotiation process.

The SNP representative has suggested it’s time for Parliaments to seek a shared position on a post EU-framework.

It would mean the devolved parliaments in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales would be able to put forward their views in a cross-party committee which would allow them to contribute to legislation with Westminster.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said: :

“Mrs May and her Westminster Government will be responsible for putting legislation on the table which will fundamentally change the future of the UK.

“As in Holyrood, hard graft of detailed examination and amendment will take place in a parliamentary committee.

“The UK Government is going to have to take account for and explain their policy decisions with the backing of all the political parties.

“Now is the time to involve the devolved nations of the UK even further and I am calling for a cross-parliaments committee, essentially an EU Legislation Grand Committee – to take the Bill and related
Bills, forward.

“How can Westminster ask for the full support of the devolved nations for a complex act which other Parliaments have played no part in?

“We are currently faced with no real understanding of what “type of Brexit” we will face and the challenge is now for democracy to keep evolving or this whole process is going to fail.”

15 August 2017

MSP Writes To Retailers Over Low Scottish Lamb Stocks On Shelves

A North-East MSP has written to two leading supermarket chains after a shelf watch study undertaken by members of the National Farming Union (NFU) revealed 11% of lamb on sale is imported.

A report by the NFU found almost all of the imported meat was found on Asda and Tesco shelves.

The percentage is in stark contrast to a previous study conducted the same time last year which found only 3% of fresh lamb on Scottish supermarket shelves was imported at the time.

It was also revealed in the same study last year that 97% of lamb was clearly labelled as Scottish or British lamb.

Now, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has written to Tesco and Asda calling for them to support Scottish farmers.

In a letter to the chief executive of Tesco David Lewis and the Asda’s chief executive Sean Clarke, Mr Stevenson said:

“As you will be aware, this week sees the start of the annual Scotch Lamb
promotional campaign which lasts for one month and promotes the quality and provenance of this excellent product.

“It was therefore disappointing to receive the results of the NFUS survey, particularly when most of the other retailers involved seemed to be able to stock a much higher ratio of Scotch Lamb to other lamb, with Lidl and Aldi achieving 100% in this regard.

“My constituency is one of the foremost livestock-producing areas in the country and the support of retailers is vital to ensuring the success of the industry. I should be grateful to learn whether your
company will be taking any steps to increase the amount of Scotch Lamb stocked in Scottish stores.”

The study carried out by NFU Scotland surveyed 46 supermarket stores across Scotland, looking at fresh lamb offerings.

The results showed an 89% commitment to lamb produced in Scotland and the UK up from 44% in April this year.

But it was down from 97% in August 2016.

In Asda a total of 656 packs counted revealed only 21 were Scottish, 417 British while there were 200 from New Zealand and 18 from Australia.

The stores visited were in Perth, Huntly, Aberdeen, Peterhead, Dyce, Linwood, Fraserburgh and Edinburgh.

Meanwhile in Tesco of 551 packets, a total of 245 were Scottish, 190 were British, and 116 were from New Zealand.

The stores visited were Perth, Turriff, Fraserburgh, Ellon, Huntly, Inverurie and Linwood.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“The success of farmers relies on the support of retailers to ensure the success of the industry.

“My constituency in particular is one of the key livestock-producing areas and needs the backing of supermarkets like Asda and Tesco in order to continue.

“The figures, down from last year, are discouraging and I look forward to hearing from Tesco and Asda with regards to how they plan to resolve this issue.”

14 August 2017

Stevenson Completes Successful Surgery Tour

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson completed his annual surgery tour last week, clocking-up nearly 40 surgeries in communities across the constituency.

During last year’s tour, the SNP MSP reached a significant milestone when he held his 1000th surgery for constituents.
Stewart Stevenson MSP welcomed to Whitehills
by local councillor Glen Reynolds
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:

“Most of the casework I receive from constituents these days comes in via e-mail, post or by phone, but I think it’s still very important to be available for face-to-face discussions in people’s own communities and the Surgery Tour serves that purpose very well.

“People brought a range of issues to me, which I am progressing with the relevant authorities.

“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.

“I’ll be holding more surgeries of the conventional type across the larger towns in the coming months but in the meantime, any constituent wishing to contact me can do so in a range of ways; by phone, e-mail, post, calling in at my Constituency Office or online via my website, www.stewartstevenson.scot, which also has full details of how to get in touch.”

Arrangements are already being made for Stewart’s next round of surgeries, which will take place next month.

11 August 2017

MSP Praises Community Fundraising for Life Saving Equipment

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has praised a community group after they raised more than £9,000 to fund four new defibrillators in a North East town.

The Fraserburgh Community Safety Group raised the cash through projects in and around the port to make the project happen.

They also received some funding from the local authority.

Now, the first of the life-saving machines have been installed at the town’s harbour.

The defibrillator will be available for use to anyone who may need it at the dock.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am delighted the hard work of the Fraserburgh Community Group has paid off.

“The idea for this scheme was first conceived in 2014 and it has been the determination of the members which has led to this important moment.

“I commend the work of all those involved. While we hope no one ever finds themselves in a position to need the use for a defibrillator ensuring there is public access could be instrumental in saving lives.”

10 August 2017

'Game-Changing' Technology Contract Win Welcomed by MSP

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a major offshore wind contract for Peterhead.

Vattenfall has revealed turbine foundations and one of the world’s largest floating cranes will be marshalled at the town’s port.

The contract win means Peterhead Port Authority will support the start of offshore construction work for the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC).

The suction bucket jacket foundations for the 11-turbine scheme will be harboured at the port.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“This is a huge contract win for Peterhead Port Authority and I am delighted to see it benefit from yet another leading renewable project which will be situated off the North East coastline.

“The region is leading the way in the use of game-changing technology and this will help to put Peterhead on the map even further.

“I look forward to visiting the site and seeing the technology myself.”

The contract will also see the port moor one of the world’s largest floating cranes, with a maximum lifting capacity of 5,000 tonnes, and up to six barges that will transport the 11 foundations.

The heaviest of which weighs around 1,800 tonnes and is about 77 metres high.

Peterhead Port will support the installation operations for at least four months with the offshore work expected to take around four to six weeks.

8 August 2017

NHS Grampian Hits Four Hour A&E Target

Performance across Scotland’s accident and emergency departments was above the 95% target during the final week of July – with 95.3% of patients seen, admitted or discharged within four hours.

Latest figures show that 95% of patients in NHS Grampian’s emergency departments were seen, admitted or discharged within four hours.

Scottish hospitals have now had the best performing emergency departments in the UK for more than two years, according to the most recently available figures.

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

“It is very encouraging that latest figures show that performance in A&Es across Scotland hit the 95% target again – the third week in a row.

“Scotland’s A&Es have now outperformed those in the rest of the UK for 27 consecutive months – and this success is testament to the hard work of our NHS and social care workers.

“It is extremely encouraging that Emergency Departments in NHS Grampian are meeting the four hour waiting times target, with the latest figures published showing that 95% of patients are being seen within four hours.

“We will always value the vital work done by our NHS staff – and we should always celebrate their success and continue to support their efforts.”

7 August 2017

North East Firms to Benefit from Latest Round of EMFF Funding

A North East politician has welcomed the latest round of European funding which will help boost 30 projects across the region.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said funding from the European and Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) would play a “key role” in helping businesses to upgrade or modernise their equipment.

It comes after it was revealed sea fisheries, aquaculture and processing businesses will all receive a share of more than £2million worth of funding.

MJ French Fish Export Ltd in Fraserburgh will receive a £362,000 grant to upgrade its processing facility, while a number of smaller grants will be used for fishermen to upgrade their safety equipment.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“Funding from the EMFF plays a key role in helping to support our rural economy in communities across the North East and Scotland as a whole.

