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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.”

22 August 2018

MSP Praises Macduff Watchman After Harbour Rescue

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP has praised the work of the night watchman at Macduff harbour who helped save a man who got into difficulty swimming.
The incident comes just a year after Aberdeenshire Council abandoned plans to axe the night watchman role.

Last year, the local authority revealed it wanted to scrap the nightwatch service in a bid to cut costs.

But there was outrage in the local community and fears were raised it could leave vessels unprotected in the evenings.

Mr Stevenson said the actions of the watchman had made it clear how important retaining the service has been.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It was made clear last year that the removal of the night watchmen would be incredibly detrimental to Macduff harbour.

“The situation involving the man could have had a tragic outcome and the incident highlights why this service is required.

“I would like to commend everyone involved in the incident for their invaluable contribution to keeping the harbour area safe.”

A spokeswoman for Aberdeenshire Council said: “We are pleased our team could assist in the rescue at Macduff Harbour.”

21 August 2018

MSP Backs Survey on A947 Road Safety

A survey calling for North-East residents to have their say on a notorious stretch of road has been backed by Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson.

It comes after concerns were highlighted by Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin after a number of constituents raised fears over the road.

Now Mr Stevenson has backed calls for people to respond to the survey on how safety can be improved on the A947 between Aberdeen and Banff.
Castleton Bridge near Plaidy on A947
The route has been the scene of more than 20 fatal crashes since 2005 and multiple crashes over the years.

Last month, 53-year-old Marek Walowski from Macduff was killed when his car hit a tree outside King Edward Parish Church.

A route improvement strategy for the road was published in 2016, which listed 20 options for improving the 41-mile road, including introducing overtaking lanes, increasing police speed limit enforcement and building bypass roads around some communities in the area.

Mr Stevenson said a particular hotspot was Plaidy in his constituency where there had been a number of incidents in recent years.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“The A947 stretch of road has been a serious concern for many years for drivers across the North-East.

“While work by Aberdeenshire Council is ongoing, this survey will make an important contribution, providing much needed information about some of the factors which cause danger along the A947.

“I know from experience the Plaidy area in particular is an area plagued by potential risk for road users.

“I welcome all the work by Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin to provide valuable information from constituents to the local authority.”

20 August 2018

MSP Praises Broch Sports Development

Community-Led initiative 'Good Example' of Partnership with Funders

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson took time out after his surgery in Fraserburgh today to drop by the South Links Sports Development to have a look at progress.
The South Links is the site of a new £1.2million sports facility consisting of a new running track, football pitch and an all-abilities cycle track.

The project – which is led by local volunteers – has been backed by £455,000 from the Scottish Government, as well as EU funding, lottery money and support from local businesses.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I was pleased to be able to take time out between surgeries to drop by and see the progress on this latest renewal project in Fraserburgh.

“As well as providing some really first-class facilities, this project serves as a good example of the local community working in partnership with various funders, including the Scottish Government.

“I congratulate those involved in the project on the tremendous progress achieved. This is a great contribution to the social regeneration of Fraserburgh.”

Fraserburgh & District SNP councillor Brian Topping, who is also Chair of the Fraserburgh Regeneration Group, added:

“I was pleased to be able to update Stewart Stevenson on the South Links Sports Development and other regeneration issues in Fraserburgh.

“I’m particularly pleased that the project attracted significant funding from the Scottish Government into the town.”

18 August 2018

SNP MSP Calls On Polluters To Pack It In

The SNP’s Stewart Stevenson is calling on the UK government to better incentivise business to reduce their waste and take more responsibility for the environmental impact of their practices.

Regulations over the amount of packaging and materials used in the delivery of goods as well as recycling those materials are set at a UK level, in the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2015 and the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007.

However, waste is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and waste packaging and product regulation are set to be included in the Tory power grab on the Scottish Parliament’s powers after Brexit.
The European Union Circular Economy Package, adopted in January 2018, proposes economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market and support recovery and recycling schemes, for example for packaging, batteries, electric and electronic equipment and vehicles.

SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The waste hierarchy is thus - reduce, reuse, recycle. In that order. But the Tories aren’t prioritising the first bit.

“Big companies often try to put the focus on consumer behaviour – don’t litter, recycle your waste.

“But the cost of recycling shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of councils, the devolved administrations and the consumer.

“We need producers across the UK to innovate and stop creating so much needless packaging – but they’ll only do that if it reduces their own costs.

“That’s why I’m calling on the Tory government to adopt more environmentally friendly regulations around packaging and production methods.

“The onus is on Michael Gove to promote more of a ‘polluter pays’ principle that incentivises producers right across the UK to change their ways. Our environment is at stake here.”

16 August 2018

Regeneration on Agenda as Stevenson Visits Businesses in Banff & Macduff

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson spent time this week visiting a range of businesses and projects in Banff and Macduff as part of the Scotland’s Towns Partnership scheme, which supports the Scottish Government's ongoing commitment to secure a positive future for towns such as Banff, Macduff, Fraserburgh and Peterhead.

The visits, facilitated by Aberdeenshire Council’s Economic Development team, included local businesses which had recently invested in upgrades, as well as businesses and projects supported by regeneration funding and helping take forward the Scottish Government’s vision for town centre improvements.

Among those businesses and projects visited by Mr Stevenson were:
The Knowes Hotel in Macduff, run by local couple Wayne and Linda who briefed the MSP about their work as a new business which is independently run and which they have recently extensively refurbished and extended.

Deveron District Age Concern, which was awarded a grant from the Macduff Property Grant Scheme for exterior renovation work to their premises. The group provide support and help to the local community by providing a wide range of initial senior citizen information and support services.

Macduff Harbour, which was awarded funding from the European Maritime & Fisheries Fund and Aberdeenshire Council for a new ice machine.
The Home Bakery Macduff, which has received support from Macduff Small Grant Scheme and is due to open in the coming months.

Banff Silversmiths, which is due to open in the next few weeks which will house an operational silversmiths in a new partnership with Aberdeenshire Council.
Ivy’s Emporium on Bridge Street, an independently owned vintage shop part of CAVA – Craft, Art, Vintage and Antique collective - working with others as part of the Enterprise Challenge Fund with support given by Aberdeenshire Council.

Commenting after his visit, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This was a very useful and informative visit and I’m grateful to the businesses and projects involved for hosting it and to the council for arranging it.

“There was a good mix of commercial enterprises, charities and social enterprises stepping up with assistance to rebuild living breathing town centres which are attracting a new generation of visitors.

“The Scottish Government’s ‘town centre first’ principle is a key tool in helping local enterprises in our towns, backed by the local regeneration partnerships in Banff and Macduff and external funders such as the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

“It was also good to meet businesses which had decided to invest in the area, giving a real boost to the local economy and I was delighted to see and hear how well they are doing.

“All in all, whilst town centres across the UK are facing challenges as a result of changing shopping habits, it was good to see just how many new ventures have established themselves in Banff and Macduff, all of which are helping to regenerate our towns, providing employment and bolster the local economy.”

14 August 2018

Local MSP Welcomes Public Defibrillator Map

British Heart Foundation, Microsoft and NHS Joining Forces to Save Lives

Efforts from the British Heart Foundation, Microsoft and NHS Scotland to create a new public map of defibrillators across the country will be vital in saving lives, local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has said, after plans for the public map were announced.

With many communities across the North-east taking the initiative to raise funds to install a public-access defibrillator, Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the news that proposals for public mapping of the defibrillator network are being taken forward.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I welcome this development and initiative and I am pleased that Scotland will be included in the initial trial phase.

“This proposal has the possibility to help save more lives which we can all welcome. I look forward to the delivery of a concerted public information campaign to raise more awareness of the importance of Public Access Defibrillators and their accessibility.”

