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27 December 2017

MSP Praises Work of Peterhead's Street Pastors in Parliament

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has praised the work of Peterhead’s Street Pastors during a debate in the Scottish Parliament.
Speaking in Holyrood, the MSP said:

“Earlier this year, I attended the induction of new pastors in Peterhead. I have not been out on the street with street pastors, but I have certainly been out on a Saturday night with the police on three occasions for approximately five hours, so I know the environment into which street pastors go.

“One of the interesting things that I have heard from those street pastors is that their mere presence changes the character of what is going on. In a place like Peterhead, we might wonder why that should be so. Peterhead has a population of 19,000, but the odds are that the street pastor knows your mum. 


Being able to walk up to somebody who is just a little bit off the proper behaviour and asking,“Will I call your mum? You are obviously needing a wee bit of help” is sometimes enough to nudge people back to proper behaviour. 

It is a very practical thing. We are talking about practical, polite, pastoral support. Getting support is the very meaning of the word “pastoral”.

“The pastors give practical advice and help that will make a real difference to people in places like Peterhead.

“Peterhead is a diverse community. The academy has 28 languages spoken in it. There are therefore plenty of opportunities for confusion and misunderstandings between different parts of the community. The presence of street pastors can help to deal with that. They can help to identify vulnerable people and connect them to support and sources of help.

“Street pastors are a return to the roots of much of what Christian faith is about: supporting other people and being non-judgemental.”

26 December 2017

Stevenson Challenges UK Treasury on Police & Fire Vat U-Turn

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has written to the UK Treasury challenging the UK Tory Government on their climbdown on charging Scotland’s emergency services VAT.

Mr Stevenson has repeatedly called for the UK Treasury to introduce VAT exemption for the police and fire services. 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. But the Tory Minister refused to budge from the previously-stated position that Westminster would levy VAT on Scotland’s police and fire services. Four weeks later, a complete U-turn on VAT was announced in the budget.

Now, Mr Stevenson has written to the Paymaster General asking what changed in the intervening four weeks. In his letter to Mel Stride MP, Mr Stevenson says:

“Notwithstanding your stated position at that time that the UK Government would not change its position and would continue to levy VAT on the emergency services, I am pleased that the Chancellor of the Exchequer – to whom I originally wrote – agreed this would be a sensible move in his Budget Statement on 22 November 2017.

“In your letter of 24 October 2017, you also stated that the Scottish Government “understandably” decided to proceed with police and fire restructuring because the advantages outweighed the costs. You will no doubt be aware that restructuring has allowed the numbers of front-line police officers to be maintained whilst merging back-office functions from eight separate police forces produced economies of scale. This is doubtless why the Scottish Conservatives included proposals for a single police force in their 2011 Manifesto.

“The Chancellor has suggested that this sudden change of mind after four years of lobbying by MSPs and Scottish MPs was entirely down to the arguments put forward by your Scottish Conservative MP colleagues. Given your stated position as at 24 October was one of no change, I should be grateful if you would let me know what highly-persuasive arguments were put forward by the Scottish Conservative MPs in the period between 24 October and 22 November which resulted in this change of mind.”

Mr Stevenson added:

“Along with my SNP colleagues both at Westminster and in the Scottish Government, this issue was raised over 100 times with the Westminster Government. Since the summer alone, I’ve done so twice and received negative responses from the Treasury, albeit the Paymaster General did accept the restructuring of police and fire services to protect frontline services was entirely understandable.

“The Tories themselves, so keen recently to portray restructuring in a negative light for political gain, even included proposals for a single Scottish police force in their 2011 manifesto.

“Given the UK Tory Government dismissed all the arguments in favour of VAT exemption put to it between 2013 and 24 October this year, I’m keen to understand from the Treasury what arguments they actually did listen to which were markedly different from the 100 other approaches made to them during this time.

“It’s a simple question and a failure to answer will reveal the Tories have simply been playing politics with Scotland’s emergency services, to the detriment of the public purse."

25 December 2017

Local MSP Welcomes Funding Boost for People First Fraserburgh

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a grant from the Corra Foundation to a local group. Each year, the foundation distributes just under £1 million through its Henry Duncan Grants programme to grassroots charities working in their local communities.

People First (Fraserburgh), which is based in Banffshire & Buchan Coast constituency, has been awarded the grant £4,000 towards the salary of the Part-time Facilitator.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“These awards show how Corra Foundation continues to be at the heart of funding local communities. I’m delighted these grassroots charities are receiving these funds, enabling them to continue their great work in my constituency. Many of the Henry Duncan Grants go on staff and running costs like this, meaning they are a lifeline for local charities in this tough financial climate.”

