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12 December 2018

Scots Budget: £37 Million Cash Boost for NHS Grampian

North-East MSPs have welcomed a £37million cash injection for NHS Grampian in the Scottish Government’s Budget announcement.

The move means a funding boost of 4.05% for services across the region and comes after Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said total health and care investment would be increased to £729million.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said it was “excellent” news for the North-East.

It comes as the Finance Secretary warned the risk Brexit plays to this investment, with the potential for the Scottish Government to be forced to review the budget should the UK face a ‘No Deal’ scenario.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“This is vital investment with NHS Grampian receiving the second highest award in Scotland in the budget.

“This will provide support for vital services which builds on investment already received including the trauma centre in Aberdeen.

“North-East SNP MSPs have made it clear how important further cash funding for NHS Grampian is for the region and our voices have been heard, ensuring our local health services remain fit for the future.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This is significant investment in our local NHS, with a real-term increase in spending.

“In contrast, the budget exposed the Tory proposals as completely hollow – with their plan to hand high earners a tax cut leaving a £1 billion hole in our public spending.

“Meanwhile, even Labour insiders have admitted that their plans are a ‘shambles’ with the party failing to cost their spending demands.

“The SNP budget delivers for our NHS in Grampian.”

Stevenson: SNP Getting on with Day Job Amid Westminster Chaos

As Westminster descends into deeper chaos the SNP is getting on with the day job investing in schools, infrastructure and health.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson made the comments as the Brexit deal is postponed and the Tory party continues to fall ever deeper into disarray.

Unemployment in Scotland has fallen to 3.7% - the lowest rate on record. It also means that Scotland has the lowest unemployment rate in the UK.

Meanwhile, more affordable homes are also being built across the country, with more than 80,000 homes delivered since the SNP took office in 2007.

Per head of population, 50% more affordable homes and more than five times as many social rented properties exist in Scotland compared to England.

On top of the Baby Box, which provides essential items for the earliest stages in life and is available to every child born in Scotland, we’re now accepting applications for the Best Start Grant.

These pay-outs are available to mothers who are past 24 weeks in their pregnancy, or have babies under 6 months, and receive welfare benefits.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The Scottish Government is working hard across a broad spectrum of policy matters to better the lives of the Scottish people and those living in the North-East.

“From taking bold steps to tackle homelessness with £370,000 of extra funding to support those facing rough sleeping.

“Investment to help parents and carers give babies the best start in life from the baby box to funding to help support low-income families.

“We’re supporting innovation in world-class research and innovation at our universities and pledging to keep university education free.

“We’ve also just signed up to the Bonn Challenge, which aims to regenerate 250million hectares of deforested and degraded landscapes by 2030.

“These are just some of the way we’ve been getting on with the day job recently while the shamble of Brexit continues at Westminster.”

11 December 2018

Stevenson Encourages Parents and Carers to Apply for Baby Payments

Parents in the North-East will be eligible for their first Pregnancy and Baby payments ahead of Christmas.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement which means families can now apply for the new benefit.

It will offer low-income parents or carers £600 for their first child, £100 more than the DWP (Department of Work and Pension) Sure Start Maternity Grant which it replaces.

It also provides £300 for all subsequent children – meaning there is no cap on the number of children supported, unlike the current UK Government equivalent.

Those eligible who have had another child recently can also apply.

Leanne Adam, a pregnant mum expecting her first child said:

“This payment is going to help a lot because having a new-born baby is not cheap. We are both working and don’t qualify for many benefits but still on a low income.

“The Best Start Grant seems a lot more flexible than the Sure Start Maternity Grant, much more accessible to people who are working.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“If you are about to or have recently had a baby – I would encourage you to check if you are eligible and apply.

“The Best Start Grant is different from the previous UK Government scheme. There is no cap on the number of children it can support, meaning babies born in the last six months who already have a big brother or sister will now be eligible for a payment, and the eligibility and window application have also been increased.

“This extra money could make a real difference for you and your baby at what is a wonderful time but one that we know can also be expensive.”

10 December 2018

Stevenson Welcomes European Funding for Fishing

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed more than £1million of funding for fishery and aquaculture projects in the Aberdeenshire and Moray.

The cash-boost includes £152,000 for Downies of Whitehills.

The fund aims to help fishermen transition to sustainable fishing, support coastal communities to diversify their economies and finance projects to create jobs.

And it also includes £400,000 to support a voluntary safety training project for fishermen in locations across Scotland.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This seventh round of EMFF grants will provide support for projects in the North-East and across Scotland.

“Funding like this from the European Union is vital in helping support fishing communities as well as helping the supply chain reach new markets.

“I know those who have benefited along the Banffshire and Buchan Coast will be grateful and I welcome any investment which helps boost their important work.

“Unfortunately, while there is still uncertainty around Brexit, it is funding like this which will come to an end as of March 29th next year and leave communities worse off as a result.”

6 December 2018

Tories Gear up for "Major Betrayal of Scotland"

Speaking to BBC Radio Four this morning, Theresa May outlined that MPs will now be given a choice to either extend the transition period to 2022, breaking clear promises made to Scotland’s fishing industry, or trigger the Northern Ireland backstop, offering special treatment that leaves Scotland at a significant economic disadvantage.

Scottish Secretary, David Mundell, and Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, said in October that any deal which gave Northern Ireland special status would be a red line issue – and threatened to resign on that basis.

And only last month, all of Scotland’s 13 Tory MPs penned a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the UK leave the Common Fisheries Policy by 2020. The letter states that anything less would be a “betrayal of Scotland”, adding that any future agreement preventing the UK from independently negotiating access and quota shares would be unsupportable.

The pair have now back-tracked on a host previous red-line issues, choosing to ignore fresh calls to resign.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“David Mundell and Ruth Davidson could not have been any clearer – they said that Northern Ireland should not be given special treatment and Scotland should be out of the Common Fisheries Policy by 2020.

“But today Theresa May has outlined in stark terms that those red lines drawn by her colleagues will completely demolished.

“Scotland’s fishing industry is set to be sold out in order to appease right-wing brexiteers who are intent on dragging Scotland out of the EU against its will.

“The industry could end up with precisely no gains whatsoever from Brexit, trapped in the Common Fisheries Policy with no voice or a say in negotiations until 2022.

“And the Prime Minister will be bracing herself for a humiliating defeat on Tuesday. There is no majority in the Commons for her damaging bad deal, nor for the disaster of a No Deal. That’s why we need better options back on the table – staying in the EU, or staying in the single market which is eight times bigger than the UK alone.”

5 December 2018

Scottish Government Promises to Maintain Disability Benefits

The Scottish Parliament has promised to maintain the disability benefits currently available from the Department of Welfare and Pensions (DWP).

This move comes after Peter Searle, a DWP senior official, warned MSPs that the roll-out of Universal Credit could result in a “significant number” of people to receive less financial support.

Searle told MSPs that more was being spent on Universal Credit than on the system it replaced, meaning “on average people will gain”. He added:

“Some people, as you say, and a significant number of will receive less than they would have done.”

Now it has emerged that the Scottish Government has plans to ensure a ‘safe and secure transition of the benefits from the DWP.’ With the timetable and delivery schedule to be announced next year.

The assurances of these benefits were confirmed after a question by Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson, regarding the future status of these benefits.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“We are committed to maintaining the level of the disability benefits that are paid to individuals and to raise it annually by at least the rate of inflation. We will also protect disability assistance by ensuring that benefits continue to be non-means tested."

