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21 February 2017

Local MP & MSP Back Scottish Government Rates Relief

Measures Prove SNP Government Will Always Back North-East Businesses

Banff & Buchan SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford and Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have backed the Scottish Government’s proposals on business rates, after Finance Secretary Derek Mackay announced a wide-ranging relief scheme that will offer strong support to businesses across the North-east.

Overall, the complete package of Scottish Government relief will ensure that 60% of businesses in the Aberdeenshire Council area will see either no change or a decrease in their business rates bill – with more businesses being entitled to support through the small business bonus scheme. The Scottish Government had already taken action to reduce the rates poundage to help businesses who have seen a revaluation.

The relief proposals will provide support for hotels, restaurants, pubs and cafes, which had seen their rates rise the steepest following the 2015 revaluation. Any rises in this sector will be capped at 12.5% - providing substantial support to the tourism and hospitality industries in Banff & Buchan.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“This announcement by the Scottish Government proves once again the SNP’s commitment to local businesses across the North-east – with the substantial package of support ensuring that many businesses will not see any rise in the rates that they pay.

“The support for the tourism and hospitality sectors is very welcome – after these industries were left facing substantial hikes in their rates bills. The cap of a 12.5% increase provides excellent support to hotels, pubs, restaurants and cafes throughout Banff & Buchan.

“The extension to the small business bonus will see over 100,000 firms across Scotland pay no rates whatsoever, which is a strong package of support for local businesses, and comes in addition to other funding offered in the Scottish Government’s budget, including the £500m Scottish Growth Scheme, and action taken to reduce the rates poundage.”

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It was frustrating to see the Conservatives on both Moray Council and Aberdeenshire Council reject sensible proposals from the SNP for a local relief scheme – showing that the Tories are only interested in political point scoring rather than actually doing anything to support local businesses.

“I’m particularly pleased that my SNP colleagues on Aberdeenshire Council managed to secure their local relief scheme with the support of Labour and progressive Independent councilors. This now means businesses in the Aberdeenshire area will potentially benefit from both schemes, supporting the local economy at this time.

“This relief package shows that only the SNP are interested in taking decisive action to support communities and businesses, whilst the Tories chase cheap headlines by carping from the side-lines.

“Overall, 60% of businesses in the Aberdeenshire Council area will see either a decrease or no change in the bills that they pay as a result of the Scottish Government’s support – helping to protect jobs and support firms in the North-east. It is time for the opposition parties to put their political opportunism to one side and to get behind the substantial support that the Scottish Government is proposing.”

16 February 2017

Tory Business Rates Hypocrisy Continues

Bid to Block Relief to Scots Firms Amid Soaring Charges in England

The Tories have been exposed for “appalling hypocrisy” after reports showed that firms are set to be “hammered” by business rates changes in England – while Tory councillors have voted against support for businesses here in Scotland.

The Tory groups on Moray and Aberdeenshire councils voted against rates relief at local authority level, despite Ruth Davidson’s rhetoric on the issue.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson, said:

“Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Tories are guilty of the most appalling hypocrisy on this issue.

”Firstly, Tory groups in Scottish councils are trying to block relief schemes to lower bills for firms in their areas.

“Meanwhile, the Tory government at Westminster has failed to take the decisive action over poundage and the small business bonus that the Scottish Government has to support local businesses, leading to soaring bills for companies south of the border.

“This kind of dishonesty and blatant double standards from the Tories shows them up for the opportunists that they are.

“The Tory council groups in Moray and Aberdeenshire ought to be ashamed of themselves for betraying local businesses by refusing rates relief in Moray, and by trying unsuccessfully to stop the SNP-led administration in Aberdeenshire from providing substantial support of £3 million for local businesses.

“The SNP will take no lectures from the Tories on this issue – and voters will see the shameful hypocrisy at the heart of Tory claims for what it is.”

15 February 2017

Tories Vote Against Rates Relief for Businesses

"Astonishing Hypocrisy" from Conservatives

Tory councillors in the North-East of Scotland have rejected plans to offer businesses rates relief for the second time in under a week – after the Tory-led Moray administration today threw out an SNP amendment encouraging the Moray Council to follow Aberdeenshire’s lead in offering local business rates relief.

