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18 October 2017

Stevenson Welcomes Scot Gov Announcement on Nitrate Vulnerable Zones

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement from the Scottish Government that it will look sympathetically at cases where poor weather has stopped many farmers from spreading their slurry in time to comply with Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) regulations.

Most of the Banffshire & Buchan Coast Constituency is included in the NVZ area.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I’m aware that the weather experienced in recent weeks and months has proved problematic for farmers which has meant that slurry tanks may not have been emptied in time to comply with the closed period owing to a range of pressures.

“As we enter the period where no slurry spreading is permitted in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones, I am pleased that the Minister has listened to industry concerns and has instructed officials to respond to genuine cases of difficulty with as much flexibility as possible.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said:

“While a blanket derogation from the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (Scotland) provisions cannot be applied due to EC regulatory requirements, relevant RPID area offices will liaise with affected farmers on a case by case basis to help them explore all practical options, which might be available to address current difficulties.

“RPID will look sympathetically, with as much flexibility as the regulations allow, at the scope for any mitigation of the risk of penalties being applied. Affected farmers are strongly encouraged to make urgent contact with their area office to discuss the best way to proceed that helps address their difficulties, minimises the impact on the environment and the risk of penalties applying.”

Part-Time Tory Skipping Welfare Debate to Referee in Barcelona

Champions League Refereeing Again Priority for Douglas Ross

Part-time Tory MP Douglas Ross is once again skipping his parliamentary duties in order to run the line in a glamour Champions League match – leaving his constituents without a voice during a key debate on social security.

Douglas Ross is a consistent absentee from his MP day job – skipping important debates and committee meetings at Holyrood last year in order to take on lucrative refereeing work in the Champions League. His move from Holyrood to Westminster has not changed his attitude, with his work as an MP playing second fiddle to his assistant refereeing job.

Wednesday sees Westminster host a key debate on the roll-out of Universal Credit – yet Douglas Ross won’t be there to vote on this vital issue. The Moray foodbank has criticised Mr Ross for missing the debate, saying they recently briefed the MP on the impact of Universal Credit on his constituents. Mr Ross recently hit the headlines for launching an attack on the vulnerable Gypsy/Traveller community in Moray.

Stewart Stevenson MSP
said:

"Part-time Tory MP Douglas Ross just never learns his lesson.

“He is yet again leaving his constituents without a voice in Parliament because he'd rather rub shoulders with famous footballers.

"This isn't the first time that he's failed to turn up for important meetings, and his constituents will be wondering why he shows no interest in discussing Universal Credit - which is driving up rent arrears and leaving families penniless.

"It's time for two-job Ross to call time on his highly lucrative refereeing career."

13 October 2017

MSP Writes Again to Chancellor Calling for Axe to Police and Fire VAT

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for him to scrap the tax on Scotland’s emergency services.

It comes after Mr Stevenson wrote a letter earlier this year to Philip Hammond regarding the issue.

And in response to the correspondence received from the Chancellor, he said he had been “extremely disappointed” by the letter and called for “serious consideration” to be given to put an end to the annual VAT bill.

According to recent reports, Scotland is facing a £21.2million black hole in its £1.1million budget, which has raised concern over potential cuts to vehicles, equipment and buildings.

Both the fire and police services became liable for the tax after they were merged from multiple regional into single organisations a few years ago.

It is expected any potential changes could be announced by the Chancellor at the Budget on November 22nd.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“All governments across the UK are currently looking to make savings which will provide extra cash and help protect vital public services. The reform of police and fire services delivered more than three years ago was done to prevent duplication of certain functions.

“For the UK Government to impose VAT charges of around £33million and £10million respectively serves to disadvantage these services.

“The Chancellor must put an end to it when he announces the budget next month.”

12 October 2017

MSP Encourages North-East Communities to Apply to £6m Rural Tourism Fund

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is calling on local groups in the North-East to apply to the Scottish Government’s new Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

The Scottish Government announced the new £6m fund in response to the tourism boom across rural Scotland, and the money will be invested over the course of two years (2018/19 and 2019/20) to help ensure the services and facilities tourists and communities need are provided.

The new fund will support a wide range of improvement projects – such as parking, camping facilities, recycling points and footpath access, in areas such as the North Coast 500 route as well as at Historic Environment Scotland sites.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“The tourist industry is vital to the Banffshire and Buchan Coast economy, which attracts visitors from all over the world each year.