13 August 2018

Stevenson Slams Royal Bank For Dividend Payout After Closing Branches

Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has condemned Royal Bank of Scotland bosses for announcing they will be paying out a dividend to shareholders – its first for ten years – after axing a string of local branches.

The Royal Bank, which is still substantially-owned by the taxpayer, axed branches in Buckie, Banff and Turriff, as well as removing the Mobile Bank service from Cullen and Aberchirder last year.

The Conservative UK Government still owns around 62 per cent of the shares in RBS but repeatedly refused to intervene to save any of the branches earmarked for closure.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“The announcement that RBS is to pay out a dividend after another brutal round of branch closures will come as a slap in the face to customers.

“As I have highlighted recently, one solution to the problems created by bank closures is a community banking hub as proposed in a recent study for Highlands and Islands Enterprise. If just half of the planned dividend payout of 2p per share had instead been put towards that and matched by the other banks, that relatively small sum would have seen a transformation across our now ‘unbanked’ communities.

“It seems clear to me from my inbox and postbag that many people still need or prefer to do their banking in a branch setting. Community banking hubs are an idea worthy of serious consideration.”

7 August 2018

MSP Encourages Farmers to Share Their Views on Rural Funding

Farmers are being encouraged to share their views on the future of rural funding in the event of the UK leaving the European Union.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said with the UK government continuing to progress plans to leave the EU the Scottish Government is making preparations for the impact of Brexit on key sectors such as agriculture.

The First Minister has previously said Scotland’s interests are best served by the UK remaining in  the single market and customs union.

In June, the Scottish Government launched a consultation which set out proposals to stabilise and simplify income support for rural communities in Scotland during the period immediately after Brexit.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The rural economy is vital to Scotland’s economic prosperity but Brexit remains the biggest threat to the industry.

“At the moment, farmers in the North-East and across Scotland, receive valuable support from the EU.

“The paper produced suggests that in the short term there should be support schemes for active farming, food production, environments improvements, forestry and rural development.

“That’s why it is so important we hear directly from those working in the rural sector so they can get the right support to go through the transition period after the UK leaves the EU.”

6 August 2018

MSP Backs Scotch Lamb Funding

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a six-figure sum to support Quality Meat Scotland’s 2018 Scotch lamb promotional campaign.

The announcement was made by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as she attended the Turriff Show alongside Mr Stevenson and his fellow North-East MSP Gillian Martin.
The sheep sector plays a significant part in Scotland’s red meat industry, which is worth £892 million to Scotland.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I’m delighted the First Minister came to the Turriff Show to make this important announcement.

“Lamb is an excellent product and part of an important ecosystem that keeps our countryside tidy and attractive.

“There is plenty of scope for increasing Scotch Lamb consumption and I know our farmers stand ready to help.”

Speaking from Turriff Show, NFU Scotland Vice President Martin Kennedy said:

“The announcement by the First Minister of additional funding for Scotch Lamb marketing is great news for our lamb producers.

“The move by the Scottish Government to further support the sector in this way is a significant marker of the positive impact that the Scottish sheep sector has on the Scottish economy.”

3 August 2018

MSP Welcomes Extension of Scottish Government Concessionary Travel Scheme

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed an announcement the National Concessionary Travel Scheme will be extended.

It comes after the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said the scheme would now also include companions of eligible disabled children aged under five.

The move could result in more than 3,000 families and children additionally benefitting from the bus pass.

Additionally, Mr Matheson announced that the age of eligibility will not change for the National Concessionary Travel Scheme and that the options to provide free bus travel for Modern Apprentices will continue to be considered.

The consultation on the scheme closed in November 2017, with nearly 3000 responses received from people and organisations all across Scotland.

Two thirds of respondents felt that that the free bus pass should remain available from the age of 60.

A similar number of respondents felt that Modern Apprentices should benefit from free bus travel, and an overwhelming number of respondents were in favour of providing companion cards for eligible disabled children aged under five.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am pleased this extension to the bus pass has now been made.