SNP councillors in Aberdeenshire last week passed a budget allocating £3 million for a local business rates relief scheme, to help those that have seen larger rates revaluations and are feeling the effects of the downturn in the north east economy. SNP councillors in Moray had tabled an amendment to the Tory-led budget in Moray suggesting a similar scheme, but this was rejected by Tory councillors, including part-time-MSP-cum-referee-cum-councillor Douglas Ross.

On the same day as Ruth Davidson has reportedly stated that businesses are “staring down the barrel of a gun” due to changes to business rates, the actions of Tory councillors clearly demonstrated they are more interested in opportunistic soundbites rather than providing firms with meaningful support when they have the powers to do so.

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

“This is quite astonishing from the Tory-led administration in Moray. They have not stopped criticising the Scottish Government for the changes to business rates, yet they refuse to use the powers that they have at a local level to provide firms with meaningful support.

“It is clear that Ruth Davidson’s Tories are only interested in scoring political points rather than actually providing any support to the businesses they have claimed to support in recent weeks.

“Voters across Moray and Aberdeenshire aren’t daft, and they’ll have seen Douglas Ross and others leading the chorus against changes to businesses rates, before he voted today to prevent businesses from receiving substantial support. Their opposition has been proven to be nothing more than crocodile tears.

“The Tories ought to be ashamed of themselves – and their actions won’t be forgotten by voters in Aberdeenshire, Moray and beyond when they go to the polls in May.”

Tributes Paid to Former Peterhead Councillor

Tributes have been paid to former Peterhead SNP councillor Agnes Strachan, who died after a short illness last week.

Agnes Strachan represented Buchanhaven-Catto on the former Banff & Buchan District Council from 1988 to 1996, and Buchanhaven on Aberdeenshire Council from 1995 until she stepped-down in 2007.

Leading the tributes, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“Agnes was a stalwart of her local community. She got on and did the work of a councillor and helped her constituents in her own, quiet, unassuming way.

“She was elected to serve her local community five times and was returned with huge majorities each time, which I think was a mark of her popularity. She will be greatly missed and my condolences go to her family at this sad time.”

Peterhead North & Rattray councillor Anne Allan said:

“Agnes was a valued colleague of mine on Aberdeenshire Council who could be relied upon to bring a common-sense viewpoint to any discussion. The huge turnout at her funeral to pay their respects was a testament to the esteem in which she was held.”

Fellow Peterhead North & Rattray councillor Fiona McRae added:

“I was so sorry to hear of Agnes’s passing and send my condolences to Peter and her family. Agnes was an exceptional public servant and champion for her Ward and her loss will be sorely felt by all who knew her.”

9 February 2017

Stevenson Supports Constituents Affected by Heart Disease

An Estimated 9,600 People In Banffshire & Buchan Coast Live with Heart and Circulatory Disease

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has shown his support for people affected by heart and circulatory disease by meeting with the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland at the Scottish Parliament. This was an opportunity to learn more about the number of local people affected by heart disease in the North-east and to find out how BHF Scotland is helping to save and improve the lives of people affected by heart and circulatory disease.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“Heart and circulatory disease affects thousands of people in Banffshire & Buchan Coast. For example, 1,547 have survived a stroke, 3,329 are living with coronary heart disease and 611 have heart failure. The BHF funds vital research and provides support and information for those affected by heart and circulatory disease and their families.

“Research is vital if we are to continue making great strides in preventing, diagnosing and treating heart disease.”

Commenting, James Cant, Director of BHF Scotland, said,

“Coronary heart disease is still our single biggest killer, and these figures show that there is no part of the country that is untouched by heart and circulatory disease. That’s why we’re currently investing £63 million in research in Scotland. Since 1961 we’ve helped halve the number of Scots dying from heart and circulatory disease. Now, we’re hoping to break new ground, create new treatments and discover new cures. One day, we’ll beat heart disease for good.

“We were delighted to meet Stewart Stevenson MSP at the Scottish Parliament, and share this important information about the risk factors in Banffshire & Buchan Coast and the numbers of people affected by these devastating conditions that can strike unexpectedly, tearing families apart without warning. Thanks to BHF research, we can offer them hope for the future.”

Local MSP Celebrates Burns and Scots Language

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, spoke on the importance of accepting and celebrating Robert Burns and the Scots language in a recent Scottish Parliament Debate.

Mr Stevenson focused on the enduring impact Burns and Scots has had on Scottish culture. He noted the great sense of pride Scottish people feel about the status of Scots as an indigenous language.