“The new £6m Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund will help cater to the very welcome increasing tourist numbers in the North-East and help alleviate pressure on transport, services and facilities.

“This support for infrastructure will enable even more people to enjoy this most beautiful country in the world and is an example of the SNP Scottish Government listening to and responding to the needs of rural Scotland.

“Local groups in Banffshire and Buchan that would like to bid for this funding can get in touch with me if they need any advice.”

3 October 2017

MSP Warns of Missed Opportunity on CCS

An MSP has claimed the UK Government has missed out on a huge opportunity to take a lead on Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) after oil major Shell struck a deal in Norway.

In 2015, more than £1billion of investment was pulled which could have been used to fund a CCS project at Peterhead Power Station.

Shell has already completed an initial feasibility study when the money was axed.
Copyright © 2017 Statoil ASA
Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said the announcement of a deal between Statoil, Shell and Total E&P Norge meant the Norwegian Continental Shelf would be able to benefit from the technology sooner.

A partnership agreement to mature the development is part of the Norwegian authorities’ efforts to develop full-scale carbon capture and storage in the region.

The move comes after Gassnova awarded Statoil the contract for the first phase of the project in June.

Norske Shell and Total E&P Norge are now entering as equal partners while Statoil will lead the project.

All the partners will contribute staff, experience, and financial support.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I welcome Norway’s plans to move to a low-carbon economy, but this is also a clear indication of what the UK Government missed out on.

“Two years on from funding being axed we are no clearer as to what the future holds for Peterhead Power Station.

“Hundreds of jobs and financial investment remain untapped. Recent efforts by the Scottish Government are very welcome to investigate the feasibility of CCS at St Fergus.

“But it appears that once again, a huge opportunity for our energy sector remains untapped.”

MSP Welcomes Plans for Medical Practice

A medical practice which serves two North-East communities could be handed to new management.

The move would affect the An Caorann Medical Practice which has more than 5,000 patients between Aberchirder and Portsoy.

NHS Grampian is looking for an independent practice to take over the health care facilities.

Commenting on the plans, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson, said:

“After a long period of uncertainty for patients, this proposal could provide them with regular GP provision once again.

“We must ensure this is done in a timely manner so that the service, which has been struggling recently due to staffing issues, can return to its full capacity once more.

“I know the staff at the practice have really appreciated the support shown by patients during what has been a challenging time.”

26 September 2017

MSP Welcomes Start of Feasibility Work at St Fergus

A feasibility study in to a Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project at St Fergus has started, almost two years since £1billion of investment at Peterhead Power Station was pulled by the UK Government.

The move has been welcomed by Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson who said it showed a clear “commitment” by the SNP to the North-East of Scotland.

It comes after his discussion last week with the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse on the issue.

Plans for a feasibility study had been announced by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during her speech to parliament announcing the Programme for Government earlier this month.

Mr Wheelhouse said the UK Government’s decision to scrap the £1billion CCS programme for Peterhead was a “disgrace” and a “lost opportunity for Scotland”.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I very much welcome the news that this study will commence and it shows the commitment the SNP has to the North-East of Scotland.

“The UK Tory Government has shown nothing but contempt towards this area by pulling £1 billion from the project in Peterhead putting at a risk an opportunity to benefit the environment, create jobs and boost the economy of the North East.

“Meanwhile, the Scottish Government is doing what it can to mitigate against this and ensure that the North East becomes a world leader in this innovative technology. We cannot afford for this to become another missed opportunity because of a Tory government that doesn’t care about the North East of Scotland.”

19 September 2017

Stevenson Celebrates the Difference at Fraserburgh Event

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson was a guest speaker at the annual Celebrate the Difference event in Fraserburgh on Saturday.

(l to r): Elizabeth Pittendrigh, Stewart Stevenson MSP and Therine Henderson
at the Fraserburgh & District Older People’s stand
The popular event which brings together the varied cultures and people who call Fraserburgh home and provides an afternoon of Music, Entertainment and Food as well as a showcase for the local voluntary and charitable organisations to meet with local residents.

Commenting Mr Stevenson said:

“I am delighted to have taken part in another successful Celebrate the Difference event at Fraserburgh College this weekend.

“It was good to meet people from around the world who chose to live in the Fraserburgh area and to learn a little about their heritage and culture, as well as our own. Events such as this show the fantastic community spirit we have in the North-east and I would like to thank Margaret Gault and all of the organisers who work tirelessly to make this annual event a success.