“We are involving people who receive those benefits in the design of our system’s process for disability benefits. I therefore know that they want to ensure that the assessments are undertaken in-house by Social Security Scotland, ensuring that the DWP and private sector agencies will no longer be involved in the assessment process.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It is a relief to see that the Scottish Government will be maintaining the benefits now provided by the DWP and it is comforting to know that the many disabled people who rely on these benefits need not worry about less financial support in the future.

“Once again the SNP government has proven itself much more conscious of the needs of Scotland’s citizens than the Tory UK Government.”

29 November 2018

The Case for Nicola Sturgeon Being on TV Brexit Debate

MSP Pays Tribute to Former Buchan Councillor Norma Thomson

Stewart Stevenson MSP has paid tribute to former SNP councillor for South Buchan Norma Thomson who has sadly died.

Norma Thomson was elected to Aberdeenshire Council at the 1999 elections and re-elected in 2003, representing South Buchan, which covered the area around New Deer, Maud and Auchnagatt, until the Ward was abolished in 2007.

Prior to her election, Norma was a Day Care Supervisor for the Social Work Department of Aberdeenshire Council. Norma also served as Chair of Deer Community Council, as Convener of the New Deer Hall Committee, Convener of Central Buchan Dial-a-Bus Committee, and was a member of the Local Network Development Group, as well as being an office-bearer in the Scottish National Party at branch and constituency level.

During her time on Aberdeenshire Council, Norma pushed for road improvements at the then road bridge at Brucklay Station, supported the Maud Mart Project, the New Deer All Weather Project, and New Deer and Auchnagatt Hall and Park improvement projects.

Paying tribute to Norma Thomson, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson, who also represented Norma’s South Buchan Ward prior to boundary changes in 2011, said:

“I am greatly saddened at Norma’s passing and send my condolences to her family at this time.

“I very much enjoyed working with Norma when she was the local councillor for South Buchan. She had a tremendous energy and really got involved in various local projects and committees.

“Perhaps her greatest achievement was in working with the Buchan Community Enterprise Group who bought the bank building in New Deer when the Clydesdale Bank announced it was closing. Rather than see the village left without a bank, Norma and the group rolled-up their sleeves and sold the idea to Royal Bank of Scotland that they should open a branch in New Deer. That was quite an achievement back in 2006 when bank closures were almost as common as they are today.

“Norma was a faithful representative to her community, a hard-working councillor, and someone who after leaving office continued to be actively involved in the betterment of the local area. She will be missed.”

28 November 2018

Stevenson Meets Peterhead Foodbank Staff

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson paid a visit to the Peterhead Foodbank earlier this week to see the facility and meet with the staff.
Mr Stevenson was invited along by Aberdeenshire North Foodbanks and brought with him a donation for the foodbank.

Commenting after his visit, Mr Stevenson said:

“This was a very useful visit to meet the team of volunteers who staff the Peterhead Foodbank and hear from them at first hand of their experiences.

“The volunteers provide a very valuable service for the most vulnerable sectors of our society at their time of greatest need. Local supermarkets and businesses have been very receptive to these needs and have been very generous with their donations - as have local organisations and individuals.

“The selection of suitable products for distribution is another key factor, and the Foodbank can provide a list of these. Consideration must be given to the fact that some clients may have very limited cooking facilities, and many of their 'stock' items require simple heating or the addition of boiling water.”

Mr Stevenson continued:

“Last week, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights visited the UK to investigate the impact of austerity, and has reported on the effects of the UK Government’s failing efforts to tackle poverty in the UK, the impact of austerity measures, welfare cuts, Universal Credit, and Brexit.

“The fact that foodbank use is growing across Scotland is a clearly damning indictment of UK Government cuts to welfare, and the botched roll-out of Universal Credit. In Scotland, it truly is a case of ‘poverty amongst plenty’.”

Stevenson Welcomes Moray Council Motion on Single Use Plastics

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a motion to Moray Council calling for action to phase out Single Use Plastics.

It comes after a motion was put forward calling for the move to the local authority’s Policy and Resource Committee by SNP Councillor for Speyside Glenlivet, Louise Laing, and seconded by SNP Councillor for Fochabers Lhanbryde, Shona Morrison.

The motion congratulated local businesses which had already taken steps phase out the use of single use plastics and encouraged others to do the same.

It noted the ‘excellent work done by local groups to address the problem by carrying out litter picks and beach cleans’ and also calls on council officers to continue their efforts to ‘phase out the use of single use plastics unless no alternative can be found, in all council buildings, as soon as practically possible’.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“We must all do what we can to take responsibility for the environment and how we protect it.

“I am delighted colleagues in Moray Council have taken the initiative to commend businesses already leading the way and has encouraged others to follow in their footsteps.

“The North-East of Scotland is home to some of the most beautiful and idyllic landscape and we must work hard to protect it and the waters surrounding from the harm caused by plastic.

“There are a number of simple steps we can take including reusing plastic bags, using reusable cups and using paper straws to name but a few.”

Cllr Louise Laing said:

“We have one planet and everyone needs to take what responsibility they can to protect it, both for ourselves and for future generations. The council is already making headway through switching from plastic to paper cups and there is a willingness in our departments to do as much as possible to tackle this issue."

Cllr Shona Morrison said:

“Like many others in Moray I have been involved in litter picks and beach cleans and the amount of single use plastics polluting the environment is deeply disturbing.

“It should be obvious to everyone that this is not something we can continue to do and everybody in a small way can help to prevent this type of pollution."

Stevenson Welcomes Price Cap on 118 Numbers

A price cap has been set on the cost of calling directory enquiries by regulator Ofcom in a bid to protect users from high prices.

The move has been welcomed by Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson who said the decision would help those who use the service frequently, particularly the elderly population.

Currently, some providers charge almost £20 for an average 90-second call.

Figures have revealed the price charged by 118 is around £11.

Although there are cheaper services available, research by Ofcom shows that consumers tend to call the numbers they most easily remember.

And while the number of calls being made to 118 services has been falling by around 40% every year, more than a million people in the UK, many of them elderly, still use these services.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I welcome the measures taken by Ofcom to ensure there is a price cap on calling directory enquiries.

“Particularly amongst the elderly population there is a tendency to call recognisable numbers but unfortunately often people do not know the high costs of calling these numbers.

“By capping the maximum amount a 118 service can charge at £3.65 per 90 second, the price will be reduced to 2012 levels and a more realistic level of what people expect to pay.

“It’s an important step to make sure people don’t incur huge, unexpected charges simply by calling directory enquiries.”

UK Government Urges to Make Peterhead Prime Site for CCS

The UK Government has been urged to make the North-East a main hub for Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) after an action plan was revealed to develop Britain’s first scheme to capture emissions.

It comes after Peterhead missed out on £1billion of funding in 2015 when plans were pulled by the UK Government for a CCS project which could have brought investment and hundreds of potential new jobs for the area.

Now, it has emerged the first project of its kind could be up and running as early as the mid-2020s, with an overarching ambition to roll out the technology at scale by the 2030s, if costs can be brought down.

The action plan will help develop the UK’s first scheme to capture emissions from power stations and heavy industry and use the carbon dioxide for processes such as making concrete or store it underground to cut climate pollution, ministers have announced.

Experts have said that CCS is key to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to tackle climate change.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Since the plans for investment were axed by the Tory Government in 2015, we have campaigned for Peterhead to be reconsidered for investment which would create hundreds of jobs and boost the local economy.

“Investment should be made in CCS and it should be done so in the North-East of Scotland.