Corra Foundation Chief Executive Fiona Duncan added:

“Corra Foundation is privileged to be able to contribute to the work of local groups across Scotland, supporting them as they make a real difference in the lives of many people, including vulnerable children and young people, isolated older people, unpaid carers, families experiencing poverty and people affected by disability or mental health issues. We are committed to our vision of a society in which people create positive change and enjoy fulfilling lives and distributing £1m a year via the Henry Duncan Grants is part of this.”

24 December 2017

Stevenson Pledges Support for Families Across NE Raising Disabled or Seriously Ill Children or Young People

Stewart Stevenson MSP has pledged his support for Family Fund, the UK’s largest charity providing grants for families raising disabled or seriously ill children and young people, and their commitment to increase the number of grants and services they provide to families.

In Scotland, Family Fund supported 6,176 families with grants worth £2.9 million and in North East Scotland they supported 562 families with grants worth £263,892.
Stewart Stevenson MSP with Salena Begley MBE
Family Fund supports families on low incomes raising disabled or seriously ill children and young people to have the same opportunities as others, and help to break down some of the barriers families face on a daily basis.

Families can find out if they’re eligible to apply for a grant by visiting www.familyfund.org.uk. The charity provides grants for a wide range of items, such as kitchen appliances, sensory toys, family breaks, tablets, furniture, outdoor play equipment and clothing.

Family Fund also provided 1,751 Take a Break grants for families in Scotland last year. Take a Break supports carers and their families to take a break, and help improve the quality of life, health and wellbeing of the whole family. Families will next be able to apply for a Take a Break grant in May 2018.

Stewart Stevenson said,

“I’m proud that the Scottish Government funds this work to support disabled children and young people and I pledge to support Family Fund’s commitment to provide 150,000 grants and services to families across the UK by 2022.”

Salena Begley MBE, Scotland Partnership Development Manager for Family Fund, added,

“Getting it right for every child and improving the outcomes and wellbeing of disabled and seriously ill children and young people in Scotland is at the heart of what we do in Family Fund. Raising a disabled child can be up to three times more expensive compared with other children.[1]

“Throughout 2018 Family Fund will be celebrating the achievements of disabled young people in Scotland as part of the as part of the Year of Young People. We are grateful for the continuing support from the Scottish Government and are committed to doing more to improve the outcomes for disabled children and young people over the coming years.”

23 December 2017

"Merry Fishmas" from Stewart Stevenson

MSP Sends Fishy Present to Davis to Highlight Brexit Risks

The MSP representing Europe’s biggest fishing port (Peterhead) and biggest shellfish port (Fraserbugh) is calling on Brexit Secretary David Davis to provide urgent guarantees over continuing access to the European Single Market.

Stewart Stevenson has highlighted that nearly 80% of the seafood landed and processed in Scotland is currently exported to the EU, with tariff free, unimpeded access to consumers across the continent. It is the third largest export sector, valued at over £633 million last year.
The Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP has posted David Davis a Christmas present of a Cullen Skink pie from award-winning fishmonger Downies of Whitehills – containing locally-landed fish which is exported across Europe, and likely to be acutely impacted by a hard Tory Brexit.

Failure by the Tory government to reach a deal which guarantees Scotland’s continuing membership or access to the single market could mean seafood hauliers facing lengthy delays – perhaps for days on end – in lorry parks in Dover and other ports along the south coast of England. Industry chiefs fear that this could compromise the international reputation for fresh, high quality Scottish seafood.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I wish the Brexit Secretary a restful and happy Christmas break. One which will allow him to recharge his batteries, perhaps do some thinking, and return to work with a clear plan for exactly how he’s going to protect Scotland’s seafood sector.

“I represent an industry which depends heavily on free access to the Single Market – with no tariffs, no barriers and relatively easy transit from the North East of Scotland to dining tables all across Europe.

“We don’t want to see Tory ineptitude result in no trade deal, or to see needless hurdles erected which make it harder to do business across Europe.

“Nor do we want to see lorry-loads of fresh, high-quality Scottish seafood waiting by the lorryload in queues at Dover for lengthy customs checks. It could compromise the freshness of the product – as David Davis might learn to his peril if he doesn’t pick up his Christmas gift from me in time.

“The best way to guarantee that Scotland’s reputations for quality seafood isn’t squandered by the Tories it to maintain our place in the Single Market.”