“As well the food song and dance, Celebrating the Difference provides many local organisations and voluntary groups an opportunity to highlight the important work and services they provide to the local community, after all when we celebrate the difference, we also make a difference.”

15 September 2017

MSP Receives Assurances Over Scottish Lamb in Supermarkets

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has received assurances from two leading supermarkets it will continue to support the Scottish farming industry.

The move was in response to letters from the MSP after recent findings by the National Farmers Union in Scotland (NFUS) had noted low stocks of Scottish lamb in both Asda and Tesco supermarkets.

A report by the NFUS found almost all of the imported meat found amongst the main supermarket chains was on Asda and Tesco shelves.

The percentage was 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.

Mr Stevenson called for more support to be made for Scottish farmers in the wake of the findings.

Now, both Tesco and Asda have said they will do all they can to increase stocks and also work with farmers to understand further improvements can be made.

Tesco’s Head of Devolved Government Affairs Tony McElroy said:

“We were disappointed to see the NFUS press release as we have increased our volume of British lamb over the last 12 months and we do not recognise the findings of the recent Shelf Watch Survey.

“Please be reassured that we are actively working with a small group of Scottish farmers through our Tesco Sustainable Farming Group on Lamb.

“This group are contracted on a cost of production model and the contract length is for 12 months allowing producers to manage cash flow and understand their actual cost of production for lamb.

“We are supporting farmers at a farm level to improve productivity and efficiencies through Technical Workshops via independent consultants.”

Meanwhile Asda said it was a “long-term supporter” of the Scottish red meat sector and had worked hard with suppliers to grow the sector and provide choice to customers.

It said it now planned to increase the volume of lamb sold, including Scotch lamb.

Christopher Brown, Asda’s senior director of Sustainable Business, said:

“Our lamb supplier, Dunbia, has increased the amount of lamb it sources from Scotland, with a rise in volume of over 20% in the past 12 months.

“The National Farmers' Union Scotland report highlighted that we were stocking Australian lamb. This is a small quantity of lamb liver and this supply is being ceased.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“It is disappointing that despite the results of the NFUS findings, Tesco has chosen to dismiss the results.

“We must support Scottish farmers and work carried out by the NFUS attempts to highlight the disparities on the level of imports on our supermarket shelves.

“The study was carried out by the NFUS across 46 supermarket stores so this cannot simply be a blip in their recordings.

“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.

“I look forward to taking Tesco up on its invitation to meet with the select group of farmers it works with to find out more about the work they are doing.”

12 September 2017

MSP Welcomes Economic Boost After Windfarm Contract Win

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed commitment by the UK Government to the Moray Offshore Windfarm off the coast of Fraserburgh.

The project, known as Moray East, is the only Scottish wind project to have been awarded a 15-year Contract for Difference (CfD) from Westminster’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial
Strategy in the current round of licensing.

The move will allow it to provide green energy to the grid.

Moray East will generate enough electricity for around one million homes and will have around 100 240metre tall turbines.

The new agreement will have strike price of £57.50 per megawatt hour.

The price is nearly two thirds less than in 2015 and almost half the price of the deal struck with the new Hinkley C nuclear power station.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“The Scottish Government first approved this windfarm three years ago enabling it to go-ahead.

“The CfD contract is a sizeable achievement and the first of its kind for a project of this type in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government has led the way in renewables and is seen around the world as a crowning example of what can be achieved with alternative energy.

“This project will provide real potential for jobs in the area as well as major economic opportunities for the supply chain.

“The lower cost of the offshore windfarm in providing electricity will also bring much benefit to customers.”

5 September 2017

NHS Grampian Hits Four Hour A&E Target

New figures show that 95.2% of patients in NHS Grampian’s emergency departments were seen, admitted or discharged within four hours – beating the Scottish Government’s 95% target.

Scotland’s Emergency departments met the key waiting times target for two months in a row this summer.

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

“Scotland has had the best performing emergency departments in the UK for 28 months now, which is testament to the hard work of our NHS and social care workers.

“It is extremely encouraging that Emergency Departments in NHS Grampian are frequently meeting the four hour waiting times target, with the latest figures showing that 95.2% 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.”

MSP Backs Scottish Government CCS Investment for North-East

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed the Scottish Government’s investment in a North East CCS (Carbon Capture Storage) project.

Photo: Pale Blue Dot Energy
First Minister Nicole Sturgeon announced the newly proposed Acorn Project has received funding to take forward the feasibility phase of a CCS demonstrator project at St Fergus.

It was revealed as the Programme for Government was announced at the Scottish Parliament.

