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20 February 2018

MSP Backs Reforms to Scotland's Income Tax System

Low and middle income earners will be protected in the Scottish Government’s budget which will also deliver for public services and public sector workers.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the progressive reforms to Scotland’s income tax system.

It comes as Stage 3 of the Budget (Scotland) (No.2) Bill is laid before the Scottish Parliament.

There will be modest increases on high earners, while 70% of taxpayers will pay less than they did last year and 55% will pay less than the rest of the UK.

Opinion polling has found that Scots back the SNP’s tax plans by two to one.

The Budget will also deliver an additional £400million for the NHS, an expansion in childcare, more spending on broadband, extra funding for police and fire services and a pay rise for hard-working public sector employees.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“This is a budget for a stronger economy and a fairer society – with increased funding for the NHS and protection for low and middle income earners.

“The Scottish Government is delivering lower income tax for 70% of Scots, with every worker earning less than £33,000 paying less in tax next year – while protecting public services across the Banffshire and Buchan Coast that we all hold dear.

“This budget brings an additional £400 million to NHS Scotland, delivers a pay rise for public sector workers, £756 million for affordable homes, additional funding for the arts and culture sector, a £4 billion investment in infrastructure, including in superfast broadband, as well as significant investments in research, education and childcare.

“In the face of massive Westminster cuts, ongoing Tory austerity and a damaging hard Brexit – this budget provides investment to seize the opportunities of tomorrow.”

15 February 2018

MSP Welcomes Success of North-East Shop's Accolade

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has congratulated a North-East tourist shop after it achieved one of the highest Quality Assurance accolades from Visit Scotland.

The Platform, in Macduff, has achieved the prestigious five-star Tourist Shop award following its first ever grading visit.

It comes after the once former railway station was renovated into a shopping destination.

The shop offers a wide selection of gifts, home furnishings and clothing.

The Platform has also joined the VisitScotland Information Partner (VIP) programme.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“My constituency is full of many hidden treasures I am delighted The Platform has been recognised by Visit Scotland.

“It is clear hard work has paid off and it is a testament to staff who are clearly very valued by their customers.

“I would like to congratulate them on achieving this award on their first grading visit and I look forward to their continued success in the future.”

Jo Robinson, Regional Director at VisitScotland said:

“The Platform is an exceptional example of a business that is working in partnership with VisitScotland – making the most of our opportunities and drawing on the impartial advice and experience to invest in and develop their business.”

9 February 2018

MSP Slams Tory Broadband Claims

MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has slammed Tory claims that not enough is being done to improve broadband.

Mr Stevenson has pointed to figures published by Ofcom that show progress in properties accessing superfast broadband is faster in Scotland than elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Between 2014 and 2016 Scotland saw a 22% increase in the proportion of properties that can access superfast broadband compared to 14% in the UK.

Rural areas in Scotland have also seen action being taken quicker than other countries with the increase in availability of superfast broadband in rural areas being at 46% in Scotland whilst England saw an increase of 38%; Northern Ireland 29% and Wales 5%.

Further figures show that had the Scottish Government not stepped in Aberdeenshire would have seen 25% of its properties access superfast broadband whilst the current figure is actually 82%.

Mr Stevenson has also pointed to The Scottish Government’s commitment to provide 100% of residential and business premises with superfast broadband which is three times faster than the UK. A commitment which has not been matched by any other country in the UK.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP, said:

“It really beggers belief that a local Tory MP is having a go at the Scottish Government despite Scotland seeing faster progress in getting superfast broadband in recent years than it is being done elsewhere in the UK.

“It is the UK which is the responsibility for digital services. However, the SNP Scottish Government have made a very bold and ambitious commitment to give 100% of premises access to superfast broadband, three times that of which the UK Government will deliver, because the UK Government are not being ambitious enough. Something I know that my constituents in Banffshire & Buchan Coast are delighted about.”

Highlighting the funding being made available for the R100 programme, Stewart Stevenson MSP, said:

“£600 million is be provided to deliver this by the SNP and rural areas are being prioritised. What are we getting from the Tories? £20 million. This is less that Devon and Somerset are getting for a less ambitious programme.

“Instead of his usual deflection of SNP bad stories perhaps Mr Duguid and his Tory colleagues should stand up for Scotland at Westminster and address the measly funding we are getting from the UK Government as well as getting improvements made to mobile coverage for the communities of the North East of Scotland.”

MSP Welcomes Business Boost for Macduff Shipyard

A business boosted by more than £500,000 thanks to a new product it developed has been congratulated by an MSP.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has commended the work of staff at the Macduff Shipyard.

It comes after they were approached by client Scottish Sea Farms and asked to create a new way to remove algae from its fish pen nets.

The product designed by the shipyard was found to be more effective at removing build-up of algae.