“I am delighted local businesses will once again benefit from funding and the support will help firms as they look to broaden the scope of the work they do.

“MJ French Fish Export will now be able to develop its business and employ more staff helping to create growth and investment in the local economy.”

Joel Watt, joint owner of MJ French Fish Export, said:

“The EMFF funding has been crucial in helping our new business grow.

“The current assistance will allow us to increase purchases from Scottish fishing vessels, increase direct contributions to the local economy through wages and salaries and has supported the increase in employment from 2 to 40 personnel.”

3 August 2017

UK Tory Minister Gove Caught Out Over Fishy Danish Brexit Tale

DEFRA Secretary Promises Continued Danish Access to British Waters

The SNP has urged the UK Government to clarify its position on fisheries, after it emerged that Michael Gove told Danish fishermen that they will have continued access to UK and Scottish waters even after the UK leaves the EU. It has been reported that Michael Gove told the Danish fishermen that they “will still be able to catch large amounts of fish in British waters, even if the British leave the EU.” Yet, just a few weeks ago, Gove was in North East Scotland promising a “sea of opportunity” for Scottish fishermen.

This apparent u-turn is just the latest in a series of recent Tory muddles on Brexit related issues. And now with it looking increasingly likely that they will continue a near half century of selling out Scottish fishing, Mr Gove has been urged to clarify what Brexit will actually mean.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell has also faced accusations in recent days that he is simply telling people what they want to hear on Brexit – despite warning before the EU referendum that the idea that a post-Brexit UK would go back to entirely controlling its own waters was “not realistic.”

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

“These are startling revelations on the Tories’ true position over fisheries post-Brexit. And show what we long suspected – that you cannot trust the Tories to stand up for rural Scotland’s interests.

“They might well be trying to keep voters and fishermen sweet at home with all sorts of promises – yet Michael Gove is jet-setting around Europe reassuring EU members that there’ll be nothing of the sort.

“The reports, if true, show the Tories are not being straight with people and will do and say anything in order to force through their disastrous, ill-conceived Brexit plans.

“Michael Gove must immediately make absolutely clear what the UK government’s real position on the future of fisheries is. He could start by confirming that devolved powers over fisheries will transfer to Scotland so that we can get on with developing our own management policies which put Scottish fishing interests offshore and onshore, first.

“It is simply too important an industry for too many of our communities, particularly in my constituency, for him to continue promising one thing in public at home whilst saying the complete opposite in private to international audiences.”

28 July 2017

Stevenson Announces Annual Surgery Tour

Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has announced details of his forthcoming surgery tour of local communities which commences on Tuesday 8 August.

This year will be the seventeenth such tour that Mr Stevenson has undertaken, covering 37 communities from Rothiemay in the far west to Boddam at the south-eastern end of the constituency and inland to Aberchirder, New Byth and Memsie.

Commenting, SNP MSP Mr Stevenson said:

"The annual surgery tour with my mobile office is always extremely enjoyable and I think also that people appreciate having their MSP come to their own community rather than having to go to one of my 'static' surgeries in a nearby town or village.

"Even in this age of electronic communications, people still value being able to have face-to-face contact with their elected representatives, which is important. It also gets me into some of our smaller communities which I may otherwise not have reason to visit during the course of a year."

Details of the tour are as follows:

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson will be available for consultation in his Mobile Office at the following locations:

Tuesday 8 August

09.55 – 10.10 NEW BYTH – The Square
10.15 – 10.25 CRUDIE – lay by
10.35 – 10.45 FISHERIE – Craigwell Cotts
10.55 – 11.05 KING EDWARD – lay-by at Kirk
11.20 – 11.45 MACDUFF – School car park, Barnhill Rd
12.00 – 12.20 WHITEHILLS – Seafield Street
13.30 – 13.40 BOYNDIE – opp. Boyndie Centre
13.50 – 14.15 PORTSOY – Church Street
14.25 – 14.40 SANDEND – adj. phone box
14.50 – 15.10 CULLEN – The Square
15.15 – 15.30 PORTKNOCKIE – Hill Street
15.35 – 15.50 FINDOCHTY – Seaview Road near Chemist
16.00 – 16.15 RATHVEN – Main Road near Kirk

Wednesday 9 August

10.15 – 10.25 ALVAH – adj. Linhead Hall
10.35 – 10.50 FORGLEN – Bogton Row
11.05 – 11.30 ABERCHIRDER – The Square
11.50 – 12.10 ROTHIEMAY – near shop
13.30 – 13.45 KNOCK – adj. Post Box
14.00 – 14.15 CORNHILL – car park adj. park
14.30 – 14.45 FORDYCE – adj. Castle
14.55 – 15.10 LINTMILL - Burnside
15.20 – 15.35 DESKFORD – Comm. Centre car park
15.40 – 15.55 GRANGE – adj. Crossroads School

Thursday 10 August

09.45 – 10.00 GARDENSTOWN - adj. Spar shop
10.15 – 10.30 NEW ABERDOUR - car park
10.45 – 11.10 ROSEHEARTY – The Square
11.20 – 11.35 SANDHAVEN – St Magnus Rd beside park
11.50 – 12.00 TYRIE – Lay-by
13.30 – 13.40 MEMSIE – adj. BT exchange
13.50 – 14.00 RATHEN – adj. public hall
14.15 – 14.35 INVERALLOCHY – Frederick Street
14.45 – 15.05 ST COMBS – hall car park
15.15 – 15.25 LONMAY – adj. public hall
15.35 – 15.50 CRIMOND – Church car park
16.00 – 16.15 ST FERGUS – Kirktown
16.25 – 16.35 RORA – hall car park
16.55 – 17.15 BODDAM – Russell St.

No appointment is necessary, although constituents with ongoing cases should advise their attendance on 01779 470444.

27 July 2017

North East Politicians in Plea After Damning Brexit Report

North East politicians have called on Tory MPs to ensure the region is protected after it was revealed Aberdeen’s economy could take the biggest hit from both a hard or soft Brexit.

New research has revealed leaving the European Union would impact Europe’s oil capital harder than any other city in the UK.

The findings, which were made by the thinktank Centre for Cities, were released today.

Earlier this year the chief executive of industry body Oil & Gas UK warned there would be £500million hit to the sector every year in trade agreements following the exit from the European Union.

Meanwhile, the head of the Centre for Cities Andrew Carter, said any form of Brexit is expected to be damaging but a hard Brexit would be twice as damaging to the region.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin said: “The findings from the Centre for Cities echo what we already know – that Brexit is going to be incredibly damaging to the North Sea oil and gas industry.

“The impact will have a trickledown effect into the supply chain and local economy which is already suffering from the oil and gas downturn.

“It is extremely worrying that the Tory MPs who represent the North East are in support of Brexit rather than protecting this vital sector and the region’s economic development.

“I would urge them all to think again before it is too late. Aberdeen has access to countries across the world due to the very EU treaties we will no longer have access too.

“Sectors including oil and gas, food and drink and the health and social care sector will all have considerably more difficulty in a post-Brexit economy.

“And the damaging effect of a hard Brexit on our universities and colleges will further impact on the local economy .”

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson added: “The North-East is going to see the biggest reduction in our economic output as a result of our exit from the European Union.

“Any agreements must be as close to our current trade agreements as possible but it quite obvious the Tories have no desire to ensure that.”

20 July 2017

Tories Signal Cuts to Agricultural Funding

Gove Threat to Farm Cash

Addressing the WWF tomorrow, UK Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Gove will deliver an unambiguous threat to farm cash, demonstrating once again that the UK Government cannot be trusted to look after our farmers beyond Brexit.