“There is a growing need for alternative energy storage and it’s high time the Tories got their finger out – invested in this technology to meet our climate change obligations, invested the billion they promised in the North East and delivered new jobs to boost the region.

“The potential for Peterhead as the UK’s prime site for carbon capture and storage is in absolutely no doubt. The UK government’s own report identifies its ‘unique potential’.

“Our waters in the North Seas provide access to vast carbon storage resources and coupled with our existing oil and gas capabilities, ready supply chain, and strategically important industrial clusters, Scotland is the best-placed country in Europe to realise CCUS on a commercial scale.”

24 November 2018

Anger as Tories Prepare to 'Sell-Out' Scottish Fishing Industry

EU Summit Announcement Leaves Mundell and Davidson with Nowhere to Hide

Leaked text of an EU statement, due to be published this Sunday, has sparked anger across Scotland’s fishing communities by suggesting European fishing fleets will have continued access to Scottish and UK waters beyond 2020 under current terms.

The text suggests that the UK will have to agree to maintain current levels of access if it wants to secure a longer transition period.

Earlier this month, Scotland’s 13 Tory MPs, including Scottish Secretary David Mundell, penned a letter to the Prime Minister outlining that any agreement preventing the UK from independently negotiating access and quota shares would be unsupportable and a “betrayal of Scotland”.

Ruth Davidson has previously insisted this would be a “red line” issue for her.

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

“Sunday’s crucial EU Brexit Summit is the moment of truth for Ruth Davidson, David Mundell and all the Tory MPs.

“Scotland’s Tory MPs could not have been any clearer - anything short of full control over access and quotas would be a complete ‘betrayal’ of Scotland’s fishing communities.

“Yet increasingly it looks like this bad withdrawal deal will do exactly that. Scotland’s fishing industry could end up with precisely no gains whatsoever from Brexit. Worse, we would still be in the CFP but without even having a voice or a say in negotiations during a transition period – which could of course be extended beyond 2020.

“It looks as though the Tories are preparing yet again to sell out Scotland’s fishing industry. That would simply be unforgiveable. It will be a disgrace if the Scottish Tories go along with any deal which does not deliver what they promised our fishing communities from Brexit."

21 November 2018

Stevenson Welcomes Boost to Maternity Services

A North-East hospital has received a significant boost after it was revealed further services are to be reintroduced.

Maternity & Children’s Services at Dr Gray’s Hospital will resume after NHS Grampian confirmed the staffing level had improved to a level where it is now safe to reopen the Special Care Baby Unit.

The Children’s Ward will also be restored to a seven say service ahead of schedule.

It comes after elective caesarean sections were reintroduced at the hospital two weeks ago.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It is great news that NHS Grampian is now in a position to build services back up at Dr Gray’s Hospital.

“The reopening of the Special Care Baby Unit and a seven day service being resumed in the Children’s Ward will undoubtedly be welcome news to people living in the area.

“It means more women will be able to deliver their babies in at the hospital and children who are unwell can be looked after closer to home.

“It is clear there is more work to be done to improve the gaps in staffing levels and I am confident that this recent progress is a step in the right direction.”

Dr Jamie Hogg, Clinical Director at Dr Gray’s, said:

“This is great news and the teams across the hospital - and across Grampian - have worked really hard to make it happen. Quite frankly, the progress that’s been made has exceeded all our expectations.

“If you’d said even 6 weeks ago that we’d have been able to safely restore elective caesarean sections, reopen the SCBU and move the children’s ward back to 7 days, it would have seemed a bit far-fetched.

“We do need to sound a note of caution though – there is still a lot of really hard work ahead and the staffing issues we continue to face at the hospital are extremely complex. It will still be some time before we are able to re-establish a full service."

Stevenson Backs 'Respect for Shopworkers Week'

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson showed his support for Respect for Shopworkers Week’ when he visited the Co-op store in Banff this week.

During his visit to the store on Bridge Road, Mr Stevenson discussed local community safety issues with store staff and heard about the Co-op’s operational programme to help tackle crime.
Gordon McCabe, USDAW Area Organiser; Neil MacDonald, Shopworker;
Michael Boylan, Area Manager; Stewart Stevenson MSP;
Mariola Stanislawska, Shopworker; Kim MacDonald, Store Manager
As part of its commitment to colleague safety and community well-being, the Co-op is backing the shopworkers’ union USDAW’s campaign and the Respect for Shopworkers Week.

Mr Stevenson said:

“Shop workers are entitled to be safe at work and to be treated with respect. Too many face verbal abuse, threats and even assaults in the course of their daily work.

“Violent crime in shops often has a shocking, and lasting, impact on those working at the frontline. That is why I am backing this important initiative as we must all do everything we can to help reduce these attacks.”

Paul Gerrard, Director of Campaigns at the Co-op, said:

“Retail crime is often considered to be victimless as people think it only involves a faceless business losing stock or money. However, it is not the shop that is left bruised, bleeding or traumatised. This type of crime has nothing to do with profit and everything to do with people.

“In the months ahead, we’ll be looking to work with local community groups and other neighbourhood leaders who are engaged in tackling the root causes of crime, to see if we can identify mutual solutions to shared concerns.”

20 November 2018

Stevenson Meets with Pharmacists Campaigning for Flu Jab Delivery

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has met with health campaigners calling for local pharmacies to be able to administer flu vaccinations for the NHS in Scotland.

Representatives from Community Pharmacy Scotland have been in the Scottish Parliament to meet with representatives about the issue.

In England, highly-qualified pharmacists can administer flu vaccinations currently.

The organisation is calling for the same to be allowed North of the border in a bid to lessen pressures on GP services.

According to Community Pharmacy Scotland, allowing pharmacists to administer the flu jab would help significantly in getting much closer to target levels amongst the most vulnerable populations who qualify for the vaccination such as the elderly, pregnant women and people with specific conditions.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It was very informative to meet with representatives of Community Pharmacy Scotland to learn more about the impact of pharmacists delivering this service.

“The number of people suffering flu has doubled from the previous year, particularly in the older population.

“Allowing pharmacists to give flu jabs could very well lessen the pressure on GPs and encourage more people to ensure they get vaccinated this Winter.”

Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy Scotland, Harry McQuillan, said:

“We have a network of 1250 pharmacies staffed by qualified clinicians throughout our communities, often open six days a week.

“We need the required change in legislation to allow us to come into line with England, where pharmacists delivered 1.17 million flu vaccinations between September and January last winter.”

16 November 2018

Stevenson: UK Government Brexit Draft Sells-Out Needs of Fishing Sector

The UK Government has been warned that its proposals for fisheries in the draft Brexit agreement risk another Tory sell-out of the fishing industry.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said the draft Brexit deal fails to offer assurances on the future of the fishing industry.

As details of the Brexit deal were made public, concerns emerged regarding comments made by EU negotiator Michel Barnier about a future link between access for EU vessels to UK waters and tariff-free access for UK seafood suppliers to the EU market.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The proposed Brexit deal’s provisions on fishing fall very far short of what was promised and expected. They fail to offer assurances on the future of the industry.

“There are ominous signs that under this deal, participation in the customs union for fish products would be linked to access to Scottish waters and quota shares for EU boats, and that, in effect, we will remain in the CFP in all-but-name. This would be a bad deal for the fishing and processing sectors.

“Far from ‘taking back control’, the UK Government has shown that it’s prepared to hand over access to our waters once we leave the EU. My message to the UK Government is blunt: Don’t sell out fisheries again.”

1 November 2018

North-East MSPs Have Urgent Meeting with Transport Minister over AWPR

North-East MSPs have met with Transport Minister Michael Matheson to emphasise the urgency of works to ensure the AWPR opening can be made as soon as possible.

