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30 November 2017

MSP Backs St Andrews Day Initiative

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has visited a well-known volunteer hub ahead of St Andrews Day to mark a new initiative.

It comes after the Scottish Government launched the Be Like St Andrews initiative which encourages people and communities to make a gesture of kindness.

This includes donating blood, visiting someone in a nursing home or holding a charity bake sale.
Mr Stevenson visited the Here For You Centre in Fraserburgh where he spoke with centre staff and volunteers as well as staff members from the Banff and Buchan Citizens Advice Bureau.

The centre has 18 volunteers who provide more than 300 hours of time a month.

Key partners at the centre include the Fraserburgh Development Trust, Aberdeen Foyer and the Grampian Housing Association.

Here For You provides services including legal advice, financial advice, work placements and emergency food parcels.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“St Andrew was known to be a kind, fair and strong man and an example to us all.

“The qualities he held should be ones we all seek to have ourselves. It is also very important we take the time out from our daily lives to help others and those less fortunate than ourselves.

“The Here For You centre and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau do vitally important work in the community and I would encourage anyone to look at volunteering opportunities with them.”

24 November 2017

Top Scottish Food Producer Demands Post-Brexit Clarity

North-East Tories Give Up On Scotland's Interests In Commons Vote

One of Scotland’s largest food producers, Scotbeef, has called for greater clarity from the UK Government on what the post-Brexit marketplace will look like.

The latest intervention from the company’s Managing Director comes a full year after the leading Scotch Beef and Lamb exporter’s first call for certainty fell on deaf ears.

This week, the North-east Tory MPs voted against protecting the UK’s membership of the customs union that would have enabled Scottish producers to continue exporting and importing goods from the EU without the obstacle of trade tariffs.

Over and above the uncertainty surrounding trading conditions – Scottish farmers rely heavily on EU support, with CAP payments accounting for around two-thirds of net farm income in Scotland.

Commenting, local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The future of Scotland’s rural economy is on the line.

“Scotbeef, like many other significant Scottish producers, is fast losing patience with the Tory Government’s dithering and inaction, which is damaging our food and drinks industry’s ability to plan for the future.

“Scottish Labour MPs this week failed to oppose the Scottish Tories’ plans to rip Scotland out of the customs union, despite an abundance of evidence showing the damage this will cause our economy, threatening jobs and living standards.

“North-east Tory MPs have betrayed Scotland’s rural economy, which, like many other sectors, relies on tariff-free access to the market place to survive.

“The SNP will continue to stand up for Scotland's farmers, and the thousands of jobs they support, while also providing support to boost Scotland’s exports. Exports to the EU27 are growing at a faster rate than exports to the rest of the world, and the SNP will continue to recognise the importance of the single market to our rural economy.

“The Tory Government must urgently wake up to the reality of what removing our trading businesses from the single market actually means and end the drive towards a hard Brexit cliff edge.”

22 November 2017

MSP Calls for Rebate after Chancellor's VAT Budget Decision

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the UK Government’s decision to end VAT liability on Scotland’s Police and Fire Services.

It comes after pressure for the move to be made since the single force changes were implemented four years ago.

Mr Stevenson has repeatedly called for the UK Treasury to introduce VAT exemption.

In his most recent correspondence the HM Paymaster General Mel Stride MP said the Scottish Government had “understandably” decided to proceed with its restructuring plans due to the estimated financial savings.

The move by the Chancellor of the Exchequer means the two emergency services will be eligible for tax refunds in the future.

Both Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will be brought into line with the rest of the UK.

And SNP MPs and MSPs are calling for a rebate on the previous four years of VAT.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The Scottish Government has repeatedly called on the UK Government to end the huge disparity in how the VAT impacts emergency services across the UK for four years now.

“The Scottish Government should also receive a rebate on its VAT bill since 2013 which is estimated to amount now to about £140million.

“The amalgamation has protected frontlines services and helped contribute to the record low levels of crime.

“The Tories have finally caved in and decided to support the measure which we’ve called for the last four years.

“It is a disgrace it has taken so many years to do so when our fire and police services should never have had to pay the VAT costs in the first place.”

MSP Welcomes Peterhead Pastor to Holyrood

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a Pastor from his constituency to Parliament to present the Time for Reflection.

Pastor Neil Cameron, who runs the Apex Church in Peterhead, met with Mr Stevenson before speaking in front of MSPs in the chamber.

He spoke of his childhood and growing up in the North-East of Scotland and called on Parliamentarians to see the best in challenging situations.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It was a great pleasure to nominate Neil Cameron to deliver Parliament's 'Time for Reflection' and to welcome him to Holyrood.

“He is a well-known and respected figure in the community. Pastor Cameron spoke eloquently about the opportunity we have as a society to look for the good in our daily lives, focusing on the positives not the negatives.

“I am sure the people of Peterhead and beyond will be very proud of Pastor Cameron.”