Now six more units have been ordered worth more than £500,000.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“This is brilliant news for Macduff Shipyards. They have worked hard alongside their long-standing client to develop this technology which will help enhance both the health and welfare of salmon within pens.

“Working with communities is hugely important and this will create a real boost for the local area.

“It is clear the work has been somewhat of a game-changer and we hope this is only the beginning.”

8 February 2018

UK Tory Government 'Found Out' on Delivery Charges

Documents have revealed a senior politician was previously warned about the huge costs facing people across Scotland from delivery charges.

It comes after Margot James last month denied in the commons that she had any correspondence on the issue from the Scottish Government prior to a debate put forward by Tory MP Douglas Ross.

In December, a debate was secured in the Commons following a year-long campaign by Moray MSP Richard Lochhead.

During the debate, Douglas Ross asked for confirmation on what contact her department had with the SNP Scottish Government on the issue of delivery charges.

Ms James responded:

“I am not aware of any contact. My office has not had any, but I will find out whether any other offices in my Department have had any contact and write to my hon. Friend with the answer.”

But the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was contacted in December 2016 by the Scottish Government Minister Paul Wheelhouse.

In the letter he said:

“I welcome the engagement of the UK Government on this issue and its recent work on producing a leaflet outlining retailers’ responsibilities.

However, as the regulation for prices of parcels is reserved to Westminster, and many retailers are based outside Scotland, I believe that the UK Government needs to take further measures to improve the situation.”

And in a response in January last year by Ms James, she thanked the Minister for bringing the issue to her “attention”.

She added:

“Regulating prices or intervening in how businesses establish their pricing structures would not be in consumers’ best interests.

“These are commercial interests and should be left to the market. For these reasons, I do not believe more legislation is necessary.

“We will work with the consumer advice agencies on promoting the messages in the leaflet, to make sure retailers are aware of and fulfil their responsibilities.”

The debate at Westminster last month took place after work by Drew Hendry MP and Richard Lochhead MSP to drive the issue forward.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am pleased to see the issue of delivery charges being brought to the attention of Westminster.

“But I am disappointed by the woeful attempt of Mr Ross and his Conservative colleagues to try and bring into dispute the hard work which has been going on for too long by my SNP colleagues both at Holyrood and Westminster.

“It is the UK Government who have the power to make the changes to delivery charges and they must do so now, rather than using the issue as a political football.

“Margot James has been left red-faced by her denial of any communication from the Scottish Government.

“Many people in my constituency of Banffshire and Buchan Coast and all over Scotland, are currently facing extortionate delivery charges based on where they live.

“Consumers are being classed as living in the Highlands and are often forced to pay more than the cost of the item itself simply to have it delivered.

“It must end now.”

17 January 2018

MSP Calls for Constituents to Give Views on Loneliness Strategy

A consultation has been launched looking at the causes of social isolation and loneliness and how they can be addressed.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is calling on his constituents to contribute to the work which will feed into a new national strategy.

It is one of the first in the world to combat loneliness and isolation.

A national strategy to combat loneliness was a key ask of the Jo Cox Commission, which welcomed this announcement.

And views are also being sought on how communities can build on the work of the Scottish Government, and lead on ensuring those at risk of becoming lonely or isolate have access to the right support networks.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“It’s important that voices from across the North-East get involved in the Scottish Government’s consultation to help shape the new loneliness and isolation strategy, especially since each and every one of us has a role to play in reducing loneliness in Scotland.

“Dealing with loneliness and isolation can be incredibly difficult, and by reaching out to our neighbours or anyone we think may be at risk of becoming isolated or lonely – by taking them out, doing a good deed or simply having a chat – we can all have a hugely positive impact.

“Young or old - loneliness doesn’t discriminate and it is linked to both poor physical and mental health, and can have wide-ranging consequences on so many aspects of our lives.

“The SNP Government will be the first country in the UK and one of the first in the world to develop a national strategy to address loneliness and isolation, but this strategy needs our communities and society to lead the way in ensuring those at risk of loneliness get the support they need. I would encourage as many people as possible in the North-East to have a say on this very important issue by contributing to the consultation.”

16 January 2018

NHS Grampian waiting times improve even as flu rate rises

NHS Grampian waiting times have improved on the previous week despite growing pressures from the effect of the rising flu rate and added demand.

In the week ending January 7th, the flu rate doubled and 77.9% of people were treated in Scottish A&Es within four hours.

In the North-East, the percentage of people seen within the same time frame was 89.1%, a rise from 87.9% the week previously.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Despite increased pressures from the number of flu cases and additional Winter pressures, NHS Grampian has managed to increase the number of patients seen within four hours of visiting A&E.

“The work of all health and social care staff who are delivering such fantastic patient care in this tough period is commendable.

“Emergency departments are continuing to feel the effects of the steep rise in flu cases and we must continue to remain vigilant to ensure people are getting seen to in a time appropriate manner.”
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