It comes after Mr Matheson gave a ministerial statement on the opening of the bypass to the Chamber on Thursday afternoon.
Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson and Aberdeen South and Kincardine MSP Maureen Watt spoke with the Minister following FMQs.

During the discussions, Mr Matheson reiterated the Scottish Government was doing all it can to negotiate progress on the £745million project.

All three North-East MSPs stressed the economic benefits for commuters of getting the infrastructure project open and accessible to vehicles.

Mr Matheson has asked for an meeting with contractors to discuss the scope of works necessary to repair defects to the River Don crossing and to progress the new 31.5km section from Craibstone to Stonehaven and Charleston as soon as possible.

In a joint statement following the meeting, Gillian Martin MSP, Stewart Stevenson MSP and Maureen Watt MSP said:

“The AWPR has been needed in the North-East for decades and it is this SNP Scottish Government which is delivering it for people across the region.

“Both weather and the economic challenges of partner company Balfour Beatty have created unprecedented issues for the project but during the meeting we were keen to stress the impact and difference it will have for people once it is fully opened.

“The Minister was able to reaffirm his commitment to doing all he can to ensure the remaining work is completed as soon as possible.”

31 October 2018

MSPs Back Charity Collaboration for Vital North-East Services

A fundraising collaboration by three North-East charities supporting the development of a new hospital and a new centre for oncology and haematology patients has been welcomed.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have welcomed the campaign.

It will be led by Friends of the Neonatal Unit (part of the Archie Foundation, Friends of ANCHOR and the University of Aberdeen Development Trust.

The ‘Delivering the Difference’ campaign will raise funds for both The Baird Family Hospital and The ANCHOR Centre.

Friends of the Neonatal Unit (part of The ARCHIE Foundation), Friends of ANCHOR and the University of Aberdeen Development Trust, supported by the NHS Grampian Endowment Fund, are joining forces to raise funds for The Baird Family Hospital and The ANCHOR Centre.

Commenting, Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin said:

“This is great news for healthcare in the North-East of Scotland and there has been significant investment in the construction and equipping of these new facilities.

“Campaigns like this help to deliver and make a real difference to people and help to make their hospital experience better.

“It’s fantastic that these charities can come together and support the people of the North-East in this way.”

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“This is wonderful news, we already know how much hard work and effort is made by these charities individually. I have no doubt that collectively they’ll give a real boost to both of these facilities.”

30 October 2018

MSPs Welcome Support for New Families from Social Security Agency

The roll-out of a grant scheme for families with new children from the Scottish Social Security Agency has been welcomed by North-East MSPs.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson also highlighted the success of the new Carer’s Allowance Supplement for which more than 75,000 carers have now received top-up payments.

It comes as it was revealed the Best Start Grant is expected to begin ahead of Christmas

Eligible families will be provided with £600 on the birth of their first child and £300 on the birth of any subsequent children.

No limit will be put on the number of children that are supported and eligible families could also benefit from two further payments of £250 around the time of nursery and around the time a child starts school, to recognise the additional financial costs during these key transition periods.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“The Scottish Government wants to help families with new additions as they begin their lives, giving them the best start possible.

“The Scottish Social Security Agency will endeavour to help support not just the first child born but the children who follow thereafter.

“Once again it is the SNP-led Scottish Government that is choosing to help give the best start unlike the Tories who have introduced measures including the two-child cap with its barbaric rape clause.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Families in the North-East of Scotland are facing tough times with harsh austerity measures.

“The Chancellor may have claimed in the budget the end to austerity is here but it is clear we must do all we can to continue to help mitigate against these harsh measures.

“It is great news the Scottish Government is helping to support families and making sure offer as much support as we can to new parents.”

26 October 2018

Stevenson Says Scotland Being "Left in Dark" by Tory Proposals on Clock Changes

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has accused the Tories of “leaving Scotland in the dark” after a call was made to put the clocks forward rather than back by an hour in Autumn.

It comes after Conservative MP Sir Greg Knight called for the clocks to be moved forward an hour to ensure more daylight claiming it would also reduce national energy consumption and boost tourism.

In a blog post for ConservativesHome, he also claimed the move was supported by a number of organisations.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It is no secret that Tories want to leave Scotland in darkness, but fixing the clocks to British Summer Time would mean that dawn wouldn’t break in Scotland until nearly 9am.

“The evidence put forward supporting this change is dubious at best and the proponents of this change have ignored why this was abandoned after being trialled in the 1970s.

“This proposal by Mr Knight is nothing short of ridiculous and a complete waste of time.”

Stevenson Calls for Urgent Meeting with Health Minister over GP Closure

Stewart Stevenson has called for an urgent meeting with the Health Minister after NHS Grampian announced a north-east medical practice would end its contract with the health board.

It comes after a number of challenges related to GP recruitment in Banff and the surrounding area including Portsoy, Aberchirder and Gardenstown in recent years.

Now, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has called for a meeting with Health Secretary Jeane Freeman after Deveron Medical Practice told NHS Grampian it would end its contract in April 2019.

The practice currently serves around 6,000 patients.

In a letter Mr Stevenson said the decision was attributed to the “ongoing and chronic problems” with GP recruitment in the area.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This decision by Deveron Medical Practice will be causing uncertainty for those in the Banff and Macduff areas who are registered with the practice.

"People will understandably be very keen to know what steps are being taken to ensure continuing access to primary care.

“I have requested a meeting with the Health Secretary as a matter of urgency to discuss not only the immediate concerns, but also longer term solutions to the GP recruitment challenges we are experiencing in the north of Aberdeenshire.”

25 October 2018

MSP Accuses UK Gov of Keeping Holyrood "Out of Loop" on Broadband Plans


The UK Government has been accused of keeping Holyrood “out of the loop” on plans to implement a USO (Universal Service Obligation) limit on broadband.

It comes after Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson asked what discussions the Scottish Government had been in with Westminster for proposals to implement a 10-megabit universal service obligation for broadband.

The move would be less than Scottish Government’s proposals for at least 30 megabits.

Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Island Paul Wheelhouse told Mr Stevenson repeated calls had been made for the UK Government to match Scotland’s ambition.

Scotland is currently the only part of the UK to have committed to extending superfast access to 100 per cent of premises, supported by an initial procurement of £600million.

Mr Wheelhouse said this was “despite numerous requests” and while the regulation and legislation of telecommunications is wholly reserved to the UK Parliament, the UK Government has contributed “a mere 3.5 per cent of investment, with the Scottish Government committing 96.5 per cent”.

He added “no assurances” had been given that Scotland’s ambition to deliver 30 megabits would not be impeded by the UK Government deciding 10 megabit would be the limit.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Rural communities are suffering because of the failure of the UK Government to efficiently deliver broadband services to the areas that need it most.

“Despite the Scottish Government’s willingness to, in time, deliver 30 megabits across Scotland to homes and businesses the UK Government continues to stall on this issue.

“The UK Government must give assurances its USO plans to deliver 10 megabits will not impede on the ambition we hold here to deliver broadband.”

19 October 2018

MSP Backs Guide Dogs Scotland Call for Increased Pavement Parking Awareness

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has called for more awareness about the challenges pavement parked cars create for partially sighted and blind people.

It comes after a survey by Guide Dogs Scotland showed that 97% of blind or partially sighted people encounter problems with street obstructions and 90% of those had experienced trouble with a pavement parked car.