Stevenson Comments on Moray Tory Turmoil

Commenting on the resignation of Cllr Walter Wilson from Moray Council’s Administration and the Conservative Party, citing fundamental differences on key issues and describing former Tory colleagues as ‘right wing extremists’, local MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

© See footnote
“Moray Tories seem to have a track record of their councillors resigning from the Conservative council group and Cllr Wilson is following in the footsteps of Council Convener Cllr Allan and Tory MP Douglas Ross, who was probably more often out of the Tory Group than in.

“Cllr Wilson has referred to his former Tory colleagues as
“right-wing extremists” and has accused them of sacrificing public safety. Local people will be horrified that extremist views are prevalent within Moray Tories and one can imagine it must have taken a great deal of courage for Cllr Wilson to stand up and call them out on it.

“There’s no getting away from the fact that local authority budgets – just like the Scottish Government’s budget – are under pressure from Westminster cuts. However, the SNP councillors in Moray have consistently put forward constructive proposals and suggestions which could have saved millions but have not been acted upon.

“A good idea is a good idea, no matter who puts it forward and working constructively with other parties and independents was a hallmark of the SNP’s time in control in Aberdeenshire Council. Moray’s Tories and Independents could do well to follow that example and not just dismiss suggestions because they don’t fit with their right-wing dogma.”


Footnote on copyright for photo of Mr Ross
This photograph is licensed under the Open Government Licence 3.0.

16 November 2017

Scotland Leading the Way on Active Travel

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf today confirmed that Scotland is leading the way on Active Travel – with government spending set to be more than twice as high per head as in England and around three times more than in Wales.

The Scottish Government recently committed to doubling the Active Travel budget from £40 million to £80 million from 2018/19. Plans to appoint an Active Nation Commissioner and develop new long-distance cycling and walking routes, as well as connect the A9 to the National Cycle Network through 21 miles of new cycleways, were also announced.

The A Nation With Ambition strategy also included plans to encourage the use of electric bikes “to ensure as many people as possible can benefit from active travel.”

A recent study published by the International Journal of Workplace Health Management revealed that commuters who cycled to work were less stressed than their counterparts who arrived by car.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“With growing evidence of the health benefits of active travel, I am delighted that the Scottish Government is leading the way in its commitment to Active Travel, leading the way in the UK.

“I am confident that the Scottish Government’s support will help encourage more people to get on their bikes and ensure that our infrastructure caters to those that choose to walk, cycle or run, especially as cycle and walking tourism grows in popularity in Scotland.

“While it is not always practical to ditch the car, I for one will continue to promote active transport to travel shorter distances, not least to improve our health, tackle congestion and reduce our carbon footprint.”

15 November 2017

MSP Welcomes UK Supreme Court Ruling on Alcohol

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the UK Supreme Court ruling allowing Scotland to set a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland.

It comes after a challenge against the move by the Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) was rejected.

The legislation was approved by the Scottish Parliament five years ago but has been tied up in challenges since then.

But the Supreme Court approved the legislation and said it did not breach European Union law.

It means there will be a 50p-per-unit minimum put in place in a bid to tackle the country’s relationship with alcohol.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am delighted that after five years of wrangling, the Supreme Court has made the decision to allow this legislation to move forward.

“Improving Scotland’s relationship with alcohol is an important step and this is an important step towards that.

“I agree with the First Minister, this is indeed a bold and necessary move to improve public health.

“It is disappointing the SWA chose to campaign against this decision for so long but I am hopeful now that this judgement has been passed they will put their full support behind the measure.”

Stevenson Welcomes EU Erasmus+ Funding for Banff School

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a funding award for Banff Primary School which has played a part in Scotland receiving its largest ever allocation of EU Erasmus+ funding – up nearly €5million since last year.

New figures from the British Council Scotland and Ecorys, the agency delivering the European Union scheme, show that a total of €21million is being shared by 159 Scottish organisations working in a range of sectors such as schools, colleges and universities.

Banff Primary School was successful in applying for €10,825 for language development.

Stewart Stevenson is encouraging local organisations to engage with Erasmus+ and apply for funding. He said:

“I congratulate Banff Primary School and everyone involved in this successful funding bid. This is a significant sum which will help provide substantial assistance with the development of the pupils’ language skills.”

Director of the British Council Scotland Jackie Killeen said:

“Enabling people and organisations in communities all over Scotland to learn from and share with their international counterparts is at the very heart of what we do.

“These new figures for Erasmus+ demonstrate the huge appetite across Scotland’s education and youth training sectors for international exchange, collaboration and partnership.”

14 November 2017

NHS Grampian Meets Four Hour A&E Waiting Times Target

Latest A&E waiting time statistics have shown that NHS Grampian met its four hour waiting time target during the first week of November – with 91.5% being seen, admitted or discharged within four hours.

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

“Scotland has had the best performing A&E departments in the UK for two and a half years now – which is a testament to the hard work of our NHS staff.

“It is extremely encouraging that Emergency Departments in NHS Grampian have met the four hour waiting times target, with the latest figures showing that 95.1% of patients are being seen within four hours.

“The Scottish Government has put record investment and increased levels of staffing into hospitals, including an extra £14 million for health boards this year to improve unscheduled care and £5 million to support winter resilience – which will be vital as we head towards colder weather over the next few months.

