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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.”
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