20 December 2017

MSP Welcomes Cash Boost for Community Group

A North-East community group has been given a cash-boost by the Big Lottery Fund.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson MSP has welcomed an award of £10,000 for the Rosehearty Community Boat Club.
The funding, which is part of the National Lottery Awards for All Scotland grant, was given to the group which offers boating experiences to people of all ages.

It also offers the chance to learn craft skills development through boat building workshops.

The project will allow them to renovate their new premises which they have recently acquired and develop it into a community space.

Around 100 community groups across Scotland shared the cash injection totalling £789,456.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am delighted the Rosehearty Community Boat Club has been awarded £10,000 towards their work.

“A number of groups in my constituency have benefited from a cash boost this year and I am thrilled another has been added to the list.

“Community groups are at the very heart of the area they serve and provide an outreach for residents to come together and learn new skills.

“This kind of investment can often be invaluable and I am very pleased to welcome the latest round of funding.”

A National Lottery Awards for All spokesperson said:

“This is National Lottery money making a real impact in communities across Scotland.

"All of these awards really showcase the variety of projects that can be funded and highlight the difference a relatively small amount of money can make.

"We wish all of these groups all the best for the festive season and the future.”

15 December 2017

Stevenson Welcomes Budget as Good News for Moray Council

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the budget statement by SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP.

The budget proposals set out in the Scottish Parliament mean a proposed revenue grant for Moray Council that is nearly £2Million better than expected and at a level that had been described as ‘optimistic’ in the Council Administration’s budget proposals.

In addition, the budget reaffirmed the SNP’s commitment to getting Superfast Broadband to every household and business in Scotland with a £600m commitment to achieve that; an additional £179m to raise attainment in schools; an extra £400 million for the NHS and seven out of ten income taxpayers paying less than they did this year.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“My colleagues on Moray Council have analysed what the budget means for local government in Moray and I join them in welcoming the package announced by the Finance Minister as being good for Moray in the face of continuing Tory cuts being handed down from Westminster to the Scottish Government.

“The SNP Group on Moray Council have always sought to play a constructive role as the main opposition, for example, by promoting innovative ways to save the taxpayer money such as sharing services with other councils and public sector bodies. I am sure that search for savings will continue, even though the council will be nearly £2Million better off than forcasted thanks to the budget settlement announced by the Scottish Government.

“I hope the ruling Administration of Conservatives and Independents will recognise that this gives them an opportunity to take a more long-term and strategic approach to delivery of local services than has perhaps been the case in the past.”

Stevenson Comments on Crimond Post Office Closure

The Post Office have advised Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson that Crimond Post Office will close on 27 December 2017 owing to the closure of the existing shop at the same location.

The Post Office state this is a temporary closure and they are currently seeking alternative host premises from which to operate.

Commenting, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“It is always disappointing when a Post Office closes but people’s circumstances do change and while the shop will also be a loss to the community, I wish the present owners well going forward.

“I am heartened that Post Office management see this as only a temporary closure and are keen to continue to provide a service to Crimond and the local community.

“I have written to Post Office management to underline the importance of a continued presence in Crimond and trust that an alternative which is convenient for the village can be found in the very near future.”


Peterhead North & Rattray SNP councillor Anne Allan added:

“I am concerned that the people of Crimond are being left without at Post Office and I hope something can be done as quickly as possible to restore the service in an accessible location.”

14 December 2017

Stevenson Welcomes Additional Fishing Opportunities

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed an additional £44million of fishing opportunities for Scotland’s industry following annual negotiations in Brussels.

The package includes a strong increase of 38% for North Sea whiting, 20% for monkfish, 22% for North Sea Norway lobster and 26% for west of Scotland haddock.

Nine of the 13 stocks the Scottish Government measures its sustainability performance against have been set in line with the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) for 2018.

It is the highest possible annual catch that can be sustained over time by keeping the stock at the level producing maximum growth – an increase from 62% this year.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Once again during challenging negotiations, the Scottish Government has secured a strong result for the sector.

“As well as more than £440million in deals for the industry, crucial increases have also been made for key species.

“Of course, Brexit has had a significant impact on negotiations this year but I have no doubt the Scottish Government will continue to fight for assurances from the UK Government that they will not trade access to Scottish waters away.”

Another important gain made in addressing a major potential choke species under the landing obligation was a new geographic flexibility provision for ling.

It will help the industry deal with shortfalls in the North Sea and allow them to transfer up to 15% of quota from the west of Scotland if needed.