“The bus pass is a benefit that many people enjoy and use as part of their daily lives and the concessionary travel scheme enables independence, accessibility and social inclusivity.

“It is right the Scottish Government carries out this work and ensure the sustainability of the National Concessionary Travel Scheme and I am grateful to all those who took part in the consultation process and helped inform the future scope of Scotland’s bus pass.”

Banking Study Could Show Way Forward For Services - Stevenson

A study into the importance of local banking services in rural areas which recommends a ‘whole system response’ to meeting the banking needs of communities and businesses could show the way forward according to local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson.

The study was commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) amid a growing trend of rural bank branch closures.

The report says banking facilities need to be understood as core to local community infrastructure. It added that there is a disconnect between local bank closures and efforts to strengthen and grow local economies.

Access to cash remains fundamental to the viability of small retail businesses, prominent in rural areas. This is especially in relation to tourism, where successes in generating income within fragile communities could be hit by the loss of access to cash via local banks.
Commenting on the report, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The recent round of bank branch closures we’ve seen have started hitting large towns, such as Fraserburgh, Buckie and Banff that most people would have assumed were safe from such closures.

“Online banking, Post Office banking and mobile bank vans go some way to providing alternatives but can only go so far. One of the recommendations of this report is a “collaborative approach” to ensuring communities are not “unbanked”. This would involve a range of partners including the banks, the Post Office and local authorities in a service point-type provision which would ensure that a physical presence remains within communities.

“It’s a proposal which is very much worth investigating further. In the meantime however, I would urge people affected by bank branch closures to support their local Post Office and those banks which still remain within their community.”

1 August 2018

MSP Backs Farmers' Calls For Rules Relaxation To Ease Fodder Crisis

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has asked Rural Affairs Secretary Fergus Ewing to consider a relaxation on rules on ‘green manure’ crops to assist with the fodder shortage currently being experienced.
The MSP raised the matter with the Cabinet Secretary after meeting farmers at New Deer Show last week. The Scottish Government has also today met with stakeholders from the farming industry including Scottish Beef Association; Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB); Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS); Scottish Machinery Ring Association; Scotland’s rural charity RSABI; Scottish Dairy Hub; Maltsters Association of Great Britain; Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC); NSA Scotland; Scotch Whisky Association; SAC Consulting and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“There are severe challenges facing farmers at the moment as a result of the wet winter and spring and now an exceptionally dry summer.

“Chief among these is the fodder shortfall which will make for a difficult autumn and winter. I’ve raised the issue of ‘green manure’ crops as fodder at the request of local farmers as a sensible and useful contribution to helping meet the shortfall.”

NFUS Vice President Martin Kennedy, who chaired today's meeting and was among those who met with Mr Stevenson at New Deer Show, said:

“This is set to be an extremely challenging autumn and winter, but those round the table today are committed to helping the industry through it.”

MSP Condemns UK Tory Govt Plans To Take €1 Billion from Scottish Control After Brexit

The UK Tory Government has been criticised for its plans to replace the €1 billion European Structural and Investment Funds, currently distributed by the Scottish Government, with a UK Government-controlled 'UK Shared Prosperity Fund' which will merely “engage” with devolved administrations after Brexit.

The European Structural and Investment Funds, being the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF), help a wide range of projects including initiatives to address poverty, improve infrastructure and the environment and tackle pollution across Scotland.

The announcement, made by UK Tory Government Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire MP, has been heavily criticised by third sector organisations and the SNP, as new evidence of a Tory power grab on Scotland.

Anna Fowlie, Chief Executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), commented:

“The SCVO has been consistent in our position that powers returning to the UK from the EU should be devolved so that Scotland’s needs can be considered and reflected in decision-making.

“The UK Parliament has promised engagement with devolved administrations on these matters before but their track record suggests they are more interested in England’s priorities and not at all concerned with those of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.”

Commenting, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“European Structural Funding has helped to create employment, build roads and infrastructure and help tackle unemployment in every corner of Scotland – particularly in some of our most remote communities.