“We will always value the vital work done by our NHS staff – and we should always celebrate their success and continue to support their efforts in NHS Grampian.”

10 November 2017

MSP to Meet with Transport Minister over Toll of Birness

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has written to the Transport Minister calling for a meeting to investigate making improvements to a North-East road.

The move comes after MSPs and Councillors were given a briefing on infrastructure proposals earlier this month.

Calls have long been made for an overhaul to the congested road junction in the future.

Any improvements would take place at the Toll of Birness where the A90 Ellon to Peterhead road meets the A952 to Fraserburgh.

The junction is predominantly used by commuters travelling from Fraserburgh and Mintlaw to Ellon, Aberdeen and beyond.

Nestrans has been investigating how the routes in the area could be improved which includes a multimillion pound investment at the junction.

Mr Stevenson plans to meet with Transport Minister Humza Yousaf to discuss taking plans forward.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“I have written to the Transport Minister to request a meeting following the briefing myself and colleagues were given by Nestrans earlier this month.

“The Toll of Birness has long been an area of congestion for commuters and improvements are long overdue.

“Ensuring we continue to improve roads in the North-East of Scotland will only build on the near completion of the AWPR in making are roads more accessible and safer.”

MSP Pays Tribute to Campaigner after Seatbelts Bill Passed

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has paid tribute to a constituent who worked tirelessly to improve school bus safety.

It comes after the Scottish Parliament passed the final stage of the Seatbelts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill at Holyrood.

The Bill had been brought forward by Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin.

For years, Gardenstown resident Ron Beaty worked hard to campaign on school bus safety after his granddaughter was knocked over by a vehicle after getting off a school bus.

Mr Beaty, who sadly passed away before the Bill reached its final stage yesterday, had been a staunch advocate of safety on school transport following the incident.

He worked closely alongside Mr Stevenson on the issue for many years.

Mr Stevenson said he was a “ferocious champion of improving safety” in the school transport system.

The Bill will make it compulsory for all dedicated school transport to be fitted with seatbelts.

Councils across Scotland provide dedicated school transport to pupils who live over certain distances from school in line with their statutory responsibilities and this is often in the form of buses or coaches.

There are currently already 24 local authorities in Scotland which stipulate seat belts must be worn including Aberdeenshire Council.

The completion of Stage three of the Bill intends to make this good practice universal as a matter of law.

It will afford more pupils the well-established safety benefit which seat belts can bring in the event of a road accident.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am delighted the Bill to ensure seatbelts are on all dedicated home to school transport has been passed.

“I would like to pay tribute to Ron. While he wasn’t here to witness it, I have no doubt that his efforts for many years made an invaluable contribution.

“Ron is an example to us all and I am sure his family are very proud.

“I would also like to commend my colleague Gillian Martin MSP and the civil servants who worked very hard over the past 18 months on this Bill.”

8 November 2017

Local MSP Welcomes Portessie Post Office Announcement

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed confirmation from the Post Office that a service will be reintroduced to Portessie with effect from Tuesday 28 November.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“The Network Operations Manager has written to me confirming that a Post Office outreach service will commence in Portessie Public Hall weekly on a Tuesday afternoon with effect from 28 November.

“Customers will be able to access the same range of services as previously but will now also be able to pay for their Road Tax, which I’m sure will be a welcome facility.

“While the new service will only operate on Tuesday afternoons between 1.00pm and 3.00pm, I am pleased that this important local service has been restored to Portessie. If it proves successful and there is a demand, I’m sure that the Post Office will be willing to listen to the community should it wish to see the service level expanded.”

2 November 2017

Summer 2018 Opening Target as ALDI Start Work in Peterhead

Peterhead’s SNP councillors Anne Allan and Stephen Smith, and local MSP Stewart Stevenson, have welcomed the long-awaited start to work at the Kirkburn site by Aldi.

Concerns from local residents over the apparent lack of any visible progress in developing the former Kirkburn Mills site in Peterhead prompted local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson to contact Aldi Stores earlier this year.

ALDI secured planning permission to build a store on the site but, to date, this prominent piece of land on the approach to Peterhead Town Centre remains undeveloped.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am very pleased that work has now started on the site. It’s very clear that the local community not only wish to see the site developed, but also actively want to have Aldi in Peterhead so today’s news is extremely welcome.

“I look forward to further progress and the creation of jobs as we approach the summer 2018 target opening date.”

Peterhead North & Rattray SNP councillor Anne Allan said:

“I’m grateful to Stewart Stevenson for keeping the pressure on Aldi. With the council having granted planning consent, I think everyone in the town is keen to see progress made and the site developed.”

Peterhead South & Cruden councillor Stephen Smith added:

“This is good news indeed and will finally deal with the eyesore that has been left for too long.

“Local residents should be able to see both Aldi contractors and Scottish Power working on the substation, the fencing and hoarding should be going up over the next few weeks along with the arrival of the site cabins. The appointed demolitions company will then set up to begin working on the tenements as soon as all equipment is on site.”
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