Mr Stevenson was told about the difficulties that local authorities face earlier this month, at the SNP’s Autumn Conference, in trying to tackle the issue with their current powers, and why Guide Dogs is calling for a clear law on pavement parking.

Guide Dogs Scotland is supporting proposals in the Transport (Scotland) Bill in the Scottish Parliament that would prohibit pavement parking, except in areas which need a legitimate exemption.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I was grateful representatives from Guide Dogs Scotland met with me to explain some of the challenges partially sighted and blind people face in their day-to-day lives whilst out and about.

“It is easy to forget some of the things we take for granted can cause injury or distress and we must be more mindful.

“I look forward to hearing more from Guide Dogs Scotland and the important work they do.”

Niall Foley, Engagement Manager at Guide Dogs Scotland, commented:

“Cars blocking pavements are a nuisance for everyone, but can be a real danger for people for people with sight loss, potentially forcing them out into the roads to get by.

"The powers that councils and police have at the moment aren’t sufficient to tackle the problem, and that’s why we are supporting the Scottish Government’s proposals in the Transport (Scotland) Bill for a clear law where drivers cannot park on the pavement unless they’re in a specifically designated area.”

Local MSP Calls for Mundell to Back Scottish Farmers in Funding Review

Westminster Continues to Withhold EU Millions from Scotland

David Mundell must choose whether to “back or betray” Scottish farmers, the SNP has said, by demanding that they receive £160m in funding to which they are entitled.
UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove this week unveiled a much-delayed review into funding for farmers post-Brexit, under pressure from the Scottish Government, who have repeatedly criticised Westminster's decision to withhold £160m in convergence payments from Scottish farmers. The UK only qualified for the uplift of EU CAP payments because Scotland’s euro per hectare rate fell below average.

The remit of the review appears to have been significantly watered down – but the SNP has challenged Mr Mundell to back Scotland’s farmers by making clear his unequivocal support for this funding coming to Scotland – and threaten to resign if necessary.

Previously the Scottish Secretary came under fire for supporting a £1bn supply-and-confidence deal for Northern Ireland in exchange for DUP votes, despite claiming "I’m not going to agree to anything that could be construed as backdoor funding to Northern Ireland.”

This week, he threatened to resign if the devolved nations were offered a special Brexit deal that could protect Scotland’s economy by remaining in the customs union or single market after Brexit.

Commenting, local MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The way in which the UK Tory Government has withheld £160m in funding rightfully due to Scotland’s farmers is absolutely outrageous. It is solely because of Scotland that the UK, as the Member State, qualified for this funding.

“The UK Government only agreed to review this funding under pressure from the SNP and the Scottish Government. It is incredibly disappointing that they have announced it before responding to the Scottish Government’s concerns – not least because the remit of the review appears to have been significantly watered down from their previous commitments.

“It is therefore more important than ever that David Mundell, as the Scottish Secretary, adds his voice to calls for Scotland’s farmers to receive what they are entitled to.

“Last year Mr Mundell said he would refuse to support any backdoor deal with the DUP that would see money going to Northern Ireland but not Scotland – but then did exactly that.

"And as recently as this week, he reportedly threatened to resign if the devolved UK nations that voted to remain in the EU were offered a special deal that could protect Scotland from the economic shock of a hard Brexit.

"He should make clear – by threatening to resign if necessary – that he will not accept his Tory colleagues continuing to short-change Scotland.

“Put bluntly – Mr Mundell needs to decide whether he will back Scotland’s farmers, or betray them.”

MSP Demands Tories Reinstate Carbon Capture & Storage Funding for Peterhead

Ahead of the UK Budget, Stewart Stevenson MSP has demanded that the UK government reinstates the pledged £1 billion funding for a Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) scheme in Peterhead.
Tory Chancellor George Osborne axed £1billion of promised funding for CCS technology in 2015, costing jobs and investment in Peterhead power station, which had been earmarked as a potential CCS site.

This demand comes in light of warnings from world leading scientists in this week’s UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that we have only 12 years to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5C or risk extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty for hundreds of millions of people across the globe.

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast Stewart Stevenson said:

“Peterhead lost out when the Tories axed £1bn for Carbon Capture and Storage at the eleventh hour in 2015 – a betrayal of the North East of Scotland and of the fight against climate change.

“The Tory government cannot continue to ignore the facts that without a CCS strategy, the UK will be much less likely to meet its climate change targets and it will be twice as expensive to do so.

“The Tories need to take action now and stop starving the North East of vital investment in carbon capture technologies before it’s too late. This is an economic opportunity to create hundreds of jobs and build knowledge for the future in a cutting edge field, but it is also a moral imperative.

“We’ve had enough stalling – the UK Government must now get on with delivering clean industries for the future, starting by reinstating investment in Carbon Capture and Storage in Peterhead.”

12 October 2018

MSP Hits Out at Tory Agri-Bill Threat to Scottish Farmers

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has hit out at the UK Tory Government’s agriculture bill brought to the House of Commons this week which ignores the needs of Scottish farming and food production
The new Bill, introduced to the Westminster Parliament by Michael Gove, has been denounced by Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing, for failing to respect the devolved settlement.

Farmers in the UK currently receive £3.1 billion in support through the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy with Scotland receiving approximately half a billion pounds annually. The Bill fails to honour Tory promises made to farmers in the EU referendum to guarantee to match EU funding in the event of the UK leaving the EU in the long-term.

The National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) have supported the Scottish Government’s position that all decisions affecting agriculture in Scotland should be taken in Scotland.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“Throughout my visits to the local agricultural shows over the summer, the recurring concern in any conversation I had with farmers was how they might be impacted by the Westminster Government’s complete lack of preparedness for post-March 2019.

“As the National Audit Office confirms that preparations to support businesses have not been made, the UK Government’s plan makes pretty horrific reading for Scotland’s farmers. The Agriculture Bill itself falls far short of the many promises that the UK Government have made to farmers across Scotland and their attempt to push it through Westminster - taking devolved powers from Holyrood as it does - is completely unacceptable.

“Marketed as setting the future direction of the UK, the reality is that the Bill and UK Government departments have no vision, no plan and have ignored calls to address the concerns raised by organisations like the NFUS.

“The Tories’ approach just underlines why Scotland needs its powers over farming policy and support so that we can provide for this key sector in our rural economy. We need policy which protects rural Scotland’s interests, not Tory interests."

Stevenson Highlights New Digital Fund from Lottery Cash

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has today encouraged groups within his constituency to apply to the new Digital Fund, administered by the Big Lottery Fund.
The Digital Fund is a new UK-wide £15 million funding programme to support charities and community organisations. It will be launched on October 22nd, and aims to help charities and voluntary sector groups use digital tools and approaches to support people.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I would encourage any eligible groups within my constituency to apply for Digital Fund grants.

“Our increasingly digital world presents tremendous opportunities for charities and community groups, but can also pose significant challenges. With Big Lottery funding, organisations will be able to receive financial support to build upon the already stellar work they do across the North-east.”

Applications for the fund open on 22nd October with a closing date of 3rd December 2018. Further details can be found at https://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/funding/programmes/digital-fund.

MSPs Martin and Stevenson Welcome Boost for Local Charity

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson and Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin have welcomed a grant for a North East charity.

Modo Circus with Purpose has been awarded a grant of £4,800 from the Corra Foundation which distributes just under £1 million through its Henry Duncan Grants programme to grassroots charities working in their local communities.

The funding will be put toward funding a volunteer support worker who helps vulnerable young volunteers from the Encounter Youth café.

