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.”

Stewart Stevenson Welcomes £2.5 Million Boost for North-East Schools

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has backed the Scottish Government’s drive to improve standards in schools, including a £2,569,200 boost to schools in the North-east.

The share each school is due to receive from the Scottish Government’s new £120 million Pupil Equity Fund has been revealed by Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

135 primaries and 17 secondaries across Aberdeenshire Council Area are set to receive additional support worth thousands of pounds. It will be up to teachers and school leaders to decide the best way of using the funding to close the poverty related attainment gap in their schools.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Every child in Scotland should have the best possible start in life, and it is unacceptable for children from the poorest backgrounds to have their chances limited by circumstances outside their control.

“The SNP in government has made closing the poverty-related attainment gap our number one priority, and our new £120 million Pupil Equity Fund is aimed at doing just that – supporting 135 primaries and 17 secondaries in the Aberdeenshire Council Area.

“This new announcement will let parents, teachers and school leaders in the North-east see how much funding they can expect to drive up standards and tackle the inter-generational cycle of deprivation in their school.”

Stevenson - Tories Intent on Stifling Growth in North East Energy Sector

UK Government Discrimination Threatens Peterhead Plant

The SNP has accused the Tories of betraying the North East by delivering another blow to Peterhead power station.

The plant has lost out on a crucial deal because of the UK’s punitive transmission charging regime - which deliberately puts power stations in Scotland at a competitive disadvantage with higher fees than rival power stations south of the border.

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

The Tories have already axed a potential £1bn investment in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology at Peterhead, and this latest blow demonstrates how UK Government policies, focussed on the needs of the south east of England, are stifling economic activity in the North East.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It is grossly unfair that Peterhead was disadvantaged in the UK government’s Capacity Market auction purely because of its location in the North East of Scotland. Whacking higher transmission fees on Scotland’s only gas-fired power station because it isn’t next door to London is both ludicrous and discriminatory.

“The Tories previously axed their commitment to invest £1bn in CCS technology that was earmarked for Peterhead - and this latest revelation is just another example of the Tories managing a decline in investment and damaging the local economy, jobs, and the future capacity of Peterhead as an energy provider.

“Scotland is an active contributor to the UK’s energy market however developing capacity will be impossible if we cannot compete on a level playing field. The Tories can’t justify stifling investment and development in Peterhead whilst building new power stations elsewhere in the country. Strategically, economically and ethically, it doesn’t make sense.”

2 February 2017

Tories gearing up to sell out fishing... again

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford, and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have condemned the UK Government’s weak commitment to the Scottish fishing industry in its White Paper to leave the European Union.

The White Paper, just 75 pages long, was published today following the UK Government’s victory in the Commons on Wednesday night.

Speaking after the publication, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“The paper published today confirms what many in my constituency have feared, that the potential opportunities of leaving the CFP will be watered down as fishing interests become a bargaining chip in wider trade negotiations.

“The SNP has been consistent in opposition to the CFP, and that remains our position. The UK Government, in contrast, has consistently negotiated poor deals for the industry. The Conservatives could have articulated tough demands for the benefit of our industry in its White Paper – instead, there’s a mealy-mouthed commitment to a ‘mutually beneficial deal’.

“The Tories sold out the Scottish fishing industry going into the EU. The danger is it will now betray it on the way out.”

Stewart Stevenson added:

“The White Paper shows more than ever that the UK Tory Government is just itching to use Scottish fishing to bargain for London’s financial sector. It’s there in black and white. The Tories will make Scottish fishermen pay the price for their negotiations.

“This is a complete betrayal of Scotland’s interest – making the white paper’s claim to secure Scotland’s interest not worth the paper it’s written on. The real danger under the Tories that only part of the EU we do not leave is - the Common Fisheries Policy.

“The only champion of our fishing is the SNP, the Tories will pretend right up until they’ve sold us out – again. There are huge opportunities for our coastal communities, these communities have the chance to thrive – but that won’t happen if we let the Tories have their way.”

30 January 2017

Local MSP Backs Scottish Government on Forestry

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has backed the Scottish Government on its ambitions for a fully devolved forestry policy.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate on developing forestry in Scotland. He focused on the importance of forestry to rural economies like the North-east and the additional benefits to climate change. In addition, he discussed the protections afforded by forests to biodiversity and general wellbeing.