The Scottish Parliament went on to discuss the need to encourage efforts to write down Scots language and ensure its continuation. The Parliament jointly honoured Robert Burns and recognised Scots as a vital part of Scotland’s history, culture and representing Scotland to the rest of the world.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“We should diligently and proudly celebrate Robert Burns and Scots language, and not just once a year on Burn’s Day. People on farms, on ships and in cities all know of Burns and they are all part of the community that has inherited the legacy of his poems. I applaud organisations like the Strichen and Rosehearty Burns Clubs in the North-east which help us keep our proud heritage alive in our communities.”

“I stand with the Scottish Government in recognising Scots in all its forms, as it is at the heart of many communities as well as Scottish literature and heritage. The 2011 census showed 1.5 million Scots had some fluency in the language and I hope that continues to grow. I support the promotion and preservation of Scots and the great poetry of the Bard. I hope we can all recognise and experience the legacy of Burns and Scots – they are more than simply words, they are symbols of who were are—their legacy is us.”

Stevenson Condemns Blank Cheque to Tories

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has criticised the blank cheque on the terms of leaving the EU given to the Tories last night.

Mr Stevenson spoke during today’s First Ministers Questions in which he asked Ms Sturgeon for her response to the Conservative / Labour alliance at Westminster which voted down reasoned protections for Scotland’s interests.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“It’s an utter disgrace that the Tories have been given a blank cheque to negotiate any deal they feel like with democratic input. They accepted none of the amendments tabled at Westminster by the SNP and others.

“For example they now have a Parliamentary support allowing them to implement what their white paper describes as a mutually beneficial agreement with EU fishing interests. That’s another disgraceful sell-out of our fishermen.

“The Prime Minister’s hard right cohort want to railroad Scotland and the UK off an economic cliff edge despite none of the 33 million EU referendum voters being asked if they wanted to leave the single market.

“The SNP is now the only voice of reason in Westminster. We continue to protect Scotland’s interests but it’s more and more obvious that neither Labour nor the Tories can be trusted with this responsibility.

“The Tory Government has proven time and again that they will pursue policies that are disastrous for Scotland.”

7 February 2017

MSP Votes for Landmark Scottish Budget

Tory/LibDem Opposition Fail to Support Investment in North-East

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has hailed the Scottish Government’s Budget which will see communities across Aberdeenshire Council Area benefit from greater support as a result. This includes an additional £8 million in resource and capital funding.

Tory and Lib Dem opponents failed to support investment for the North-east in the budget – with opposition parties voting against the SNP’s proposals to fund local services on Thursday.

Stewart Stevenson has condemned the approach taken by the Tories and Lib Dems, providing opposition for opposition’s sake rather than supporting investment in communities throughout the North-east.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“This Scottish Government budget provides a strong funding deal for the North-east, giving spending commitments in the NHS, education, infrastructure, environment and the economy. For the opposition parties, with the exception of the Greens, to vote against all of this was deeply disappointing and against the best interests of our communities.

“It was disappointing to see the opposition be more interested in political point scoring rather than standing up for their local communities in the North-east – but there’s still time for them to drop their opposition and back the Scottish Government’s proposals as the Budget Bill progresses.

“The North-east itself will benefit from a range of direct spending commitments, including rural broadband funding, which will create benefits for local businesses and communities by further improving digital communication and infrastructure.

“The Tories and Lib Dems should think again before choosing to rob the North-east of these vital services in a narrow-minded campaign designed to achieve nothing more than embarrassing the SNP Scottish Government. This budget is too important for our communities to allow that to happen.”

MSP Promotes Scotland's Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has championed continuing efforts by the Scottish Government to preserve historic Scotland.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate on Scotland’s themed year of history, heritage and archaeology. He emphasizes Scotland’s historical draw and its important role in bringing visitors from all over the world which will in turn help generate growth in the tourism sector.

The Scottish Parliament agreed that the history of Scotland is vital to the continuance of Scottish culture but also the country’s economy. Parliament backed the Scottish Government’s announcement of £6.6 million in funding for historic conservation and improvement projects during 2017.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“I proudly support the Scottish Government’s allocation for this year’s theme on history, heritage, and archaeology. Scotland’s unique history and heritage has many social, economic, and cultural benefits and has made our country a go-to tourism destination.

“In addition to our exceptional castles, artefacts, and landmarks, Scotland is the ancestral home to as many as 50 million people globally. All of us are likely to have relatives out there who are interested in what we do in Scotland and who retain an active interest in their own history here.