This is in addition to a 10% increase in the total allowable catch limit for the North Sea, which wil provide additional relief to quote shortages.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing commented:

“Compared to 2017 this is an extra £44 million of fishing opportunities which means our industry will go into 2018 in strong health. I am also pleased that we received more
flexibilities for ling, which will prevent our vessels from being tied up early when there is sufficient quota elsewhere.

“However I am frustrated that the European Commission was unwilling to accept any of our proposals on Cod and Norway lobster that would have assisted vessels operating on the west coast of Scotland.

“We cannot and will not accept Scottish fishing interests being put at risk.”

11 December 2017

MSP Encourages Parents in North-East to Make Use of Free Flu Vaccine

SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson is encouraging all parents and guardians of 2-5 year olds in the Banffshire and Buchan Coast area to take advantage of the free flu vaccine before Christmas.

In a bid to keep children virus-free this winter, GP practices across Scotland are providing the nasal flu vaccine free of charge.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“With only two weeks left until Christmas I am urging all parents or guardians in the Banffshire and Buchan area who haven’t yet done so, to take their children between the ages of two and five to their local GP for the free flu vaccine.

“The nasal spray only takes a few minutes, is painless, and does not contain a live virus so will not cause flu in your child and can protect against flu for up to a year.

“It’s very important that children receive the vaccine, which the best defence against flu for your children and also helps reduce the spread of infectious flu.”

7 December 2017

UK Transport Secretary Admits: "Running the Track and the Train Together Makes Sense"

SNP Calls for Full Devolution of Network Rail with Vision to Radically Improve Service

The UK Secretary of State for Transport has conceded that it “makes sense” to run “the track and the train together”, supporting the SNP’s longstanding view that fully devolving Network Rail would improve Scotland’s rail services.

At the moment, while the Scottish Government is in charge of Scotrail’s funding, policy and strategy, Network Rail is still responsible for railway infrastructure and answers only to the UK Government, not Holyrood.
Scotrail figures for the latest four week period and over the last year show that Network Rail was responsible for just over half of all ScotRail delays.

UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling described Network Rail as it currently stands as a “centralised, big blob at the centre".

Commenting, local MSP and former Scottish Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

“In spite of Network Rail’s shambolic operations, Scotrail’s services over the last year were punctual, on average, 91.1% of the time, compared to the UK average of 88.4%.

“The Reform Scotland think tank last year backed the Scottish Government’s vision to fully devolve Network Rail in order to improve the service for Scottish passengers and enable a “clear line of accountability” when things go wrong.

“The SNP is doing all it can to improve our rail services with the powers we have, but we need greater accountability of Network Rail in Scotland and we welcome Chris Grayling’s admission that a centralised Network Rail is not delivering.

“We know that further devolution will bring substantial savings of around £100 million every year.

“Only with full devolution of rail powers can the Scottish Government consider the full range of options for structuring our railways to meet the needs of travellers in Scotland.”

6 December 2017

MSP Highlights Unfair Delivery Charges Facing Banffshire and Buchan Coast

SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson is calling for an end to the unfair delivery charges facing many online shoppers in his Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituency.

It comes after fresh research by Citizens Advice Scotland revealed many Scots are facing charges of between 30-50%.
Supporting Richard Lochhead MSP’s Fair Delivery Charges campaign in the Scottish Parliament today (Wednesday 6th December), Mr Stevenson has condemned what Citizens Advice Scotland has dubbed the ‘postcode penalty’ facing online shoppers across Scotland.

A constituent in Fraserburgh faced a £19.99 excess charge for a book table which had the offer of free delivery for customers in England and Wales but not Scotland.

Meanwhile in Banff, leggings which cost £7.96 had a delivery surcharge of £11.96.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It is extremely unfair that some of the most loyal online shoppers in the North-East and across rural Scotland are the ones facing location discrimination and having to pay a postcode penalty to get their items delivered this Christmas.

“Citizens Advice Scotland’s research shows that many businesses and families in Scotland are being charged an average of nearly £19 extra when buying goods online, and similar horror stories from the Banffshire and Buchan Coast area including in Fraserburgh.

“I am delighted that Richard Lochhead MSP has brought this issue to Parliament so that we can highlight the problem and stop retailers getting away with charging wildly different delivery fees for neighbouring postcodes simply because they can.

“Hopefully the campaign will force retailers to stop this discrimination and adopt set standards for deliveries to each and every corner of the UK, not least the North-East.”