Modo is based in Peterhead but also works closely with the community in Mintlaw.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“I am delighted this grassroots charity is receiving these funds, enabling them to continue their great work in my constituency. Many of the Corra Foundation Henry Duncan Grants go on staff and running costs like this, meaning they are a lifeline for local charities in this tough financial climate.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Modo has done some terrific work in the community here in Banffshire and Buchan Coast as well as Aberdeenshire East. The work they do is invaluable and I’m delighted they’ve been given a chance to enhance that through this funding.”

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.”

8 October 2018

MSP Welcomes Report Showing Rural Scotland a Good Place to Live

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed new statistics which show rural Scotland is a very good place to live.
Scotland’s Chief Statistician has published the Rural Scotland Key Facts 2018 which brings together previously published statistics on a range of key policy areas including providing comparisons between remote rural areas, accessible rural areas and the rest of Scotland.

The statistics provide a valuable evidence base on issues affecting rural Scotland.

It was found that rural populations are increasing faster than in the rest of the country and there are higher rates of in-migration.

There are also higher rates of economically active people and more households where total income exceeds £20,000 per year.

There is also a longer life expectancies and fewer emergency hospital admissions.

Meanwhile, there is a higher proportion of people who feel they belong to their immediate neighbourhood as well as who think that if they were alone and needed help they could rely on their friends and relatives in their neighbourhoods to help them.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“This report shows there are many benefits to living in a rural area.

“Population numbers are increasing and there are higher rates of in-migration. It also appears that many people living in rural areas feel more connected to their neighbours and those also living in their community.

“As an MSP for a rural constituency I am pleased many positive benefits have been highlighted to living in an area like Banffshire and Buchan Coast.”

5 October 2018

MSP Encourages Constituents to Get Flu Vaccine Ahead of Winter

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is encouraging those eligible to sign-up for the national flu vaccination programme.

Ahead of winter, those most at risk are being asked to make sure they protect themselves against illness.

It comes after the number of reported cases of flu more than doubled last winter.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has warned flu can be serious and result in complications that lead to hospitalisation.

Around 2.5 million people are expected to be offered a flu vaccination this year, including those with health conditions, people aged 65 and over, pregnant women and children aged 2-11.

NHS Scotland workers and carers are also offered the vaccine to help stop the spread of the virus to the vulnerable.

With the flu vaccine available from GP practices from this week, the advice for those eligible is to make the vaccination a priority to ensure they're protected ahead of winter.

Figures show that on average, 1,918 people have been hospitalised for flu or its complications each year in Scotland.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This year we want to ensure as many people as possible are protected from flu ahead of winter hitting.

“I would encourage everyone who needs it in the Banffshire and Buchan Coast region to make sure they do.

"The vaccine is safe, effective, and remains the best protection against the flu virus. It is important to stress that the flu vaccine offered to those ages 65-74 this winter still provides protection.

"Last winter was a particularly bad year for flu, with a rise in the number of cases and hospitalisations.

"Flu can be extremely serious for those who are vulnerable, and is very infectious. Constituents can protect themselves by encouraging people they know to get vaccinated early. Not only will you protect yourself, but you'll also be playing a part in helping stop the spread of the virus this winter."

4 October 2018

MSP Attends Official Opening of Buckie Nursery

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson attended the official opening of the Lady Cathcart Nursery in Buckie this morning which was performed by the Minister for Children and Young People, Maree Todd MSP.
 (l to r): Minister for Children & Young People Maree Todd MSP
Buckie SNP councillor & Chair of Moray Council’s Children & Young People’s Committee Sonya Warren
Stewart Stevenson MSP
The facility marks a £600,000 investment in the town from the Scottish Government.

Speaking in Buckie, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This is a transformational project in the provision of childcare in Buckie and shows the absolute commitment of The Scottish Government in providing the children of this area with the very best start in life.

“The SNP have pledged to double the current amount of free early learning and childcare available for all 3 and 4 year olds, and eligible 2 year olds, by 2020. This is an ambitious plan which will save families in Buckie, and throughout Scotland, over £4,500 per child per year.

“When the SNP came to power in 2007, 3 and 4 year olds received 12½ hours of free childcare a week. This has risen to 16 hours but that will rise to 30 hours by 2020. This will be of huge benefit to children and their families and is one of the most revolutionary projects the Scottish Government, in partnership with Councils and private providers, is undertaking.

“I am delighted to see the Scottish Government investing over £600,000 in Buckie and shows the commitment this Government has to the North-east and the children who live here.

“The nursery looks great and I hope the children have a lot of fun - and enjoy learning - in their new, refurbished facility.”

3 October 2018

MSP Attends Opening of Peterhead Fish Market

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the opening of the redevelopment of Peterhead Fish Market.

The modern building, which opened for business in June, is a key part of the £5 1million redevelopment of the historic fishing town’s harbour by the Peterhead Port Authority.

Mr Stevenson attended the opening on Saturday alongside the Duke of Rothesay and the local community.

More than 500 guests from all across the North-East were invited to the market to celebrate its official opening.

The new building is able to hold 10,000 boxes of fish at a time and boast the latest in refrigeration technology which, when combined with better access for boats from the quayside and lorries from the shoreside, allows Peterhead-landed seafood to reach plates fresher than ever.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I was delighted to be present for the official opening and I would like the congratulate Peterhead Port Authority.

“This is a fantastic new facility which has been supported by £5million of funding from the Scottish Government and the European and Maritime Fisheries Fund.

“I would like to thank retiring Chief Executive John Wallace and welcome the new Chief Executive Simon Brebner in his new role.

“This is an important moment in the development of Peterhead Port Authority and I wish them every success going forward.”

2 October 2018

MSP Encourages Organisations to Apply for Veterans Funding

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed an announcement of funding for veterans and ex-Service charities across Scotland.

Organisations are being encouraged to bid for funding to deliver projects tackling issues including the transition from military to civilian life, healthcare, housing and employment.

Funding is also being offered for those who could provide new or innovative approaches to increasing opportunities for Veterans.

Last month, Mr Stevenson spoke in a Scottish Parliament debate on help and services available for Armed Forces Veterans.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“In the past decade, the Scottish Veterans Fund has provided more than £1million to a host of ex-Service charities and organisations.

“Veterans enrich our society and deserve the highest level of advice, support and care.

“This is why the Scottish Government remain committed to supporting them and their families.

“More than 150 projects throughout Scotland have benefited since 2008 and I would encourage organisations in the North-East to look at whether they would be eligible for funding.”

Chris Hughes, Executive Chairman of Veterans Scotland said:

“Veterans Scotland welcomes this continuing support which will directly benefit those leaving the Services and veterans and their families.”

1 October 2018

MSPs Welcome Opening of Aberdeen Trauma Centre

Aberdeen is leading the way for Scotland’s Trauma Network with the opening of a centre which will treat the most seriously injured patients across the region.

The move has been welcome by SNP MSPs Gillian Martin and Stewart Stevenson.

The facility, which was opened on Monday (October 1st) by Health Minister Jeane Freeman, is the first of four major trauma centres due to open as part of Scotland’s Trauma Network.

It will ensure that those seriously injured get the best possible care and chances of recovery, wherever their location.

The network has been backed by more than £15million investment so far and will include the Scottish Ambulance Service and existing trauma services.

Further facilities are due to open in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee giving patients the best specialist treatment and rehabilitation.

Commenting, Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin said:

“Trauma care across Scotland is changing and I thrilled Aberdeen has lead the way in supporting this network.

“It means we can ensure people with serious injuries have the best chance of recovery from their injuries.