The Scottish Parliament agreed that forests make a significant contribution to Scotland. Furthermore it agreed on the importance of cross-border working to tackle issues of research, development and disease prevention. The debate also highlighted the important role that forests will have in tackling climate change and the need to work in partnership with local authorities across Scotland.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“I welcome the fact that the Scottish Government is looking to expand our forest and woodland area. Full devolution of forestry and going with a regional approach gives us a real opportunity. It’s an opportunity to further develop a forestry policy that works for rural areas – like the North-east.

“I agree we should maintain cross-border research and development. It’s also crucial that we work in partnership with local organisations. Partnering with local authorities will ensure we get the best forestry strategies for our communities.”

“The benefits are obvious. Forestry provides thousands of jobs across Scotland and can assist us on our climate change targets – seeing as trees absorb CO2 and are a largely carbon neutral fuel. Forests also play a central role in protecting biodiversity and have beneficial effects on health. The Scottish Government’s ambitions will bring immense benefits.”

Stevenson Calls for Protection of Rural Development Funding

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has called for the protection of rural development funding that benefits much of the North-east.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate on the future of funding for rural development. He focused on the importance of public funding for the Scottish rural economy and the benefits of the Leader programme.

The Scottish Parliament agreed that EU funding is important to the rural economy and that the UK Government is failing on to provide Scotland with its fair share of funding. In addition to stating that the UK Government must ensure that appropriate funding is available to support farmers, land managers and rural communities to meet biodiversity and climate change targets.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The North-east has benefitted hugely from rural development funding. Programmes like LEADER have invested thousands of pounds across the North-east. Just last month another £64,000 was secured by the Macduff Scout Group to improve their local Scout hut. It’s essential that we get certainty on rural development funding. Currently this comes through the Common Agriculture Payments – beyond 2020 we have no commitment.

“Recent comments by Conservative MP George Eustice worry me – he wrote earlier this month, ‘No more subsidies post 2020 for farmers.’ That kind of language is incredibly threatening to those living in rural Scotland. What’s more is that our demands in the North-east are very different from those of England. It’s critical that the UK Government acknowledge this and ensure that Scotland gets appropriate funding post-2020 – it’s the only way we’ll get a level playing field across the UK.

“This kind of uncertainty is neither fair nor acceptable. Our farmers, crofters, and wider rural community deserve a promise of funding beyond 2020. The longer the UK Government fails to commit, the worse it looks for communities like ours."

27 January 2017

Early Years Workforce Expansion to Benefit Communities in North-East

Scottish Government Investment Welcomed by Local MSP

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has backed the Scottish Government announcement of an extra £1.5 million investment for more nursery teachers and graduates in deprived areas across Scotland­ – with Aberdeenshire Council Area set to receive six additional teachers or graduates.

The new staff in the North-east, part of 435 nationwide, is part of the wider strategy of tackling the attainment gap and giving every child an equal start in life. The provision of extra high qualified childcare professionals will ensure that young people in the North-east benefit from the highest quality care and early years education.

The Scottish Government is taking decisive action to improve early years learning and childcare, including expanding guaranteed free provision to 1140 hours by 2020 – which will have a positive impact for families across the North-east.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“This new funding is very welcome news for the North-east, helping to ensure that more children in our most deprived communities are able to benefit from specialised childcare and high quality early years learning.

“The Scottish Government is committed to closing the attainment gap, and targeting funding in this way, as well as expanding the guaranteed free childcare provision to 1140 hours by 2020, is important in making this happen, and to ensure that every child across the North-east gets an equal start in life.

“The six new graduates or teachers that will be joining our workforce will help improve childcare provision in our communities, and I look forward to seeing the Scottish Government continue to invest in our children’s futures.”

26 January 2017

Tories are Stifling Investment in Carbon Capture Storage Technology

Local MSP Backs Call to Turn Around Toxic Tory Legacy on Renewables

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed a call for the Tories to “stop stifling investment” in Carbon Capture Storage technology and put it “at the top of the agenda”.

The challenge to the UK Government came after SNP MP Phil Boswell, who was a member of the CCS Advisory Group that reported directly to the UK Government, led a debate on UK decarbonisation and carbon capture and storage technology in the House of Commons last week.

A recent report from the National Audit Office revealed the UK Government spent a staggering £100 million on a competition for developing ground-breaking carbon capture and storage technology before scrapping the plans - the scheme would have led to emissions from heavy industry stored permanently underground.

The project - which would have brought hundreds of jobs to the area - was scrapped by the then Chancellor George Osborne at the eleventh hour, betraying Scotland’s energy sector and wasting taxpayer’s money to ultimately deliver nothing.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“Carbon Capture Storage technology has great potential to play a leading role in tackling climate change but instead of encouraging this sector the Tories are stifling investment - as well as showing a complete disregard for developing and protecting jobs in the north-east of Scotland.