In his first speech in his new post, Mr Gove will say:

“…I want to ensure we go on generously supporting farmers for many more years to come. But that support can only be argued for against other competing public goods if the environmental benefits of that spending are clear.”

Amid fears that farming and fishing will be left without continued financial support beyond 2022 from the UK Government, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson is renewing calls for powers over agriculture, fisheries and the rural economy to be repatriated to Scotland.

SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson, who is a member of Holyrood’s Rural Economy committee, said:

“This is an unambiguous Tory threat to continued agricultural support funding after 2022 – that is the stark post-Brexit reality which the UK Government is now proposing for our rural communities.

“Scottish farmers, like others across the UK, rely heavily on farming subsidies and their farm payments must be protected.

“Michael Gove’s empty rhetoric and false promises during the Brexit campaign have long since been exposed, and now he is backtracking on all the assurances he has ever made to Scotland.

“Powers over agriculture and fisheries must be repatriated to Scotland to enable a localised approach to these sectors and to put them and the wider natural environment at the heart of what we do. And it is vital that UK funding follows the powers to enable delivery.

“The Tory government has demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to champion Scottish farmers’ interests, and we cannot let them use Brexit as cover for a naked power grab that will leave Scotland’s farmers worse off.”

14 July 2017

Repeal Bill: North East Tories Must Stand Up for Scottish Parliament

SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson is calling on MPs Duguid and Ross to oppose the UK Tory government’s attempts to use the EU Repeal Bill to strip Holyrood of powers.

The Scottish Tories need to distance themselves from the Bill which represents a naked power-grab, an attack on the founding principles of devolution, and which could destabilise our economy.

SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“Twenty years on since the referendum on devolution in Scotland, and the Tories are attempting an attack on the founding principles of devolution under the guise of the EU Repeal Bill.

“The SNP wants a smooth transition as much as the UK government, however this should be achieved through negotiation, not imposition. And it must be achieved in a way that respects Scotland’s hard-won devolved powers.

“I call on David Duguid and Douglas Ross to challenge any attempts at a naked power-grab on the devolved administrations by the Tories in Westminster during the withdrawal process from the EU, and to make clear their opposition to this Bill which sets out to undermine our national parliament.”

12 July 2017

Senior Tory and NFUS Call for Brexit Rethink

Brexit Threat to Rural Scotland

Calling for a halt to Brexit in today’s Herald, former Tory MEP Struan Stevenson echoed NFU Scotland's warnings that Brexit and trading outside the EU risks collapsing land values, declining markets and a dependency on cheap, low quality imports.

Struan Stevenson said that as Scottish farmers face a future without EU subsidies - accounting for 60% of their income - Brexiteers want to throw open “UK markets to cheap food from Africa, Australia, North America, Brazil and Argentina, causing chaos for UK farm gate prices, a further fall in land values and widespread bankruptcies.”

Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, he warned of the dangers of trading with the US such as imported chlorinate washed chicken and hormone injected beef. He said:

“It seems ridiculous that a year after the referendum we still haven’t got our ducks in a row.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson SNP MSP and member of Holyrood’s Rural Economy committee said:

“More and more senior figures are condemning the UK government’s failing Brexit approach and their desperation to broker trade deals with new partners that will have devastating consequences for Scotland's fishing and farming industries - sectors which pride themselves on high quality produce.

“Quality Meat Scotland has already warned that Scottish farmers will be unable to compete with cheap imports from, for example, the US and countries in South America that can offer poorer quality, hormone-treated meat at lower prices than our high quality meat in Scotland. And NFU Scotland has today echoed those warnings and called once again for tariff free access to EU markets.

“But the Tories in power are still blind to the dangers, unable to think outside their narrow party interests and face up to the facts about a hard Brexit and what it will mean for our rural industries.

“The Tory Government’s Brexit plans continue to present a huge threat to jobs, investment and living standards in Scotland and Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Tories’ fulsome embrace of this prospect is truly shameless.”

29 June 2017

New Report: Bad Brexit Deal Could See Economy Take "Sharp Turn for the Worse"

Fraser of Allander Analysis Underlines
Importance of Single Market Deal

A bad Brexit deal could see Scotland’s economic prospects “take a sharp turn for the worse”, according to new analysis by the Fraser of Allander Institute – underlining the importance of securing single market membership.
The report also warns that rising inflation, driven by the collapse of the pound since Brexit, means “the outlook for household budgets looks especially tough”.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“This is just the latest warning that a bad Brexit deal could have devastating consequences for our economy – which is exactly why the Scottish Government will be fighting tooth and nail to protect our single market membership.

“The Tories put their plan for a hard Brexit to the public and lost their majority.

“It would be a grave mistake for Theresa May to push on with her disastrous plans to leave the single market – and it could cost tens of thousands of jobs in Scotland.

“It’s time for the UK government to adopt a cross-party, four-nation approach to negotiations – and to protect our single market membership as we leave the EU.”

28 June 2017

New Plans for Soft Opt-Out Organ Donation System Unveiled

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed the Scottish Government’s decision to introduce legislation for a soft opt-out system of organ and tissue donation.
The move was backed by 82% of those who had contributed towards the consultation.

During a 14-week period of consultation, various ways were assessed of how to increase the number of people being referred to the donation services in Scotland.

In Scotland both organ and/or tissue donation after a person’s death only occurs if they have given advance authorisation or if their nearest relative authorises on their behalf.

But a soft opt out, or deemed authorisation system, means that a donation can go ahead if the person has not opted out or told their family they do not wish to donate.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“The decision to legislate for a soft opt-out system is great news for our health service.

“I have long been an advocate of this, which I believe is great news for our health service.

“With the incredible help of donors and their families, NHS Scotland has already made great progress, including a 34% increase in donors this past year alone. Scotland now has the highest donor rate in the UK.

“However, we can do better and moving to a soft opt-out system is a really important step towards further reducing the number of people in Banffshire and Buchan waiting for transplants.

“We should always keep in mind the tragic circumstances that give rise to organ donation and forever appreciate the selfless acts of donors and their families that enable others to live. Organ and tissue donation saves lives and is one of the greatest gifts a person can give.”

Local MSP Comments on Death of Charles Ritchie

Commenting on the news that Charles Ritchie, founder of Peterhead-based oil and gas engineering firm Score, has died aged 69, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“I know that Charlie Ritchie very energetically built up Score Group into an internationally successful company which in particular employed many apprentices.

“His family and friends will feel their loss acutely and I join others in sending them my sympathy.”

27 June 2017

MSP Welcomes Funding Boost for North East Groups

Community groups and schools across the North East have benefitted from more than £25,000 of National Lottery funding.

It includes almost £3,000 for the 1st Cornhill Guides which was established in 2002.

The funding will be used to take guides and youth leaders on an adventure trip to the Isle of Skye.

Both Banff Academy and St Fergus School have received £10,000 and £960 respectively from the Awards for All Scotland grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

The funding will be used by Banff Academy to fund the expansion of their Rebound Therapy programme which the school offers to pupils with additional needs.

St Fergus will use its funding to put 12 primary six and seven pupils through training to achieve their RYA stage one and two dingy sailing qualifications.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am delighted that a number of groups across the constituency have benefitted from additional funding.

“The additional services provided by both schools will be greatly appreciated by both pupils and staff in Banff and St Fergus.

“Community groups provide fantastic services for residents both young and old and I am delighted they have been given additional cash investment to continue to offer their invaluable services.”

21 June 2017

MSP Urges Expectant Mothers in Banffshire and Buchan Coast to Sign Up for Baby Box

Expectant mothers are being urged to register for a baby box at their next midwife appointment after the scheme was officially launched throughout Scotland.

MSP Stewart Stevenson, who represents the Banff and Buchan Coast, is encouraging soon-to-be mothers whose babies are due on or after August 15th 2017, to register.