“Providing intensive treatment to patients as close to home as possible is important not just for them but relatives.

“The Scottish Government is determined to make sure NHS Grampian is able to provide the best care possible.”

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“More than £15million has been invested already in the Major Trauma Network and there will be a gradual increase over the next five years.

“This collaborative way of working brings together both the professionals and components together across the North of Scotland.

“This includes the Scottish Ambulance Service as well as community-based rehabilitation teams once the patient has returned home."

28 September 2018

MSP Encourages Carers to Apply for £1.2 Million Short Break Funding

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is encouraging carers to apply for more than £1million of funding available for short breaks projects for children and young people with disabilities.
The Better Breaks programme provides 12 month grants to third sector organisations to develop and deliver short breaks projects for those aged 20 and under and their adult carers or young carers.

The projects can include breaks away, days out and shorter sessions including regular activities.

To be eligible for Better Breaks funding, projects must be able to evidence how their activities will benefit both children and young people with disabilities and their carers, by providing a break from their normal routine.

A total of around £1.2 million is available. Grants are for one year between April 2019 and March 2020.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Carers do an incredibly valuable and demanding role looking after loved ones and those who need support in our North-East community. Having access to funding which can provide memories which can last a lifetime is so important.

“I would encourage carers and organisations to apply for funding which can be used for short breaks and days out which could be of real benefit to carers and those they help support.”

27 September 2018

MSP Welcomes Re-Opening of the Smiddy in Banff

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the re-opening of The Smiddy in Banff.

The local MSP attended the official opening on Friday 21 September 2018.
The Smiddy, run by Glasgow based arts company Vanilla Ink, is a centre of excellence for Silversmithing & Jewellery.

For a period of 200 years up until the 1880's 24 different Silversmiths based themselves in Banff. Banff silver had its own assay mark and has become a collectable and worth a significant amount of money.

The refurbishment of The Smiddy was part of a wider regeneration effort to revitalise Banff and Macduff. It was a partnership project with The Scottish Government, Aberdeenshire Council, the North Aberdeenshire Leader Programme and Banff Preservation and Heritage Society.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It’s wonderful to see the art and craftsmanship of Silversmithing back in Banff again. The town has a rich heritage of creating these wonderful pieces and I am delighted that it is taking place again.

“There is a huge amount of work going on to regenerate the wider Banff and Macduff area and it’s great to see projects like this coming to life.

“The grant of £295,000 from The Scottish Government to revive Silversmithing in Banff shows the commitment this government has to regeneration of the North-East economy and is a very welcome investment. Huge thanks go to all of the partners involved in the project.

“I was delighted to attend the official opening and I would like to wish Vanilla Ink and the centre staff all the very best as they cast a new future for Silversmithing in Banff.”

26 September 2018

MSP Welcomes Scheme to Boost Health of Fishing Industry

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a scheme which being launched in Peterhead providing free health checks for fishing communities.

The Fisherman’s Mission and Seafarers Hospital Society (SHS) charities said the SeaFit programme would be aimed at fishermen and their families.

Mr Stevenson welcomed the plans which will include dental checks, mental health support, and advice on drug and alcohol problems with a parliamentary motion.

The programme is being launched in Peterhead next Tuesday and has an aim to offer a long-term range of services.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The coastal fishing communities in my constituency will now be able to benefit from services which will protect their health.

“Fishing is an arduous and sometimes dangerous occupation and making sure we enable fishermen and women to be able to work as best they can is important.

“I am pleased Peterhead will be at the forefront of this programme which I have no doubt will make a clear difference to the lives of those working in the sector.”

David Dickens, Chief Executive of the Fishermen's Mission, said:

"We know from our work in the community that the health and wellbeing needs of fishermen and their families are often just not being met.

"This event is the first of many initiatives that we will be launching around the UK over the next few months as part of the SeaFit Programme.

"All the services on offer are free and no appointment is needed, so if you live or work in the Peterhead area and you're interested in finding out more about getting SeaFit, come down to the Sea Cadets building and see what we can offer."

Peter Coulson, secretary of SHS, said:

"Fishing remains the most dangerous occupation in the world and yet there are no occupational health services for fishermen.

"We hope that by bringing a range of health and wellbeing services to fishermen and their families at the harbourside we will begin to make a real and sustainable difference to their health and wellbeing."

25 September 2018

MSP Welcomes Figures Showing Housing Target on Track

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed figures showing the Scottish Government is on track to meet its affordable housing target.
New statistics have shown an increase of 745 homes across all sectors, from 18,683 in 2016 to 2017 to 19,428 in 2017 to 2018.

This is the fifth consecutive increase and the highest annual figure since 2008 to 2009.

The figures also show affordable housing approvals have totalled 11,926 homes, up 12% (1,252 homes) on the previous year.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I would like to welcome the news the Scottish Government has now delivered more than 78,000 affordable homes since 2007.

“The figures show we are on track to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes over this Parliament, including 35,000 for social rent.

“This is backed by more than £3 billion - the single biggest investment in, and delivery of, affordable housing since devolution and we are determined to see it benefit all parts of Scotland.

"Making sure everyone has a safe, warm and affordable home is central to the drive for a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.”

MSP Calls for More Stem Cell Donors in Banffshire and Buchan Coast

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed research which shows his constituency ranks in the top 20 for being registered to donate to those with blood cancer.

It comes as more men from the black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds between the ages of 16-30 are being encouraged to sign-up.

Mr Stevenson took part in an event held at the Scottish Parliament to mark Blood Cancer Awareness Month.

It was held for MSPs across all parties to celebrate the number of potential stem cell donors.

In Banffshire and Buchan Coast, 1159 potential stem cell donors are registered with Anthony Nolan.

29% of these donors are male, and the average age is 32-years-old.

In total, more than 700,000 people in the UK are on the Anthony Nolan register, any of whom could be a match for someone with blood cancer and asked to donate their stem cells to give a patient a second chance of life.

Now, Stewart Stevenson MSP is encouraging more people from Banffshire and Buchan Coast, to register as stem cell donors and make sure that a match is available for everyone in need of a transplant.

While anyone on the register could match for someone with blood cancer, men aged 16-30 are most likely to be asked to donate.

They provide more than 50% of donations yet make up just 16% of the register.

There is also a shortage of donors from non-white and mixed-race backgrounds.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am very proud that Banffshire and Buchan Coast has 1159 people who have selflessly volunteered to give someone a second chance at life.

“Donating stem cells is straightforward but it could make an enormous difference to someone with no other chance of a cure.

“I strongly hope that more people from our community will be inspired to sign-up and show that together, we can provide a cure for blood cancer.”

Henry Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan, said: “Since 1974 thousands of caring, selfless people have joined the Anthony Nolan register and thousands of lives have been saved as a result.

“This Blood Cancer Awareness Month residents can be proud of all the lifesavers in your community. It’s wonderful to have the support of Banffshire and Buchan Coast in achieving our goal of saving and improving the lives of people with blood cancer and blood disorders.”

24 September 2018

MSP Calls on Tories to Freeze Excise Duty Ahead of Brexit Fall-Out

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has warned fresh analysis shows why excise duty must be frozen in the upcoming UK budget.

It comes after it was revealed Scottish Whisky production has slumped each time excise duty has been hiked.

The figures were released by Scottish Parliament Information Centre analysis.

Warnings have already been made about the impact a damaging hard Brexit could have, with unnecessary tariffs on Scotland’s most lucrative exports.

