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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.”
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