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30 October 2017

MSP Welcomes Community Theatre Group Cash Boost

A community theatre group has received a four-figure sum National Lottery Awards for All Scotland grant from Creative Scotland.

The Buckie Community Theatre group will be awarded a total of £6,070 and plan to use the cash injection to transform the upper levels of its building into a practice hall, costume storage facility and sewing room.

The refurbishment will provide a space for community groups and will allow the charity to provide training and support to young people interested in costume production and design.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am delighted the Buckie Community Theatre Group have secured this funding to assist them in their ambitions.

“I am sure many people benefit from the use of it and this will offer additional benefit to the group and wider community.

“Congratulations to the Buckie Community Theatre group for their hard work in securing the funding.”

A National Lottery Awards for All spokesperson said:

“This funding will help a range of arts, sports and community groups from across Scotland to bring their projects ideas to life. If you, and your local community group, would like to join them in celebrating a National Lottery award, you can find out how to apply by visiting www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/scotland.”

27 October 2017

Douglas Ross Continues to Hold Constituents in Contempt

"Not Good Enough" to Just Turn Down World Cup Role

Douglas Ross must go further than just not refereeing while parliament is sitting and fulfil the promises made to his constituents that his “footballing and refereeing hobby won’t impact on [his] parliamentary duties”, the SNP has said today.

© See footnote
Mr Ross faced criticism from across the political spectrum for failing to appear at a crucial debate on Universal Credit last week, choosing instead to help referee a Champions League fixture in Barcelona. He has now confirmed that he won’t accept refereeing appointments while parliament is sitting – but still intends to referee fixtures at the weekend.

The SNP has now called on Douglas Ross to honour his pre-election commitment and properly fulfil his duties as the constituency member of parliament for Moray.

Mr Ross will be running the line at the Hearts v Rangers match at Murrayfield tomorrow – likely requiring two days in Edinburgh when he should be in his constituency.

Since his election Mr Ross has courted further controversy after launching an attack on the Gypsy/Traveller community in his constituency.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“This is an overdue but welcome first step, but it is still just not good enough from Douglas Ross.

“He continues to flout his pre-election pledge that his refereeing won’t impact on his parliamentary duties – he seems to be forgetting that his parliamentary duties don’t end when he leaves Westminster.

“He may well be hoping for sympathy that he doesn’t get a trip to the World Cup next year – but that step alone is not good enough, and he is mistaken if he thinks this puts the issue to bed.

“Mr Ross should be concentrating on his first job of representing his constituents not his second job of running the line. And yet again we see that tomorrow he is avoiding his constituency in order to officiate at Hearts v Rangers – it’s simply not sustainable for him to continue to short-change the people who elected him.

“Not only is his second job becoming untenable, but his first job is too – as he continues to break a promise made to his constituents. Just when will he be out and about in his constituency hearing about the big issues facing people there – like the universal credit rollout?

“It’s time for Douglas Ross to actually honour his pre-election commitment that his very well paid hobby won’t get in the way of his duties as an MP – otherwise it will be perfectly clear that his constituents have been conned.”


Footnote on copyright for photo of Mr Ross
© www.parliament.uk, 2017
This photograph is licensed under the Open Government Licence 3.0.

25 October 2017

MSP Calls on Gove to Ensure Payments are Made to Scottish Farmers

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has called on the UK Government to ensure convergence uplift money is paid to Scottish farmers.

The MSP has written to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, for clarification on the issue.

It comes as it was revealed farmers and crofters are owed £160million in convergence uplift money which was granted to the UK by the EU in 2014 because of low area payments in Scotland.

Mr Stevenson has asked Mr Gove to confirm when and if he has spoken to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Connectivity Fergus Ewing after he had advised he would speak to him on the matter.

In his letter to Mr Gove, he said:

“I note that at a meeting of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee last month you were asked whether Defra would commit to passing on the convergence uplift money, which was granted to the UK by the EU in 2014 because of low area payments in Scotland.

“Scotland’s farmers and crofters are owed £160 million – there is no getting away from that and this money must not be tied to Brexit considerations – it is owed now and needs to be repaid now.

“However, it is also vital that the issue of low hectare payments in Scotland is sorted, or our farmers and crofters will continue to be short-changed in any post-Brexit funding settlement.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This money rightly belongs to Scottish farmers and it should be returned to them immediately.

“They have been left with an unfair playing field and the amount farmers receive throughout the UK are not comparable levels of payments for their hard work.

“I have written to Mr Gove to make sure this money is not tied to Brexit negotiations.”

24 October 2017

North-East Tory MPs Urged To Support Region After New Brexit Figures

North-East Tory MPs have been criticised of “pandering to Westminster” after new figures revealed the huge losses in funding faced by local authorities from Brexit.