The boxes contain various essential items for a child’s first weeks and months.

The move is a signal of the SNP Government’s commitment to ensuring that every child in Scotland, regardless of their circumstances, gets the best start in life.

The launch of the baby boxes comes on top of the SNP Government using new powers to create new Maternity and Early Years’ Allowances – the Best Start Grant – which provides expectant mothers on low incomes with £600 for their first child, £300 for their second and subsequent children and a further £250 grant when their child starts nursery, and a further £250 again when they start school.

Stewart Stevenson said:

“The Scottish Government is proudly providing a Baby Box to every child in Scotland to help tackle deprivation, improve health and support parents – just one part of our determination to ensure that every child has an equal start in life.

“For mothers in Banffshire and Buchan Coast looking forward to welcoming a new born into the world on or after August 15th this summer, all they need to do to be gifted a Baby Box is apply through their midwife in advance, supplying their preferred delivery address.

“The Baby Boxes are full of useful items such as books, clothes, blankets, a bath towel, a changing mat, a bib and a thermometer, while also providing a safe space for babies to sleep near their parents, to promote bonding and early attachment, and send a signal that every child, regardless their background, matters.

“And with the new powers coming to Scotland, the SNP Government will also provide targeted support of a significantly higher level than elsewhere in the UK, to help low income families via our new Maternity and Early Years’ Allowances- replacing the UK Sure Start grant with our Best Start Grant.

“The new Best Start Grant will be introduced in 2019.”

17 June 2017

North East Processing Sector has Highest Number of EU Workers in Scotland

Figures have revealed the number of staff employed from the European Union in the processing industry is as high as 70% in the North East.

The numbers were revealed ahead of Brexit negotiations which are due to begin next week.

It comes as Scottish Secretary David Mundell visited Peterhead to meet with representatives from the fishing industry in Peterhead before discussion begin with Prime Minister Theresa May and her European Union counterparts.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson asked the Scottish Government what percentage of seafood processing employees in each Scotland region were from the UK, the European Economic Area (EEA) and non- EEA countries.

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing, said a survey was carried out in March this year on behalf of the Scottish Government, the UK Government and other devolved administrations.

The figures showed the number of EEA nationals in Grampian is 70% compared to 30% for the number of UK nationals.

The nearest region with high non-UK workers was ‘South, Midlands & Wales’, which had 52% EEA workers and 5% non-EEA workers.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson, said:

“As Brexit negotiations get underway, it is important this Conservative-led government remember that the processing sector in the North East relies heavily on the free movement of people to staff this multi-million pound industry.

“We must ensure the promises made to the fishing sector by the Tories – that they will not be expendable – are followed through.

“The government must also ensure European citizens are given assurances they will be able to remain in this country. Their talent and transferrable skills are invaluable to a number of sectors in UK, particularly the processing industry.”

8 June 2017

Macduff Harbour Night Watch Service Saved from Axe

Stevenson Says Intervention of Cassie and Harbour Users 'Pivotal'

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed today’s announcement by Aberdeenshire Council that the night watch service at Macduff Harbour will remain in place.
The SNP MSP – who raised concerns with Aberdeenshire Council on the proposal to remove the service – said the views of the harbour users and the local community, coupled with the intervention of Macduff councillor Ross Cassie had been ‘pivotal’ in the decision to retain the service.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I very much welcome the decision by the Director of Infrastructure Services to take stock and listen to the range of views expressed on how important the night watch service is to Macduff Harbour and its regeneration and to not now go ahead with its removal.

“The problem we always faced with the lobbying to retain the service was that it was an ‘operational matter’ and, as such, not a decision which rested with elected councillors but was one for officials of the council to determine.

“Here, as well as paying tribute to the community response to the proposals, I must commend Macduff councillor Ross Cassie. He used the new Scheme of Governance which had been brought in only recently by Aberdeenshire Council to take this issue to the Infrastructure Services Committee where it was debated by councillors of all parties and council officers were left in no doubt as to the strength of feeling on the issue, which was pivotal in helping achieve this outcome.

“This is an early vindication of the council’s new Governance procedures brought in by the previous SNP-led administration in Aberdeenshire Council. In the spirit of cross-party co-operation, I also commend Cllr Findlater for his support for the night watch service, notwithstanding the budget put forward by the Conservative-led opposition in February would have removed the funding for the service had it passed.”

SNP councillor for Troup ward Ross Cassie added:

“I’m delighted with this outcome and I’m grateful to the Director for taking on board the very powerful arguments which were made in favour of the night watch, both in Committee last week and also by the harbour users and the local community.

“This gives us good foundations on which to go forward and continue the regeneration of Macduff as a vibrant port.”

27 April 2017

MSP Backs Call for Continued Support for Debt Arrangement Scheme

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has called on the Scottish Government to ensure it continues to lead the way in fair debt legislation.

His comments come after a report by StepChange Debt Charity published their annual report Scotland in the Red which showed that record numbers of Scottish clients had contacted the charity for help with debts in 2016.

The average debt of people contacting StepChange from Banffshire and Buchan Coast was £13,648.

Meanwhile, the average debt of StepChange clients across all of Scotland was £12,677.

Now Stewart Stevenson MSP has backed calls from StepChange Debt Charity to expand the reach of Scotland’s existing Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS) – which freezes interest and charges while someone pays off their debts – better support hard-pressed households who have fallen into financial difficulty.

In 2015, the Scottish Government brought in the Bankruptcy and Debt Advice (Scotland) Act to help financially vulnerable families.

It introduced a suite of measures, including the Minimal Asset Process, which offers debt relief quickly and at less than half the cost of an application for bankruptcy under the previous equivalent scheme for those on low incomes.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I’m very concerned that record numbers are contacting StepChange for debt help. Too many people are borrowing just to get by, struggling to save, working hard and finding it difficult to make ends meet.

“With more people falling into debt, we need to make sure that we do as much as possible at Holyrood to help those who have had a temporary financial setback, like the loss of a job or the death of a family member.

“Some people in Banffshire and Buchan Coast and Scotland already have access to the best protections in the UK, thanks to the Debt Arrangement Scheme – but we can and should go further to help more people.

“Expanding the Debt Arrangement Scheme would give people time to get back on their feet without the worry of their debts spiralling out of control. It would give people the best chance of getting themselves back into a position where they can start making payments on their debts.”

13 April 2017

North East Politicians Call for Watch Men Rethink at Macduff Port

North East politicians have called on the Chief Executive of Aberdeenshire Council to reconsider proposed plans to axe night watchmen from Macduff Port.

Both Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have written to Jim Savege about the issue after concerns were raised by a number of groups and constituents.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford said the move would be a “retrograde step” by the local authority.

Meanwhile Mr Stevenson said removal of the watchmen would “undermine” progress made in recent years.

It comes after proposals were put forward to replace the night watchmen at Macduff Port with CCTV.

The issue has already raised concern from the Scottish White Fish Association (SWFA) which represents more than 1,400 fishermen across Scotland.

The harbour currently has two watchmen who monitor vessels.

In a letter to Mr Savage, Dr Whiteford said while she understood Aberdeenshire Council was looking to make cost savings, it would be a “retrograde step” in the “continued revival of Macduff as a fishing port.”

Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

“I have written to Mr Savege to ask for this matter to be reconsidered.

“Macduff Port has gone through a number of transformational changes and it would be a step backwards to implement CCTV rather than retain the watchmen.

“We must not risk all the commendable work which has already taken place to help make necessary improvement to the region.”

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“Due to legislation surrounding landings at Macduff, there has been a significant increase to the effect that January and February landings exceeded the landings of the entire previous financial year.