In 2015, the UK Government pulled more than £1billion of funding for a CCS project at Peterhead Power Station which would have created hundreds of jobs and investment across the region.

The Scottish Government’s Energy Minister said it remained “extremely disappointed” by the UK Government’s withdrawal of the funding in the CCS Commercialisation Programme in which the Peterhead CCS project was the front runner.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The decision by the UK Government in 2015 to remove funding for CCS was a huge loss to the North-East.

“Scotland has the opportunity to be a world leader in this sector and the investment would have increased the lifespan of Peterhead Power Station and created jobs and investment in the local economy.

“While the new framework for policy on CCS by the UK Government remains unclear, I am delighted that the Scottish Government has pledges this funding which will help to renew investment in this technology.

“Scotland is working towards a low carbon economy and we must support all efforts to ensure we do so.”

31 August 2017

MSP Supports Service for Homeless People and Substance Misuse

Banffshire and Buchan Cost MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed a service which provides a weekly drop in service for homeless people and those suffering from substance misuse.
The MSP visited Peterhead’s Salvation Army Shield Project drop in earlier this week and met with staff, volunteers and those using the service.

The service runs on a Tuesday and Wednesday each week, supporting around 80 people through outreach work in Aberdeenshire.

Mr Stevenson said:

“Services like the one provided by the Salvation Army are invaluable to people who may be facing difficulties in their lives.

“It is so important people have a place where they can have food and company, particularly if they’re feeling isolated.

“Much of this service is offered by local donations and volunteers. It was good to see the hard work and dedication all at the Salvation Army Shield Project displayed in order to provide this drop in service.”

MSP Backs Start of Work on Supermarket Site

Major building work is set to start in October on a new supermarket in the North East, according to correspondence from the firm to MSP Stewart Stevenson.

The start date comes after residents in Peterhead expressed concern over the creation of the new Aldi in the town.

Following outcry from the local community, the Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP wrote to regional managing director Richard Holloway.

In a letter to Mr Stevenson regarding the site of the former Kirkburn Mill, Mr Holloway said the project had an expected completion date in the second half of 2018. He said:

“Investigatory works have already begun and materials for creating the boundary around the site are also in place.

“Major building work is expected to have started by October 2017.”

The budget supermarket had been due to build the new store in Peterhead beginning in December last year.

The scheme to bring Aldi to Peterhead has been ongoing since 2004, before finally getting the greenlight from Aberdeenshire Council in February 2016.

The supermarket is expected to create up to 30 jobs and bring a cash injection of £2.5million to the local economy.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The creation of this supermarket has been long overdue and I am delighted work will finally start in the coming month or so.

“The North East has been badly hit by the oil and gas downturn and this will be a much needed boost for the local economy and for the jobs market also.

“I wish Aldi every success during the construction phase and look forward to seeing how it all comes together in the future.”

23 August 2017

MSP Welcomes New CAP Guidance for Farming and Environment

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed new guidance on farming and the environment.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has issued new ‘greening’ guidance for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) next year.

The new guidance has been endorsed by Professor Russel Griggs’s expert group and includes changes introduced by the European Commission’s simplification agenda.

It provides further flexibility for farmers and crofters to mitigate the impact of farming on the environment.

Under CAP, it is currently mandatory for applicants to the Basic Payment Scheme to comply with ‘greening’ requirements, where relevant on their land, in return of receiving additional payment.

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast said:

“One of the regular pleas when I meet farmers is for simpler regulation. This set of changes is a significant and very welcome response to meet farmers' needs.

"I know that the Scottish Government's engagement with farmers will continue to deliver for our industry.

"Today's announcement illustrates why it remains vital that none of the powers that enable decisions to be made in Scotland which respond to Scottish needs are removed to London as a result of our leaving the EU."

22 August 2017

Business Growth Accelerator Good for Enterprise, says MSP

The Barclay Report has recommended the creation of a Business Growth Accelerator following its review published today.

It would mean a 12-month delay before rates apply for a new build property and a delay in increasing rates for expansion or improvements to an existing property.

Commenting on the proposal, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The far-reaching recommendations of the Barclay report include a number of considerations for the Scottish Government.

“The SNP has long been passionate about supporting enterprise and this could encourage new start-up businesses as well as helping already established firms to improve their office space.

“The downturn in oil and gas has created an opportunity for diversification and many smaller businesses have set-up. This will allow them a leeway while they build up their businesses.”

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.”
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