It comes after a damning report by the London School of Economics showed the risks of Scotland crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Now Conservative MPs have been urged to do more to support the region which has already been hit by the oil and gas downturn in recent years.

Both Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have called for assurances from the recently elected politicians they will support the North-East.

Aberdeenshire would lose 3% in value of its goods and services under a soft Brexit scenario (equivalent to £1.9billion) or 4.5% (£1.6billion) with a hard Brexit no-deal.

Meanwhile Aberdeen would be the worst hit region, losing 4.5% in value of its goods and services under a soft Brexit scenario (equivalent to £2.4billion) or 7% (£3.8billion) with a hard Brexit no-deal.

And the report concludes that over a five-year period Scotland will lose out on more than £17billion with a soft Brexit situation, but by a devastating £29.4 billion if no provisions are made to halt a hard Brexit outcome.

Both MSPs are also calling on the UK Government to publish its own analysis into the impact of Brexit on Scotland.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“There has never been any doubt the costs of Brexit are going to be very, very high for Scotland and the North-East in particular.

“Tory MPs like Ross Thomson and Colin Clark have repeatedly said how beneficial Brexit will be for our local economy. Both of these MPs are always claiming the North-East is underfunded. It’s time for them to stand up and explain to their constituents how they will protect funding losses as a result of Brexit.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The Tories are playing fast and loose with our economy and we are heading for the EU exit door with no deal secured on the single market.

“Maintaining Scotland’s single market membership is absolutely vital for the country as whole and the North-East in particular.

“There is no alternative to what the single market can offer in terms of protecting jobs, living standards and local businesses.

“It is time our Tory MPs stand up for the North-East and stop pandering to Westminster.”

Scottish Fishing Sector Warning Over Damaging Power Grab

Scotland’s fishermen have voiced their opposition to a Westminster power grab on responsibilities currently devolved to the Scottish Parliament, in a submission to Holyrood’s Finance and Constitution Committee.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), a vocal campaigner for a leave vote in the EU referendum, has added its backing to the Scottish Government’s calls for the EU Withdrawal Bill to be amended to protect Scotland’s interests.

In written evidence provided ahead of tomorrow’s committee meeting, the SFF noted “that the Bill’s approach to repatriating powers from the EU requires amendment if it is to respect the devolution settlement and deliver appropriate fisheries management”, raising further specific concerns about the impact of Holyrood’s powers being curtailed by Westminster.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“It is now abundantly clear that Scotland stands united against Westminster using Brexit as an excuse for a Holyrood power grab.

“Even those who campaigned in favour of leaving the EU see the UK government’s withdrawal bill for what it currently is – a threat to our Scottish Parliament, and the founding principles of devolution which people voted for 20 years ago.

“The SNP’s amendments to the bill – backed by the Labour Welsh government – are put forward in good faith to protect Scotland’s interests and the powers vested at Holyrood since devolution.

“This latest call from Scotland’s fisheries sector underlines just how important it is that Scotland retains these powers.”

23 October 2017

MSP Welcomes Fibre Broadband Roll-Out

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the roll-out of more fibre broadband in the North-East.

It comes after the Scottish Government revealed the move had been made possible as part of the £428million cash injection from the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband roll-out.

More than 800,000 premises across the country can now receive fibre broadband through the programme.

The technology is now live across Aberdeenshire including Eden, Tillyfourie and Mosshead.

Most of the latest local premises to be included in the roll-out were previously served by ‘exchange only’ lines.

Each week the programme, one of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe, reaches more remote and rural areas, passing another 34,000 households and businesses in the last six months.

Across the country around 4,100 new fibre street cabinets are now live and more than 8,700km of cable has been laid by engineers from Openreach, Scotland’s digital network business.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“Bringing fibre broadband to rural areas across the North-East is a lifeline for residents and particularly businesses too.

“The Scottish Government is on target to reach 95% fibre coverage by the end of the year, with the programme progressing further and still extending coverage.

“It is clear there are still places waiting to benefit from superfast broadband and these will become the focus as work is done towards the ambitious target of 100%.”

The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme underpins the Scottish Government’s aim for Scotland to become a world class digital nation by 2020.

Local people can check the Digital Scotland website to find out if they can get a fibre-based service.

18 October 2017

Stevenson Welcomes Scot Gov Announcement on Nitrate Vulnerable Zones

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

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

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

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

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

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said:

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

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

Part-Time Tory Skipping Welfare Debate to Referee in Barcelona

Champions League Refereeing Again Priority for Douglas Ross

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

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

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

Stewart Stevenson MSP
said:

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

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

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

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

13 October 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

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

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

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

12 October 2017

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

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

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

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

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

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

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

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

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

3 October 2017

MSP Warns of Missed Opportunity on CCS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

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

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

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

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

MSP Welcomes Plans for Medical Practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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