“From all the information I have been given, it is clear that removal of the watchmen would have a negative effect on the use of the harbour as boats no longer have the facility to speak to the watch regarding the available draft or for assistance in tying up.

“It would be particularly unhelpful if the positive progress made in the last couple of years by the council in developing the harbour were to be undermined by the removal of the watch facility.”

12 April 2017

MSP Hails Hard Work of Community on Project

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has put forward a motion to the Scottish Parliament congratulating a group for obtaining a site for their ‘Men’s Shed’ project.

It comes after the group was set up in the North East to provide men with a place to meet and get involved with local projects.

The Aberchirder Men’s Shed scheme launched last year but has been trying to find a permanent base from which it can run events and provide a work space.

Now a site has been found in Foggieloan, with similar projects also running in Inverurie and Turriff.

The idea originally started in Australia and has since become popular across the globe.

The group are expected to take on the former Doran housing site in the village’s North Street where homes once stood.

More than 30 men have already signed up supporting the project.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am delighted that after a lot hard work from the group they have now managed to secure a permanent location.

“This is a great idea, especially for the older generation, to be more sociable and have access to a network of people and stay active.

“I will continue to support this project and I look forward to how it develops in the future.”

It is hoped it will also allow men who have since retired from their day jobs to get back involved in the community.

4 April 2017

PFI School Shame as Aberdeenshire Council Counts Cost of Tory/LibDem Decisions

£12.1 Million To Be Paid Out This Year From Local Authority
Depriving Services of Vital Resources

Schools built under the discredited Private Finance Initiative (PFI) funding method are continuing to cost Aberdeenshire council millions of pounds every year, analysis by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre has revealed.

The duff deals, which were approved by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrat during their time in power at Aberdeenshire Council, will cost the local authority an estimated £12.1 million this year, demonstrating the short-term thinking and profligate use of public money of previous administrations formed by the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Independent groups of councillors.

SNP MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast Stewart Stevenson slammed the toxic financial legacy left behind by previous administrations, describing it as one which continues to rob the local authority of vital funding for education and other public services.

Mr Stevenson said:

“The toxic legacy of the PFI deals, which were approved by previous coalitions involving Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Independent councillors, have left our schools and Aberdeenshire Council to pay millions of pounds every year – proving once again that only the SNP can be important to deliver on education and local funding.

“The Tories and Lib Dems spendthrift and reckless handling of our public finances continues to rob Aberdeenshire Council of funds which could be put towards delivering better local services.

“The Scottish Futures Trust brought in under the SNP has helped to deliver a new generation of schools including Ellon Academy, Mearns Academy and the Alford Community Campus. It is a far more sustainable method of funding schools in the North East and in the long-term is far more cost-effective for the public purse.”

30 March 2017

MSP Pledges Support for Scottish Veterans Suffering Mental Health Conditions

MSP Stewart Stevenson has pledged his support for Scottish veterans with mental health conditions at the Scottish Parliament today.

The Banffshire and Buchan Coast politician met with employees from veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress to hear more about their work to support veterans living in Scotland rebuild their lives.

Combat Stress is the UK’s leading mental health charity for veterans and provides free specialist clinical treatment to ex-servicemen and women across the UK with mental health problems.

The charity treats conditions including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Our veterans are an asset to Scotland and the work Combat Stress does to support veterans in Banffshire and Buchan Coast and across the country is invaluable.

“It is vital that all veterans have access to the specialist support that they need for conditions such as PTSD, depression and anxiety.

“I encourage all those who need support to contact organisations such as Combat Stress at the earliest opportunity.

”We all owe a significant debt to those who have served in our armed forces, and we must work together to ensure that they have access to the support they need and deserve.”

Andy Smith, Combat Stress’s Regional Operations Manager, said:

“With recent research showing that Scottish veterans face a greater risk of deprivation than the general public, and that the average veteran takes 12 years to seek our support after leaving the military, it is vital that we encourage all ex-service personnel to access the support they need.

“We strongly encourage serving personnel, veterans and their loved ones to call our 24-hour Helpline 0800 138 1619.

“The Scottish Government’s support for veterans, including the Scottish Veterans Fund, is welcome, but the 71% increase in referrals that we experienced over the past five years illustrates the rising demand for our work.

“We hope that Government, support agencies and charities can work together to minimise the challenges faced by veterans who are already dealing with a range of complex issues.”

23 March 2017

MSP Says Buckie Branch 'Vital' for Area after Closure Plans Revealed

A branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland is expected to shut its doors in seven months in a North East town.

In a letter to Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson, the company said the move was being taken as a result of the “rapidly changing” way in which customers were now doing their banking. It means the current Royal Bank of Scotland Branch in Buckie will close on October 4th this year. The decision by the company comes after Clydesdale Bank also revealed it would be shutting a number of branches earlier this year.

The Royal Bank of Scotland said between 2010 and 2015 both mobile and online transactions have increased by more than 400%. Mobile transactions alone have increased by 1,350%. In a letter to Mr Stevenson, the Bank also said the number of transactions have decline by 34%. More than 50% of staff have also been choosing to use digital banking options instead. The letter said:

“We are communicating with our customers affected by the closure and proactively contacting vulnerable and regular branch customers.

“We have listened closely to feedback from local communities and have extended the time between announcing our decision and the branch closure to six months.
“This has been done in order to ensure our customers have time to consider the right banking options for them.

“We know that not all of our customers are comfortable and familiar with using online or mobile banking, so we have created a new specialist taskforce of TechXperts who will be dedicated to supporting our customers with training and support with digital skills.

“From next month, at least one TechXpert will be available in each Royal Bank of Scotland branch.”

Commenting on the decision by the Royal Bank of Scotland to close its Buckie branch, Mr Stevenson said:

“I am disappointed to hear the Buckie branch of the Royal Bank is to close later this year.

“While I understand more and more people are doing their banking online, local branches are vital for rural areas.

“Many older people do not use internet banking and a local branch is a real lifeline for them.”

22 March 2017

MSP Commends Positive Direction of Banff Academy after Inspection Report

Progress made by Banff Academy on a recent inspection has been welcomed by MSP Stewart Stevenson. The report was released this week after a visit by an Inspector from Education Scotland.

It says the school has taken some “important steps” to improve its overall performance but says there is still more work to be done.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Mr Stevenson commented:

“While it is clear there are still steps which need to be taken by the Academy, I am pleased the work that has been undertaken by the head teacher, staff and pupils has helped to move it in the right direction.

“The communication between those who work there and the students means there is a continued dialogue and open-mindedness in discussing what else can be done to make marked changes and drive the school forward.

“I have no doubt the efforts already made will help deliver on the best education for those who attend the school.”

14 March 2017

Stevenson Supports Diabetes Charity Event in Broch

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson attended the diabetes “Discovery Day” held in Fraserburgh’s Museum of Scottish Lighthouses.
Stewart Stevenson MSP with
Carol Kennedy & Claire Henderson of JDRF charity
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) is hosting a number of type 1 discovery days across Scotland between February and June which are open events where people can come along to find out more about type 1 research, hear inspirational talks and meet others affected by the condition.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“It was good to meet with some of the staff and fundraisers of JDRF, the type 1 diabetes charity, at their Discovery Day in Fraserburgh. I was very interested to hear of the experiences of some of the individuals and families affected by this condition.

“I am aware there are approximately 4,500 type 1 diabetics in the NHS Grampian area and JDRF is working towards curing, treating and preventing type 1 diabetes. It was interesting to learn of some of the common misconceptions surrounding type 1 diabetes, which is caused by an immune response in the body and of the work JDRF do with the type 1 diabetic community.”

No Jobs At Risk For Peterhead Power Station Employees Now, But Future Remains Uncertain

Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse has confirmed no jobs are at risk of redundancy from Peterhead Power Station.