“The National Audit Office report contained extraordinary revelations about the shambolic way the UK government handled this hugely important scheme and should have prompted the Tories into immediate action to get CCS back to the top of the agenda.

"The long term prospects for green investment in the UK remain worryingly uncertain, with investment in renewable energy set to drop by 95% between 2017 and 2020. The SNP fervently believe that it is the responsibility of every government to support the transition to a low carbon economy for future generations to come.

"Scotland is a world leader in tackling climate change and I’m proud the SNP Scottish Government has launched a new climate change action plan which sets ambitious targets to further reduce our carbon emissions.

“We call on the UK Government to turn around their otherwise toxic legacy, and support decarbonisation, and the skills and jobs, as well as energy and environmental security that come with it.”

MSP Hails Funding Haul for Local Community

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has hailed the successful funding applications of 5 local community groups.

The local organisations will benefit from a total haul of £41,837 from the Big Lottery Fund, Awards for All Scotland programme.

Mr Stevenson has laid a congratulatory motion for each organisation in the Scottish Parliament and has wished them the best of luck for their respective projects.

The successful applicants included the Grange Community Association which secured £10,000, St Peter’s RC Primary School which secured £10,000, the Cullen Community Allotment Association which secured £5,034, Ordiquhill Primary School which secured £8,583 and the King Edward School which secured £8,220.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“I am delighted for each of these organisations. This £41,837 in funding is a boon for our community in the North-east. We really have a wide range of projects – several school projects, an allotment project and a community hall project. Local people have really taken the initiative here and are on course to deliver some brilliant changes for the area. I’m thoroughly impressed.

“Awards for All Scotland is an excellent programme that gives groups across our country the opportunity to apply for grants of between £500 and £10,000 for various projects. I encourage all of our community groups to apply for funding.

“What’s great is that these projects bring communities together, improve local space and help communities become more active. This funding will play a central role in the upgrading of important community space. This is an achievement for these organisations and I’m looking forward to seeing their projects come to fruition.”

  • Grange Community Association –This organisation organises social and fundraising events for King Memorial Hall. The group will use the funding for the modernisation of the ladies and gents toilets and the construction of a new disabled toilet.
  • St Peter’s RC Primary School – This project will develop the playground facilities for the primary school and associated nursery by redeveloping the existing space. They plan to install an active trail, a drawing trail, a tepee, perch benches, and musical panels.
  • Cullen Community Allotment Association –This group lease a 2 acre allotment site just outside Cullen which contains 34 plots for local use. The group will use the funding to upgrade the site and attract new users by improving the community meeting space, path network and water accessibility.
  • Ordiquhill Primary School – This project will install play equipment in the school playground for use by pupils and the wider community outside of school hours.
  • King Edward School – This project will develop the playground facilities for the school and local community by providing musical, creative learning and exploration equipment, as well as seating and planters.

Scotland Must Choose Its Own Future If All Attempts To Compromise Are Rejected

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has condemned the Prime Minister’s failure to compromise and pursue sound economic policy.

The Prime Minister has made it clear the UK is heading for an economically disastrous hard Brexit.

Nearly seven months since the referendum - the Scottish Government is still the only administration to publish a detailed plan on how to deal with Brexit and the economic, social, democratic and cultural risks associated with it.

Scotland did not vote for a hard Tory Brexit and the Scottish Government is doing all it can to make sure the Tories cannot ignore and act against Scotland’s interests.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“Theresa May today confirmed that she plans to take the UK towards an economically dangerous hard Brexit. The Prime Minister has chosen to pander to the obsessions of the hard-right of her Tory party, rather than act in the best interests of the country.

“The Prime Minister’s speech made it clear she’s looking at replacing our membership of the single market with a low wage, de-regulated economy that would see a race to the bottom - leaving everyone worse off as a result.

“If the Tories get away with dragging Scotland out of the Single Market they’ll think they can get away with anything.

“The Scottish Government has published compromise proposals that will keep Scotland in the Single Market and the Tories at Westminster must now show they are taking these plans seriously.

“The Tory government must not be able to take Scotland out of the single market, regardless of the impact on our economy, jobs, living standards and our reputation as an open, tolerant country, without Scotland having the ability to choose between that and a better future.”