“To replace this with a system administered entirely by Westminster, instead of here in Scotland, would be completely unacceptable.

“Given their recent form in seeking to tear up the devolution settlement, there would be little reason to trust the Tories.”

The European Structural and Investment Funds scheme is currently handled by Scottish ministers. Money is allocated on a six year basis with the 2014 to 2020 funds for Scotland worth €476 million and €465m respectively.

Schools Suffer Huge Decline in EU Teaching Applicants

Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP has called for the devolution of migration powers, following a massive fall in the number of European Union (EU) citizens choosing to join the education workforce in Scotland, as insecurity surrounding the UK’s impending departure from the EU grows.

The most recently published figures by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) show that only 14 EU teachers from six nations have applied for registration so far in 2018, a dramatic decline compared to the 186 received last year.

The starkness of this contrast is further illustrated by the fact that over previous years, there had been a steady upward trend from 128 applications in 2015, to 159 in 2016 and 186 in 2017.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP said:

“Scotland voted clearly and decisively to remain within the European Union and we have repeatedly demonstrated that this is the best option for Scotland’s future.

“These figures show the stark reality of Brexit. Already highly-skilled and hard-working EU citizens are thinking twice about choosing to live and teach in Scotland which will not only have a negative impact on the education workforce but our economy and society as a whole.

“Last year we had citizens from almost every EU member country applying for GTCS registration but, so far this year, citizens from just six countries have applied to live and work in Scotland. The GTCS - the independent body that registers teachers - has made plain that Brexit is driving this slump.

“Once again this underlines the clear case for the SNP Government, accountable to the Scottish Parliament, to set the rules for a migration system tailored to meet the country’s needs.

“It is vital we continue to attract the very best candidates to work within the Scottish education system regardless of their nationality. Our young people deserve no less.”

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson added:

“Scotland has differing needs and wishes to England and as such, requires a system tailored to meet Scotland’s requirements. We need EU-citizens with the appropriate skills to come and strengthen our workforce.

“Immigration policy must be devolved to limit the damaging impact of this.”

Rocketing Hinkley Point Nuclear Costs Will Increase Energy Costs - MSP

Latest fears of delays at Hinkley Point where the world’s most expensive nuclear power station is being built, are likely to lead to increased costs for the billpayer, the SNP has said.
from wikipedia
Industry reports suggest that EDF, in charge of developing a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, has been forced to delay energy generation at other sites in Europe due to significant plant problems, likely to affect their UK developments too.

This latest warning over the beleaguered Hinkley project comes in addition to the fact the cost of the new plant is already three times over budget - and rising. Hinkley’s ‘strike price’ is already guaranteed to be higher than prices for other energy sources, meaning big increases in electricity bills for consumers.

French power utility EDF announced that there will be further delays and cost overruns at its Flamanville nuclear site in France.

The start-up date for the Flamanville 3 reactor has now been pushed back to the second quarter of 2020, having originally been slated for 2012 when construction began in 2007. The revised cost estimate of 10.9 billion euros is now three times the original budget.

There is now serious doubt over whether a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point can be built by 2025, or within the £20 billion revised budget which is already set to impact upon consumers’ energy bills. Costs running even further above this exorbitant rate will mean further pain for bill payers.

These latest fears over Hinkley and the expensive energy it will produce comes just one week after the Tories announced plans to scrap feed-in tariffs for renewables projects from next year.

The SNP has reiterated its calls for the plug to be pulled on Hinkley and the billions saved to be reinvested in green energy.

Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson commented:

“Hinkley Point is a complete white elephant; it is already significantly delayed and well over budget. I would be flabbergasted if all these delays and complications didn’t lead to a massive increase in the initially estimated costs. If the project ever becomes operational.

“The UK Prime Minister only two years ago wavered on pursuing Hinkley. She should have followed her instincts and cancelled the project.”

“The biggest tragedy is that this saga is only one of many symptoms of how out of touch the Tories are with their energy policy.