It comes as the facility’s operator SSE reviews future options for Peterhead over the coming months.

However, it is not clear how long the jobs will be protected at the site.

Mr Stevenson made the enquiry as a result of an announcement that Peterhead Power Station failed to secure a deal to supply capacity to the UK grid in the recent capacity market auction.

Figures previously revealed the growing disparities in costs of generation charges as Peterhead could face paying an estimated £19.60 per kilowatt compared to a gas fired power station in Kent which would pay only £1.75.

Stewart Stevenson, MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, asked the Scottish Government what impact the review by SSE would have for jobs and the local economy.

Mr Wheelhouse, Scottish Minister for Business, Energy and Innovation, said:

“SSE has said it will be reviewing future options for Peterhead over the coming months and will engage with all stakeholders.

“During the review the current operations at the station, and the workforce of 90 personnel will not be affected.

“We are very mindful of the need to ensure a sustainable future for the plant and all whose livelihoods depend upon it.”

Mr Wheelhouse also said Peterhead had “great potential” to demonstrate Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

He said the Scottish Government “deeply regret” the withdrawal of support for CCS.

The politician added such an investment could provide “considerable” employment opportunities locally.

It’s understood Scottish Minister and officials are meeting regularly with representative of SSE.

Mr Stevenson MSP said:

“Peterhead has already been grossly disadvantaged by the Capacity Market Auction.

“The facility also lost out on funding from the Tories but I am glad that as this review is completed, jobs will not be at risk.

“It is imperative we continue to look for opportunities for Peterhead Power Station that boost the site and the regional economy.”

10 March 2017

MSP welcomes stronger assurances over fisheries’ landings target

The Scottish Government has given stronger assurances over action being taken to set a fisheries’ landings target.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson asked the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing what impact the move could have on fishing communities.

Work has been ongoing throughout the fishing industry to encourage voluntary landings in the increase of sea fish.

A particular focus has been placed on the number of pelagic sea fish being landed outwith Scotland.

In the recently completed winter fishing season, the Government sought a voluntary increase in landings of mackerel into Scotland.

Mr Stevenson called on Mr Ewing to explain what impact the voluntary increase in landings would have and what actions were currently being taken to implement it.

He was told there had been “very little progress” in the most recent fishing season with the number of pelagic fish landed into Scotland and overseas remaining “broadly the same” as in recent years.

Mr Ewing said:

“The Government is now considering what further steps might be appropriate to establish a Scottish landings target for Scottish fishing vessels, and in this is consulting with a wide range of relevant representatives.

“The Government considers that a Scottish landings target, successfully established and leading to increased landings into Scotland, will help to maintain and potentially to increase employment and connected economic activity in coastal and island communities in Scotland.”

Stewart Stevenson, MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, commented:

“I welcome the recent efforts by the Scottish Government to increase the volume in landings in the most recent winter fishing season.

“An increase in landings would further support businesses in the North East and could boost exports as well as jobs.

“It is reassuring to hear from the Cabinet Secretary that the Scottish Government is looking at what further steps might be appropriate to establish a target.

“I know stakeholders from outwith the industry would wish to be involved in such discussions and I look forward to helping progress this matter further.”

3 March 2017

Local MSP Backs Endometriosis Awareness Week

1 in 10 Women in the UK are Sufferers

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has called for increasing awareness and research for endometriosis in a recent Parliamentary debate.

Mr Stevenson backed increasing public awareness of the disease and focused on the impact endometriosis has on the lives of women suffering from the disease and their families. He noted a lack of public awareness about the disease and the urgent need to find a cure.

The debate brought to light personal stories of women living with endometriosis in Scotland and produced a consensus that health professionals, governments and citizens should be encouraged to educate themselves about the disease as part of Endometriosis Awareness Week, starting 6th of March.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“Endometriosis is a destructive and currently incurable disease – but it remains the second most common gynaecological condition in Scotland. One in ten women suffers from this condition across the UK – that’s huge number of women suffering.

“It’s critical that women living with this condition have speedy access to diagnosis and the best treatment available. Quick and appropriate treatment is essential in promoting of better quality of life for these women and their families.

“Our goal must be to reach a point where no woman has to fight against her own body. But until that day comes, we need to support those managing this condition and allow them the freedom to speak openly. This issue, as in so many others, needs strong women to lead us, direct us, put pressure on for new research, create new treatment options and, ultimately, find a cure.”

MSP Call for Assurances North East Fishing Industry Will Not Be "Expendable" As It Was In 1970s

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has called for assurances the North East’s fishing industry will not be made “expendable” by the UK Government as it was in the 1970s.

Mr Stevenson made the call to the Minister for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing after a recently leaked memo implied the fishing industry was a “medium priority” in negotiations to exit the European Union.
In response Mr Ewing said UK Ministers have “failed to guarantee” that Scotland’s fishing industry would not be expendable. He said:

“The memo, if it is genuine, serves only to increase my concern that, once again, the UK indicated why it is vital that Scotland be fully involved in all negotiations relating to Scotland’s future in Europe.

“Scottish waters are among the most valuable in Europe and, with the right management and policy approach to support both offshore and onshore interests, they can help us to build growth in Scotland’s rural and coastal communities.”

In response Mr Stevenson asked if there had been any guarantees from the UK Government about the funding levels that support fishing communities.

He was told by the Minister that he had, at a meeting last month, he asked for the UK Government to affirm its pledges on EU funding of £500million a year for the rural economy.

Mr Ewing said since the referendum to exit the European Union, there had been “radio silence” on support for the fishing industry.

He said the Scottish Government would “fight and fight again” for a fair deal.

Stewart Stevenson MSP commented:

“Yet again we have no clear assurances from the UK Government on how it will support the fishing industry during the negotiations to exit the European Union.

“Rather, the only information we can get in the public domain about what support is being provided, merely shows how low down the rung this vital sector appears to be to the UK Government.

“David Mundell has already refused to promise fishing powers would return to Scotland following our exit from the European Union despite the fact we were told power would be automatically returned to Holyrood – a move which ignores that Scotland have had responsibility over agriculture and fishing since day one.

“We cannot, as Mr Ewing warned, allow the fishing industry to be made expendable as it was in the 1970s.”

Figures Reveal Cost of Charges for Peterhead Power Station Compared to Rest of UK

Figures have revealed a North East power station pays some of the highest charges for generators in the UK.

While Peterhead Power Station could pay generation charges of £19.60 per kilowatt a gas fired power station in Kent would pay only £1.75 per kilowatt.
Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson asked the Scottish Minster for Business, Innovation and Energy what assessment had been made of the higher transmission entry capacity costs faced by Peterhead power station.

It comes after the recent capacity market auction, which it is believed to have prevented the facility from securing a deal to supply capacity to the UK grid, because of its location.

Mr Wheelhouse revealed estimates which showed that Peterhead would pay generation transmission charges of £19.60 per kilowatt during the period of 2017-18.

By comparison, a gas fired power station in Kent was shown to pay £1.75 per kilowatt.

The Minister said:

“Clearly this places Peterhead at a disadvantage in any auction model.

“We strongly urge the National Grid and UK Ministers to adopt a charging methodology that allows Peterhead and potential future thermal generation in Scotland to compete.”

The Capacity Market Auction (CPA) awards funding to electricity generators in return for guaranteeing supplies to the national grid at times of potential shortages.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“Peterhead has been grossly disadvantaged by the CPA because of its location.

“The facility has already lost out on funding from the Tories and now we can see the huge differences in what facilities across the UK will pay in terms of transmission charges.

“I am astonished Peterhead power station will faces estimated costs of £19.60 but a similar site in Kent would pay just £1.75 all because of our location.

“It is simply being made impossible for Scotland and the North East to develop capacity when we face these disparities."