“Supporting Scotland’s historic assets is a huge opportunity. It’s an opportunity for protecting Scottish culture, tourism and growing our local economies – but also to build stronger connections to history lovers and ancestral Scots around the world.”

Stewart Stevenson Welcomes £2.5 Million Boost for North-East Schools

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, has backed the Scottish Government’s drive to improve standards in schools, including a £2,569,200 boost to schools in the North-east.

The share each school is due to receive from the Scottish Government’s new £120 million Pupil Equity Fund has been revealed by Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

135 primaries and 17 secondaries across Aberdeenshire Council Area are set to receive additional support worth thousands of pounds. It will be up to teachers and school leaders to decide the best way of using the funding to close the poverty related attainment gap in their schools.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Every child in Scotland should have the best possible start in life, and it is unacceptable for children from the poorest backgrounds to have their chances limited by circumstances outside their control.

“The SNP in government has made closing the poverty-related attainment gap our number one priority, and our new £120 million Pupil Equity Fund is aimed at doing just that – supporting 135 primaries and 17 secondaries in the Aberdeenshire Council Area.

“This new announcement will let parents, teachers and school leaders in the North-east see how much funding they can expect to drive up standards and tackle the inter-generational cycle of deprivation in their school.”

Stevenson - Tories Intent on Stifling Growth in North East Energy Sector

UK Government Discrimination Threatens Peterhead Plant

The SNP has accused the Tories of betraying the North East by delivering another blow to Peterhead power station.

The plant has lost out on a crucial deal because of the UK’s punitive transmission charging regime - which deliberately puts power stations in Scotland at a competitive disadvantage with higher fees than rival power stations south of the border.

The Capacity Market auction awards funding to electricity generators in return for guaranteeing supplies to the national grid at times of potential shortages.

The Tories have already axed a potential £1bn investment in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology at Peterhead, and this latest blow demonstrates how UK Government policies, focussed on the needs of the south east of England, are stifling economic activity in the North East.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It is grossly unfair that Peterhead was disadvantaged in the UK government’s Capacity Market auction purely because of its location in the North East of Scotland. Whacking higher transmission fees on Scotland’s only gas-fired power station because it isn’t next door to London is both ludicrous and discriminatory.

“The Tories previously axed their commitment to invest £1bn in CCS technology that was earmarked for Peterhead - and this latest revelation is just another example of the Tories managing a decline in investment and damaging the local economy, jobs, and the future capacity of Peterhead as an energy provider.

“Scotland is an active contributor to the UK’s energy market however developing capacity will be impossible if we cannot compete on a level playing field. The Tories can’t justify stifling investment and development in Peterhead whilst building new power stations elsewhere in the country. Strategically, economically and ethically, it doesn’t make sense.”

2 February 2017

Tories gearing up to sell out fishing... again

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford, and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have condemned the UK Government’s weak commitment to the Scottish fishing industry in its White Paper to leave the European Union.

The White Paper, just 75 pages long, was published today following the UK Government’s victory in the Commons on Wednesday night.

Speaking after the publication, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“The paper published today confirms what many in my constituency have feared, that the potential opportunities of leaving the CFP will be watered down as fishing interests become a bargaining chip in wider trade negotiations.

“The SNP has been consistent in opposition to the CFP, and that remains our position. The UK Government, in contrast, has consistently negotiated poor deals for the industry. The Conservatives could have articulated tough demands for the benefit of our industry in its White Paper – instead, there’s a mealy-mouthed commitment to a ‘mutually beneficial deal’.

“The Tories sold out the Scottish fishing industry going into the EU. The danger is it will now betray it on the way out.”

Stewart Stevenson added:

“The White Paper shows more than ever that the UK Tory Government is just itching to use Scottish fishing to bargain for London’s financial sector. It’s there in black and white. The Tories will make Scottish fishermen pay the price for their negotiations.

“This is a complete betrayal of Scotland’s interest – making the white paper’s claim to secure Scotland’s interest not worth the paper it’s written on. The real danger under the Tories that only part of the EU we do not leave is - the Common Fisheries Policy.

“The only champion of our fishing is the SNP, the Tories will pretend right up until they’ve sold us out – again. There are huge opportunities for our coastal communities, these communities have the chance to thrive – but that won’t happen if we let the Tories have their way.”
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