“With one hand they cut support for the clean industries of the future, like the Peterhead CCS scheme, while with the other they continue to throw money at this project which was racked with problems before it got off the drawing board.

“The sooner Scotland has full control over energy policy the better, so we can invest wisely in green energy.”

27 July 2018

Stevenson Completes Successful Surgery Tour

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson completed his annual surgery tour in the last week, clocking-up nearly 40 surgeries in communities across the constituency.

Mr Stevenson’s record of holding surgeries is second to none and makes him one of the most accessible MSPs in the country, having held over 1,100 surgeries since he was elected.
Commenting, Stewart said:

“Most of the casework I receive from constituents these days comes in via e-mail, post or by phone, but I think it’s still very important to be available for face-to-face discussions in people’s own communities and the Surgery Tour serves that purpose very well.

“People brought a range of issues to me, which I am progressing with the relevant authorities.

“Over the years, many thousands of people have been in touch through one of my surgeries. It’s not always possible to achieve the outcome that people are seeking with a particular issue or problem, but on many occasions, simply the act of writing a letter on Parliamentary-headed paper on someone’s behalf is enough to make the powers that be or private companies sit up and pay attention to someone’s problem. Being able to help people in this way is both a pleasure and a privilege and I’m pleased to be able to do so.

“I’ll be holding more surgeries of the conventional type across the larger towns in the coming months but in the meantime, any constituent wishing to contact me can do so in a range of ways; by phone, e-mail, post, calling in at my Constituency Office or online via my website, www.stewartstevenson.scot, which also has full details of how to get in touch.”

Arrangements are already being made for Stewart’s next round of surgeries, which will take place next month.

25 July 2018

MSP Calls for Change After Teaching Council Figures Reveal Drop in EU Teaching Applications

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has called for changes to immigration measures to attract and retain talent in the teaching sector.

It comes after figures were revealed which show only 14 EU teachers applied for registration to teach in Scottish schools in the first half of the year – when the bulk of applications normally occur.

In comparison, there had been a steady increase with 128 applications in 2015, 159 in 2016 and 186 in 2017.

The drop was attributed by the General Teaching Council of Scotland (GTCS) Chief Executive Ken Muir to Brexit and the Tory government’s damaging approach to immigration.

Now, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has warned exiting the European Union will impact the North-East and chances of attracting and retaining talent in the teaching sector.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The consequences of Brexit and damaging Tory policies around immigration are now hitting close to home – in our local schools and communities.

“Despite the best efforts of the Scottish Government to attract and retain the talent we need in our teaching sector, this work is being completely undermined by Westminster.

“The existing cap on the number of qualified teaching professionals allowed to enter the UK has already left some schools denied a teacher they had recruited, but these new figures are absolutely devastating.

“They prove the Tories put their own Brexit obsessions ahead of what’s good for our kids’ education – that is completely intolerable. They’re actively driving talent away.

“The Tories should drop their anti-migrant obsession and drop it now – and give Scotland full control over immigration so we can design a better system, suited to our needs, with the right skills in our schools to give our children the best education we can provide.”

21 July 2018

Stevenson Congratulates New Deer Show Organisers

Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson visited New Deer Show today with local SNP councillors where he met with the local NFU Scotland branch. The MSP also toured the cattle and sheep lines before visiting the various stalls and exhibitions around the showground.
MSP Stewart Stevenson with
Turriff & District SNP councillor Alistair Forsyth
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

"I'm very pleased for the organisers that, on the whole, the weather was kind to them this year.

"There is a huge amount of work goes into planning a successful show like New Deer and the President Alistair Kindness, Secretary Lynne Morrison and Committee deserve our thanks for putting together another excellent showcase for the best of Buchan and North-east livestock.

"The support given to the show by the Buchan community and the public at large is vitally important to ensuring that this 171-year old tradition continues not only as part of Buchan's farming heritage but also as an important contributor to the rural economy."

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