1 March 2017

MSP Welcomes Launch of School Bus Seat Belts Bill

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the Seatbelts on School Transport (Scotland) bill as it makes its first step through the legislative process.

The SNP MSP has campaigned tirelessly for years in support of the issue after feedback from constituents.

He has previously raised the issue of stricter legislation around seatbelts and school bus safety.

Earlier today his colleague Gillian Martin, who represents Aberdeenshire East, met with pupils from Cuiken Primary School in Midlothian, a local authority area, where children have already been well-educated on buckling up on the journey to and from school.

Mr Stevenson, a former Transport Minister for the Scottish Government, has worked hard to bring issues of school bus safety to the forefront of politics and he has been a long-time supporter of his constituent Ron Beatty who campaigned for fresh safety provisions after his granddaughter was left with life-changing injuries more than a decade ago.

Mr Stevenson said:

“I welcome the Seatbelts for School Transport (Scotland) Bill beginning its first step through parliament.

“This work is incredibly important in ensuring the safety of our youngsters as they make their way from home to school.

“Constituents of mine such as Ron Beaty worked for years to highlight a range of safety issues and it is the efforts of determined constituents like him that have helped us take positive steps such as this today.”

27 February 2017

Life Membership for Local SNP Stalwart

A long-standing supporter of the Scottish National Party in Banffshire has been presented with Honorary Life Membership of the party. Dr Norman Allan of Banff was presented with his membership card and a small token from the party by local MSP Stewart Stevenson.
Dr Allan, who will celebrate his 95th birthday in April, is the Honorary President of Banff & Macduff SNP Branch and was a former Grampian Regional councillor, taking the formerly solid-Conservative seat in a sensational victory for the SNP in 1986 and holding it until Grampian Regional Council was abolished in 1996.

Commenting, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

"It is fitting that Norman Allan receives life membership of the SNP.

"It is not simply that he remains an inspiration to many generations of activists who have followed him, but also his significant public service as a Councillor and physician.

"In his 90s he has continued to campaign with a vigour that shows people a fifth his age how it can be done.

"And ultimately his innate good manners and politeness mean that he has a wide circle of admirers well beyond the party he has served with such distinction."

21 February 2017

Local MP & MSP Back Scottish Government Rates Relief

Measures Prove SNP Government Will Always Back North-East Businesses

Banff & Buchan SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford and Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have backed the Scottish Government’s proposals on business rates, after Finance Secretary Derek Mackay announced a wide-ranging relief scheme that will offer strong support to businesses across the North-east.

Overall, the complete package of Scottish Government relief will ensure that 60% of businesses in the Aberdeenshire Council area will see either no change or a decrease in their business rates bill – with more businesses being entitled to support through the small business bonus scheme. The Scottish Government had already taken action to reduce the rates poundage to help businesses who have seen a revaluation.

The relief proposals will provide support for hotels, restaurants, pubs and cafes, which had seen their rates rise the steepest following the 2015 revaluation. Any rises in this sector will be capped at 12.5% - providing substantial support to the tourism and hospitality industries in Banff & Buchan.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“This announcement by the Scottish Government proves once again the SNP’s commitment to local businesses across the North-east – with the substantial package of support ensuring that many businesses will not see any rise in the rates that they pay.

“The support for the tourism and hospitality sectors is very welcome – after these industries were left facing substantial hikes in their rates bills. The cap of a 12.5% increase provides excellent support to hotels, pubs, restaurants and cafes throughout Banff & Buchan.

“The extension to the small business bonus will see over 100,000 firms across Scotland pay no rates whatsoever, which is a strong package of support for local businesses, and comes in addition to other funding offered in the Scottish Government’s budget, including the £500m Scottish Growth Scheme, and action taken to reduce the rates poundage.”

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It was frustrating to see the Conservatives on both Moray Council and Aberdeenshire Council reject sensible proposals from the SNP for a local relief scheme – showing that the Tories are only interested in political point scoring rather than actually doing anything to support local businesses.

“I’m particularly pleased that my SNP colleagues on Aberdeenshire Council managed to secure their local relief scheme with the support of Labour and progressive Independent councilors. This now means businesses in the Aberdeenshire area will potentially benefit from both schemes, supporting the local economy at this time.

“This relief package shows that only the SNP are interested in taking decisive action to support communities and businesses, whilst the Tories chase cheap headlines by carping from the side-lines.

“Overall, 60% of businesses in the Aberdeenshire Council area will see either a decrease or no change in the bills that they pay as a result of the Scottish Government’s support – helping to protect jobs and support firms in the North-east. It is time for the opposition parties to put their political opportunism to one side and to get behind the substantial support that the Scottish Government is proposing.”

16 February 2017

Tory Business Rates Hypocrisy Continues

Bid to Block Relief to Scots Firms Amid Soaring Charges in England

The Tories have been exposed for “appalling hypocrisy” after reports showed that firms are set to be “hammered” by business rates changes in England – while Tory councillors have voted against support for businesses here in Scotland.

The Tory groups on Moray and Aberdeenshire councils voted against rates relief at local authority level, despite Ruth Davidson’s rhetoric on the issue.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson, said:

“Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Tories are guilty of the most appalling hypocrisy on this issue.

”Firstly, Tory groups in Scottish councils are trying to block relief schemes to lower bills for firms in their areas.

“Meanwhile, the Tory government at Westminster has failed to take the decisive action over poundage and the small business bonus that the Scottish Government has to support local businesses, leading to soaring bills for companies south of the border.

“This kind of dishonesty and blatant double standards from the Tories shows them up for the opportunists that they are.

“The Tory council groups in Moray and Aberdeenshire ought to be ashamed of themselves for betraying local businesses by refusing rates relief in Moray, and by trying unsuccessfully to stop the SNP-led administration in Aberdeenshire from providing substantial support of £3 million for local businesses.

“The SNP will take no lectures from the Tories on this issue – and voters will see the shameful hypocrisy at the heart of Tory claims for what it is.”

15 February 2017

Tories Vote Against Rates Relief for Businesses

"Astonishing Hypocrisy" from Conservatives

Tory councillors in the North-East of Scotland have rejected plans to offer businesses rates relief for the second time in under a week – after the Tory-led Moray administration today threw out an SNP amendment encouraging the Moray Council to follow Aberdeenshire’s lead in offering local business rates relief.

SNP councillors in Aberdeenshire last week passed a budget allocating £3 million for a local business rates relief scheme, to help those that have seen larger rates revaluations and are feeling the effects of the downturn in the north east economy. SNP councillors in Moray had tabled an amendment to the Tory-led budget in Moray suggesting a similar scheme, but this was rejected by Tory councillors, including part-time-MSP-cum-referee-cum-councillor Douglas Ross.

On the same day as Ruth Davidson has reportedly stated that businesses are “staring down the barrel of a gun” due to changes to business rates, the actions of Tory councillors clearly demonstrated they are more interested in opportunistic soundbites rather than providing firms with meaningful support when they have the powers to do so.

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

“This is quite astonishing from the Tory-led administration in Moray. They have not stopped criticising the Scottish Government for the changes to business rates, yet they refuse to use the powers that they have at a local level to provide firms with meaningful support.

“It is clear that Ruth Davidson’s Tories are only interested in scoring political points rather than actually providing any support to the businesses they have claimed to support in recent weeks.

“Voters across Moray and Aberdeenshire aren’t daft, and they’ll have seen Douglas Ross and others leading the chorus against changes to businesses rates, before he voted today to prevent businesses from receiving substantial support. Their opposition has been proven to be nothing more than crocodile tears.

“The Tories ought to be ashamed of themselves – and their actions won’t be forgotten by voters in Aberdeenshire, Moray and beyond when they go to the polls in May.”