SPICe research also shows that the Scottish Government’s proactive support for start-ups helped 30 new distilleries open their doors between 2016 and 2017. This brought the total number of distilleries across Scotland to 220 last year, over a third increase since 2010.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“With damning new evidence that the UK Treasury’s excise duty hikes are causing whisky production to plummet, and likewise production soars with tax cuts – it’s obvious Philip Hammond needs to freeze the Tories’ tax on this global success story in the upcoming budget.

“Providing certainty that the Scotch Whisky industry won’t face further tax hikes from Westminster is the least the Tories can do as their blind Brexit threatens unnecessary and damaging tariffs on one of the country’s most lucrative exports.

“The European Union has already warned that the bourbon market will be targeted in any tit for tat tariff battle with Donald Trump - and in any such trade war with America, Scotch Whisky’s biggest export market, the UK will have little clout to protect Scotch Whisky without the weight of the world's largest trading bloc, the EU-27, behind us.

“We cannot afford to put Scotch Whisky in the hands of the Tory Brexiteers, who think they can do whatever they want to Scotland and get away with it.”

12 September 2018

MSP Warns UK Government Agricultural Bill Will Hit Rural Areas Hardest

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has warned rural areas will be hardest hit by the UK Government’s Agriculture Bill which was published today.
It comes after the Michael Gove, Cabinet Secretary for the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, gave farmers at the Turriff Show assurances that the Scottish Government would be consulted on the bill.

Mr Gove also gave assurances Brexit would not impact farmers in Scotland negatively.

The powers drafted under the bill could potentially see the Scottish Parliament unable to continue to provide coupled support for active beef and sheep farmers and LFASS payments for the toughest farming areas.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Despite assurances the Scottish Government would have contribution to the Agriculture Bill to involve the needs of Scottish farmers, the industry has once again been left in the dark.

“The bill in its current form does not do enough to respect the devolved governments particularly on issues including LFASS payments.

“As the MSP for a rural constituency I am acutely aware of how this bill could impact farmers in the North-East.

“It is not clear whether Scottish farmers would continue to receive the same level of funding as they currently do post-Brexit.

“If the UK Government does not include the views of the Scottish Parliament rural areas like the one I represent are going to be hardest hit.”

9 September 2018

MSP & Councillor Praise Work of Turriff & District Citizens Advice

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson and local councillor Alastair Forsyth have both praised the work of the Turriff & District Citizens’ Advice Bureau after attending the organisation’s annual general meeting in Turriff on Friday held in the town’s Baden Powell Centre.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Citizens’ Advice Bureaux across the country do a tremendous service to their local communities and, locally, Manager Morag Fraser and her team do great work in assisting those who need help and advice on a wide range of issues.

“I was pleased to be invited to attend the AGM and hear about the CAB’s perspective on some of the issues raised with them.”

Speaking after the meeting, SNP councillor for Turriff & District Alastair Forsyth said:

“I am very grateful for the outstanding service and expertise provided by Turriff CAB.

“As one of the councillors for the District I benefit from being able to refer constituents to a highly professional organisation with specialism in a variety of disciplines. I am supportive of the Turriff Branch and its outreach work and trust that the service continues to offer this much needed community support service.”

6 September 2018

Tories' Two Fingers to Scotland's Soft Fruit Sector

Scheme Slammed as "Too Little, Too Late" by Industry

The SNP has today expressed its outrage at reports the Tories’ long overdue seasonal agricultural scheme will only allow for an additional 2,500 workers across the whole of the UK when launched.
This is despite the scale of the crisis facing Scottish soft fruit farmers being set out in a letter to Sajid Javid and Michael Gove from 30 rural SNP parliamentarians last month – noting examples of farms leaving tonnes of perfectly good crop to rot in fields at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds to individual businesses.

The UK Government promised at the beginning of this year to address the labour shortage quickly, but the reported scheme has already been described as “too little, too late” by one Perthshire grower quoted in the Courier, who added “there is something like 100,000 seasonal workers needed in horticulture – [2,500] is not a very big answer to the problem”.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The Tories should hang their heads in shame. The industry has been calling for action since the Brexit vote over two years ago and what has been delivered is nothing short of insulting – a two fingered salute to our soft fruit farmers.

“We’ve known for some time that all of Scotland’s fruit and vegetable growers have faced great challenges recruiting labour over the past year, and any government action should have been bold and swift to address the matter head on.

“We need to remember that what is on the line here is people’s livelihoods and jobs. This pitiful solution from the Tories is – in the words of fruit growers themselves – too little, too late.

“It’s time the Scottish Parliament was given the relevant powers over immigration to build a better system which actually works for Scotland and our rural economy.”

2 September 2018

MSP & Cllr meet with National Trust to hear About New Strategy

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson and Turriff and District SNP councillor Alastair Forsyth met with the National Trust for Scotland yesterday to learn more about its new strategy.
The MSP and councillor visited Fyvie Castle at the invitation of the Trust where they were met by Ian Hawkins, North-east General Manager, who briefed them on the Trust’s new strategy.

The National Trust for Scotland is supported by more than 360,000 members and champions Scotland’s natural, built and cultural heritage.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This was a really informative, interesting and useful discussion with Ian about the work of the National Trust for Scotland.

“Fyvie Castle and the many other castles, houses and gardens in the care of the Trust across the North of Scotland contribute massively to our tourist economy and provide a range of high-quality visitor attractions.

“The Trust has been pivotal in protecting the things that make Scotland special since 1931 when it was founded and I’m confident that it will continue to go forward from strength to strength.”

Cllr Alastair Forsyth added:

“I was delighted to be able to attend this meeting and hear about the National Trust for Scotland’s strategy for the future.

“Ian provided a really interesting insight into the work of the NTS both here at Fyvie and across the North-east. NTS staff and the volunteers who help make the visitor experience do a tremendous job and I am grateful to them for the work they do at Fyvie.”

29 August 2018

North-East Losing Out on Health Staff Due to Tory Visa Rules - Medic

A senior NHS consultant has warned that “racist” immigration policies out in place by the UK Tory Government are cutting off the supply of highly-trained doctors from North-east hospitals and harming patient care as a result.

NHS Nephrologist, Dr Izhar Khan said the flawed spousal visa system, designed by Prime Minister Theresa May when she was Home Secretary, is forcing non-EU nationals to leave the UK if their relationship ends.

This means that highly-trained health professionals are being forced to leave the UK and reapply for a visa while their jobs are re-advertised. If the post is not filled by a UK or EU national, the non-EU applicant will have to interview for their own job again.

Dr Khan warned the “triple whammy” of “Theresa May’s racist immigration policy” is as follows:

  1. forcing highly-qualified health service professionals out of the country,
  2. compelling the NHS to spend money on expensive locums, and
  3. harming patients who have operations cancelled or delayed as a result.

Commenting, Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“It’s plain and simple – Theresa May’s ‘Britain first’ mantra is a danger to the North-east health service and its patients.

“The Tories’ hostile environment seriously risks harming patient care across Scotland by cutting off the supply of highly-skilled doctors, and in the worst cases, chucking them out of the country for no good reason at all.

“It is completely surreal that on the one hand the Tories bemoan staff shortages in the NHS, whilst on the other, they are actively deporting valuable NHS workers.

“The number of doctors and nurses in Scotland’s NHS has risen to an all-time high under the SNP, with more than 12,000 additional staff since 2007. But the Tories are jeopardising that success with their extreme Brexit plans and sheer intransigence over immigration.

“It’s time for the full devolution of immigration to Scotland – we cannot continue standing by while the UK Tory Government damages our public services.”

Stewart Stevenson
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