23 January 2017

Fish Processing Sector Set for Brexit Hammering

£1,000 Tory Worker Levy Would Devastate Seafood Industry

Fish processors in the North East of Scotland would be disproportionately hammered by reckless Tory plans to slap a £1,000 levy on EU workers in the UK following a hard Brexit.

The seafood processing sector employs thousands of EU citizens, with the workforce largely concentrated at individual sites in the North East.

Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill suggested that firms could be charged £1,000 each year for every EU worker they employ. The anti-business plans have been labelled xenophobic by former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt who is one of the EU’s chief Brexit negotiators and even criticised by senior Tory Anna Soubry who blasted the proposals as a “tax on successful businesses”.

Figures reveal that individual businesses could be stung particularly hard by the proposed tax. Buchan’s Macduff Shellfish, for example, has a workforce of around 500 people – with 79 per cent of them non-UK EU citizens. That would mean a £395,000 annual levy imposed by the Tory government on this single business.

Around 3,000 EU citizens work in the seafood processing sector alone – with thousands more in the wider food and drink industry. The misguided Tory attack on foreign workers would mean a multi-million pound bill imposed on businesses in the North East.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The Tories are moving further and further to the right at an alarming rate.

“Their plans to tax firms an excess based on the number of European workers they have on the books are discriminatory, deeply disturbing and potentially crippling in terms of business.

“But sadly that comes with the territory of a hard Brexit, characterised by xenophobia and Tory politicians finally peeling back the mask to reveal a dangerous and divisive agenda.

“In my constituency alone, firms could face charges up to half a million pounds just for having the ‘audacity’ to hire workers with the right set of skills who have chosen to make Scotland their home. Many firms would face the very real consequence of cutting jobs or even facing closure.

“It’s incumbent upon Ruth Davidson to distance herself from these comments and to make the case to her bosses at Westminster that Scotland shouldn’t suffer as a result of a Tory hard Brexit led by the loony right-wingers in her own party.

“Before and after the referendum last year she championed Scotland remaining in the single market. It’s time she proved she’s a politician of her word.”

20 January 2017

Carbon Capture Betrayal Cost Taxpayer £100 Million

Tories "Utterly Misguided" on CCS Decision

The UK Government spent around £100 million on a competition for developing ground-breaking carbon capture and storage technology before scrapping the plans, a report from the National Audit Office has revealed.

The scheme would have seen emissions from heavy industry stored permanently underground, with Peterhead widely expected to win the £1 billion contract, which would have brought 600 jobs to the area. It was scrapped at the eleventh hour by former Chancellor George Osborne – betraying the party’s explicit manifesto promise on the technology.
UK Government Signing Agreement Now Reneged Upon
SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has said the latest revelations show how little the Tories care about investment in green energy technology and jobs in the North-east.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“These latest revelations from the National Audit Office are extraordinary, and show how that the Tory betrayal of the North East has not just cost jobs but has cost a fortune to deliver nothing.

“Just yesterday, the Scottish Government launched its climate action plan, setting ambitious targets to further reduce our carbon emissions and to tackle climate change. But today we are given yet another reminder that the Tories are happy to put the development of innovative, ground-breaking technologies to waste.

“CCS technology has great potential to play a leading role in tackling climate change, yet the Tories are complicit in stifling investment to develop this technology, as well as showing their complete lack of interest in developing and protecting jobs in the North-East of Scotland.”

Stevenson to Meet with Clydesdale Bank on Closures

Commenting on the announcement by the Clydesdale Bank that it is to close 40 branches nationwide, including those in Buckie, Banff and Fraserburgh, Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“I will be meeting with Clydesdale Bank senior management along with my MP colleagues to discuss their planned closures.

“Clearly, the way people do their banking is changing, with more and more of it done online and by phone, reducing the amount of footfall in branches.

“However, there is still a significant need for businesses, organisations and individuals to be able to deposit their shop takings, collect change, bank cheques, and also to be able to speak to staff face-to-face.

“If the Clydesdale Bank is effectively giving up on certain larger communities, then I would encourage those communities to support those banks which still have a presence in Buckie, Banff and Fraserburgh to help secure their future.”

17 January 2017

Stevenson Blasts May for Ignoring Fisheries in Brexit Speech

SNP MSP Demands Scottish Government Representation at EU Fisheries Talks

SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has condemned Theresa May after she failed to clarify the future of fisheries after Brexit in her speech this morning – with the only mention of fishing being an unclear reference to “Spanish fishermen”.