Tributes Paid to Former Peterhead Councillor

Tributes have been paid to former Peterhead SNP councillor Agnes Strachan, who died after a short illness last week.

Agnes Strachan represented Buchanhaven-Catto on the former Banff & Buchan District Council from 1988 to 1996, and Buchanhaven on Aberdeenshire Council from 1995 until she stepped-down in 2007.

Leading the tributes, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“Agnes was a stalwart of her local community. She got on and did the work of a councillor and helped her constituents in her own, quiet, unassuming way.

“She was elected to serve her local community five times and was returned with huge majorities each time, which I think was a mark of her popularity. She will be greatly missed and my condolences go to her family at this sad time.”

Peterhead North & Rattray councillor Anne Allan said:

“Agnes was a valued colleague of mine on Aberdeenshire Council who could be relied upon to bring a common-sense viewpoint to any discussion. The huge turnout at her funeral to pay their respects was a testament to the esteem in which she was held.”

Fellow Peterhead North & Rattray councillor Fiona McRae added:

“I was so sorry to hear of Agnes’s passing and send my condolences to Peter and her family. Agnes was an exceptional public servant and champion for her Ward and her loss will be sorely felt by all who knew her.”

9 February 2017

Stevenson Supports Constituents Affected by Heart Disease

An Estimated 9,600 People In Banffshire & Buchan Coast Live with Heart and Circulatory Disease

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has shown his support for people affected by heart and circulatory disease by meeting with the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland at the Scottish Parliament. This was an opportunity to learn more about the number of local people affected by heart disease in the North-east and to find out how BHF Scotland is helping to save and improve the lives of people affected by heart and circulatory disease.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“Heart and circulatory disease affects thousands of people in Banffshire & Buchan Coast. For example, 1,547 have survived a stroke, 3,329 are living with coronary heart disease and 611 have heart failure. The BHF funds vital research and provides support and information for those affected by heart and circulatory disease and their families.

“Research is vital if we are to continue making great strides in preventing, diagnosing and treating heart disease.”

Commenting, James Cant, Director of BHF Scotland, said,

“Coronary heart disease is still our single biggest killer, and these figures show that there is no part of the country that is untouched by heart and circulatory disease. That’s why we’re currently investing £63 million in research in Scotland. Since 1961 we’ve helped halve the number of Scots dying from heart and circulatory disease. Now, we’re hoping to break new ground, create new treatments and discover new cures. One day, we’ll beat heart disease for good.

“We were delighted to meet Stewart Stevenson MSP at the Scottish Parliament, and share this important information about the risk factors in Banffshire & Buchan Coast and the numbers of people affected by these devastating conditions that can strike unexpectedly, tearing families apart without warning. Thanks to BHF research, we can offer them hope for the future.”

Local MSP Celebrates Burns and Scots Language

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, spoke on the importance of accepting and celebrating Robert Burns and the Scots language in a recent Scottish Parliament Debate.

Mr Stevenson focused on the enduring impact Burns and Scots has had on Scottish culture. He noted the great sense of pride Scottish people feel about the status of Scots as an indigenous language.

The Scottish Parliament went on to discuss the need to encourage efforts to write down Scots language and ensure its continuation. The Parliament jointly honoured Robert Burns and recognised Scots as a vital part of Scotland’s history, culture and representing Scotland to the rest of the world.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“We should diligently and proudly celebrate Robert Burns and Scots language, and not just once a year on Burn’s Day. People on farms, on ships and in cities all know of Burns and they are all part of the community that has inherited the legacy of his poems. I applaud organisations like the Strichen and Rosehearty Burns Clubs in the North-east which help us keep our proud heritage alive in our communities.”

“I stand with the Scottish Government in recognising Scots in all its forms, as it is at the heart of many communities as well as Scottish literature and heritage. The 2011 census showed 1.5 million Scots had some fluency in the language and I hope that continues to grow. I support the promotion and preservation of Scots and the great poetry of the Bard. I hope we can all recognise and experience the legacy of Burns and Scots – they are more than simply words, they are symbols of who were are—their legacy is us.”

Stevenson Condemns Blank Cheque to Tories

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has criticised the blank cheque on the terms of leaving the EU given to the Tories last night.

Mr Stevenson spoke during today’s First Ministers Questions in which he asked Ms Sturgeon for her response to the Conservative / Labour alliance at Westminster which voted down reasoned protections for Scotland’s interests.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“It’s an utter disgrace that the Tories have been given a blank cheque to negotiate any deal they feel like with democratic input. They accepted none of the amendments tabled at Westminster by the SNP and others.

“For example they now have a Parliamentary support allowing them to implement what their white paper describes as a mutually beneficial agreement with EU fishing interests. That’s another disgraceful sell-out of our fishermen.

“The Prime Minister’s hard right cohort want to railroad Scotland and the UK off an economic cliff edge despite none of the 33 million EU referendum voters being asked if they wanted to leave the single market.

“The SNP is now the only voice of reason in Westminster. We continue to protect Scotland’s interests but it’s more and more obvious that neither Labour nor the Tories can be trusted with this responsibility.

“The Tory Government has proven time and again that they will pursue policies that are disastrous for Scotland.”

7 February 2017

MSP Votes for Landmark Scottish Budget

Tory/LibDem Opposition Fail to Support Investment in North-East

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has hailed the Scottish Government’s Budget which will see communities across Aberdeenshire Council Area benefit from greater support as a result. This includes an additional £8 million in resource and capital funding.

Tory and Lib Dem opponents failed to support investment for the North-east in the budget – with opposition parties voting against the SNP’s proposals to fund local services on Thursday.

Stewart Stevenson has condemned the approach taken by the Tories and Lib Dems, providing opposition for opposition’s sake rather than supporting investment in communities throughout the North-east.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“This Scottish Government budget provides a strong funding deal for the North-east, giving spending commitments in the NHS, education, infrastructure, environment and the economy. For the opposition parties, with the exception of the Greens, to vote against all of this was deeply disappointing and against the best interests of our communities.

“It was disappointing to see the opposition be more interested in political point scoring rather than standing up for their local communities in the North-east – but there’s still time for them to drop their opposition and back the Scottish Government’s proposals as the Budget Bill progresses.

“The North-east itself will benefit from a range of direct spending commitments, including rural broadband funding, which will create benefits for local businesses and communities by further improving digital communication and infrastructure.

“The Tories and Lib Dems should think again before choosing to rob the North-east of these vital services in a narrow-minded campaign designed to achieve nothing more than embarrassing the SNP Scottish Government. This budget is too important for our communities to allow that to happen.”

MSP Promotes Scotland's Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has championed continuing efforts by the Scottish Government to preserve historic Scotland.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate on Scotland’s themed year of history, heritage and archaeology. He emphasizes Scotland’s historical draw and its important role in bringing visitors from all over the world which will in turn help generate growth in the tourism sector.

The Scottish Parliament agreed that the history of Scotland is vital to the continuance of Scottish culture but also the country’s economy. Parliament backed the Scottish Government’s announcement of £6.6 million in funding for historic conservation and improvement projects during 2017.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“I proudly support the Scottish Government’s allocation for this year’s theme on history, heritage, and archaeology. Scotland’s unique history and heritage has many social, economic, and cultural benefits and has made our country a go-to tourism destination.

“In addition to our exceptional castles, artefacts, and landmarks, Scotland is the ancestral home to as many as 50 million people globally. All of us are likely to have relatives out there who are interested in what we do in Scotland and who retain an active interest in their own history here.

“Supporting Scotland’s historic assets is a huge opportunity. It’s an opportunity for protecting Scottish culture, tourism and growing our local economies – but also to build stronger connections to history lovers and ancestral Scots around the world.”
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