4 December 2017

MSP Welcomes Jobs and Investment Boost for North East

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a jobs boost for the North-East.

Around 20 jobs are expected to be created through the creation of new fish processing factory Seafood Sourcing at Fraserburgh Harbour.

The firm plans to invest £614,000 in one of the buildings previously occupied by Young’s Seafood.

A £307,000 grant from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and the Scottish Government will meet 50% of the costs of the new project which aims to supply European markets with Scottish whitefish.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This is fantastic news for the area. Investment in the onshore sector is crucial for the growth of our seafood industry.

“The UK’s decision to exit from the European Union has caused huge uncertainty across all sectors particularly fishing.

“The investment by the EMFF and the Scottish Government is a much needed boost for the area.

“I look forward to visiting the new facilities when they are complete.”

1 December 2017

MSP Visits Banff Business to Highlight Small Business Saturday

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson paid a visit to a recently-established small business in Banff to highlight Small Business Saturday, which takes place tomorrow (2 December).

The SNP MSP visited Granny Bakes in Strait Path, Banff to help promote local businesses and ‘shop local’.

Mr Stevenson also referenced the business in a Parliamentary debate earlier in the week about small businesses.

Stewart Stevenson said:

“It was a pleasure to meet with Angela Wiseman and hear about one of Banff’s newest businesses, ‘Granny Bakes’. It is great to see new businesses opening up in this regeneration town and I wish Angela every success going forward.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the Scottish economy, accounting for 99% of all businesses across the country, supporting jobs and growth in our communities as well as providing an invaluable service to consumers.

“An impressive £717m was spent in small businesses during last year’s Small Business Saturday, that’s 15% more than in 2015, and I believe we can do even better this year.

“Independent shops and small businesses have to compete in a market that is increasingly dominated by the big players, and buying from a locally owned business means the money is much more likely to stay in the community.

“Since 2009, the SNP Government’s Small Business Bonus Scheme has provided a total of £1.5bn rates relief and last year, a £500m growth fund was set up to cope with the new challenges posed by a Tory hard Brexit.

“I encourage everyone to take advantage of the delights on our door step and visit our local businesses this Saturday and beyond to ensure our local businesses thrive.”

Stevenson Helps Launch Peterhead's Compass Point Service

Local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson assisted at the formal launch of Compass Point last week. The service is a new community hub with a focus on employability, financial inclusion, benefits and money support.

Local Third Sector Partners, Aberdeenshire Council and NHS Grampian have worked together to provide an easily accessible venue in the heart of Peterhead in Back Street. The service is managed by a partnership made up of The Foyer, North-east Scotland Credit Union, Aberdeenshire Voluntary Action, NHS Grampian and Aberdeenshire Council. It provides free access to the internet and telephones, and offers advice and signposting as well as opportunities to learn new skills to support members of the local community into employment or training.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“Compass Point is a valuable resource and has already been providing much-appreciated support to local people in the fields of employability support, assistance with financial matters and a whole range of other services.

“I heard from service users at the launch on Friday of how useful the service had been to them. It is a very useful local facility which has been supported through Aberdeenshire Council’s regeneration scheme and also assisted by the European Social Fund.

“It was a pleasure to meet with Angus McCurrach, the service co-ordinator, and also June, one of the founder volunteers, whom I helped perform the official opening.”

Stevenson Seeks Assurances from RBS on Banff Closure

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has sought assurances from the Royal Bank of Scotland on the continued availability of a cash machine in Banff following today’s announcement that the bank’s branch in the town is to close next year.

The closure means that the Royal Bank of Scotland will have closed every branch in Banffshire once Banff Branch closes its doors in May 2018.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“This is very disappointing news, particularly as the Royal Bank branch in Banff is an iconic building in a prime location in a regeneration town. However, the entire banking industry is being affected by huge changes in how people do their banking, with more and more people opting to do this online instead of visiting their local branch.

“There will always be a need for some personal and business customers to conduct some banking face-to-face and the Royal Bank will be introducing a mobile service to Banff, similar to that which operates elsewhere. I will be writing to the Bank asking that they make the details of this arrangement public as soon as possible in order that people can make an informed choice about whether to stick with the new service, or to support one of the remaining banks in the town.

“I will also be seeking an assurance on the availability of the cash machine. When the Clydesdale Bank closed in Banff a few months ago, the ATM was removed. RBS should work with other local businesses and find a location for their ATM which is convenient for customers and can potentially benefit another business.”
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