The Tory PM’s speech came ahead of a members’ debate, in which Mr Stevenson will call on the UK government to allow a Scottish Minister to lead UK negotiations over fisheries in the forthcoming Brexit talks. Scottish fishing interests were treated as expendable by the Tories in the 1970s, and Mr Stevenson will demand that the UK government does not let this happen again in the negotiations over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

This morning, Theresa May took time to tell “Spanish fishermen” that they’d be worse off without the UK but provided no detail on what Brexit will mean for Scotland’s fishing industry, which accounts for 85% of the value of the UK fishing industry. The confirmation by the Prime Minister that the UK will leave the single market is damaging, with Scottish fish and seafood exports to the EU totalling £438 million in 2015.

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

“The hard Tory Brexit that Theresa May is set to deliver will be devastating for Scotland, costing 80,000 jobs and hitting our economy by £11.2 billion a year. The fishing industry will feel the impact of this, with loss of single market membership risking the £438 million of Scottish fish and seafood exports to the EU – yet Theresa May had absolutely nothing to say on Scottish fisheries this morning.

“The Prime Minister’s approach is wholly unacceptable. The fact that she only mentioned fishing when telling ‘Spanish fishermen’ that they’d be worse off without a deal between the EU and the UK – which will be sure to raise eyebrows in fishing communities – whilst providing no detail on what fishing in Scotland will look like after her hard Brexit. This just shows that the Tories see our fishing fleets as expendable once again.

“Scotland’s fishing interests in Europe must be properly represented and fully protected, and the only way for that to happen is by allowing a Scottish minister to lead for the UK when negotiations get under way.

“It is not a perfect solution, but it is the best insurance policy. Given that Scottish fisheries account for 85% of the value of the UK fishing industry, it’s the fair and sensible approach.

“The Scottish fishing industry has been treated as expendable by the Tory government in the past – using our resources as a bargaining chip when entering the EEC in the 1970s. We must not allow the Tories to sell us down the river yet again.”

14 January 2017

MSP Backs Global Goals in International Development

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson has backed the Scottish Government’s position that Scotland continue to play a key role in international development.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate on the Scottish Government’s Global Citizenship strategy for international development. He highlighted the importance of international cooperation for tackling poverty and climate change both in Scotland and around the world.

The Scottish Government’s motion called for a holistic approach to sustainable development and reaffirming a cross-party collaborative approach to international development. It emphasized the positive role of the concept of good global citizenship and how working in partnership creates mutual progress toward achieving UN Global Goals, such as eradicating poverty and hunger.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“I’m delighted to see this continued commitment to working with developing countries. By working in partnership, we have a chance to learn from one another. It allows us to tackle climate change and poverty from our front door to the farthest corners of the earth – giving solidarity to principles we firmly believe in at home.

“We live in a time where people are questioning the basis for international cooperation and good global citizenship. This strategy gives Scotland the chance to be a voice for humanity, tolerance and compassion. It allows us to unite with other countries to put forward those principles.

“We may be a smaller country but we have a big voice. I’m glad that the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government have stood up for what we believe in. The world needs us to stand up – now more than ever."

Increase in Number of New Business Start-Ups in North-East

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the positive 10% growth in the number of new business start-ups in Aberdeenshire over the last five years.

The SNP Government’s support for businesses in Scotland has helped create a healthier business climate in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK, which has experienced a 19% decline in the number of start-ups since 2011.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“The SNP Government’s efforts to help businesses thrive and boost economic growth are really paying off in the North-east, which has seen an encouraging 10% increase in Aberdeenshire for the number of new start-ups over the last five years.

“Scotland is outperforming the rest of the UK in terms of new start-ups, and many Scottish Government initiatives have helped this growth - including the Small Business Bonus that has already delivered more than £1 billion in savings as well as the £500m Scottish Growth Scheme.

“Finding the finance to start a business is not easy and the £40m SME Holding Fund - established by EU funding at the end of last year - represents a great opportunity for business people seeking to get their ideas off the ground, and is projected to create 2,000 jobs in Scotland.”

13 January 2017

Tories Wrong on Broadband Claims

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the Scottish Government’s re-iteration of its commitment to provide broadband to 100% of Scottish homes by 2021.

The move comes after a Tory MSP issued a press statement wrongly claiming that some rural communities had been told they would not be included in the national roll-out. It is the second time in just over a week that the Tories have been caught issuing inaccurate and misleading statements, having made an error with their claims on ambulance response times.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“I wish to thank the Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing, for confirming the Scottish Government’s previously stated commitment to ensuring all properties have access to broadband by 2021.

“I am aware that there has been some scaremongering locally by Conservative MSP Peter Chapman on this matter. I would like to take this opportunity to assure the public that the Scottish Government’s commitment is firm, and reports to the contrary are seemingly based on nothing more than Conservative misinformation.

“On December 21, the Cabinet Secretary informed the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee - of which both Mr Chapman and I are members - that the first phase of the Broadband roll-out was on schedule to reach 95% of properties by the end of this year. At the same meeting, the Cabinet Secretary stated that had it not been for the contract, planned commercial coverage would have reached only 66% of properties in Scotland.“

“I find it puzzling that Mr Chapman would go to the press urging swift action on this matter rather than questioning the Cabinet Secretary directly when he had the opportunity - especially as his only questions at that committee related to trees. I am uncertain of the source of Mr Chapman’s assertions that some communities were not to be included in the roll out of Broadband.

“What is certain today, though, is that the Scottish Government is 100% committed to supplying broadband to 100% of Scottish properties by the end of this Parliamentary term.”

Parliamentarians Welcome Increased Ambulance Cover in Peterhead

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP and Stewart Stevenson MSP have welcomed news that ambulance cover has been increased in advance of an additional ambulance and paramedic team being established at Peterhead.

The SNP parliamentarians have been in ongoing communication with the Scottish Ambulance Service with the objective of improving service cover and response times throughout north Aberdeenshire. In response to a request for a progress report, confirmation was received from the local Head of Ambulance Services that the Scottish Ambulance Service has received additional funding from the Scottish Government for the specific purpose of increasing the staffing establishment at Peterhead Ambulance Station by twelve new staff and a third ambulance.

The Scottish Ambulance Service reports towards that target with the appointment of eight new ambulance staff which has allowed the Ambulance Service to provide increased cover at the Peterhead station, and a second unit being made available for 24/7 emergency cover over the last four weeks.

The recruitment process is ongoing to fill the remaining four new posts as well as managing staff turnover, and once those vacancies are filled, the Service will introduce a third ambulance.

Writing to the parliamentarians, Euan Esslemont, Head of Ambulance Services for the North Division (East) said:

“I would like to reassure you that the Scottish Ambulance Service remains fully committed to increasing ambulance cover and ambulance resources at Peterhead Ambulance Station and work is ongoing in this regard. Finance resources are available and recruitment and training of new staff remains a high priority.”

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP remarked:

“I am delighted that the SNP Government has delivered on its commitment to provide the additional funding necessary, and that our ongoing engagement with the Scottish Ambulance Service has resulted in an improvement in emergency cover for Peterhead and the surrounding area.

“The forthcoming provision of an additional ambulance will provide a further extension of service provision for our constituents and, very importantly, will help to reduce the pressure on our hard-working and dedicated paramedic teams”.

Stewart Stevenson MSP added:

“The Scottish Ambulance Service offers a substantial local career opportunity and excellent training package for those interested in attaining the highest standards of competence and compassion which is demonstrated by our ambulance personnel.

“Anyone interested in seeking employment should log on to for further information and application details for a career in the Scottish Ambulance Service - and an occupation which rightly draws the respect and admiration of the people which they serve.”

Stevenson Champions Human Rights in Scottish Parliament

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson has backed the Scottish Government’s proposal to maintain the UK’s recognition of international human rights mechanisms.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate on the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Mr Stevenson emphasised the critical importance of international human rights mechanisms and the historical events underpin the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The Scottish Government’s motion that called on the UK Government not to undertake any action that undermines Scotland’s participation in international human rights mechanisms, including, the ECHR. The motion also recorded the Scottish Government’s opposition to any loss in Scotland of human rights, equality, social protection and safeguards. The motion passed by 93 to 30, every party united behind the Government motion except the Scottish Tories.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“People around the world have suffered through wars, death and torture to secure the rights we now enjoy. These rights have not come cheaply and as elected representatives, it is our duty to protect them.

“International cooperation on human rights is vital. It ensures that regardless of our differences – whether you live in Peterhead or Paris – you’re entitled to the same protection. The Second World War is a clear example why we should share responsibility on human rights. These agreements are a failsafe for when internal democratic protections erode or fail.

“Every party in the Scottish Parliament supported protecting our human rights – except one – the Tories. Tory PM Theresa May has already said she wants to scrap the 1998 Human Rights Act and plans a campaign on taking us out of the ECHR. The Tories dream of a world where there are no social protections – a world they can exploit to their hearts content. We can’t let that happen.”
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