18 April 2018

MSP Welcomes 95% Broadband Target Being Met

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed figures which show more than 95% of Scotland’s homes and businesses are now able to connect to fibre-enabled broadband.

It comes as the Scottish Government continues to deliver the rollout through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) project.

Around 890,000 premises are now connected and there has been a total contribution of £280million from across the public sector in Scotland.

Without the DSSB programme, it is estimated that only 66% of Scotland would be able to receive fibre broadband.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“For rural areas fast and reliable internet is necessary for the future economic and social success of communities.

“There is still work to do, but these most recent figures are a landmark for the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme.

“Around 890,000 premises have been connected to fibre broadband so far. We want to ensure Scotland can offer world-class digital infrastructure including in the North-East of Scotland.

“We know that by 2021, the Scottish Government has pledged to make sure every single premise in Scotland can access speeds of at least 30Mbps.”

10 April 2018

MSP Welcomes Road Safety Figures

Figures have revealed the number of people fatally injured on North-East roads is at its lowest level since current records began in 1974.
Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the data which shows last year 14 people were killed compared with figures from more than 40 years ago, which show there were 102 people died within the same time frame.

The figures are provisional statistics for the combined local authority areas of Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray.

The previous lowest figure occurred in 2011, when 22 people died during the year.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The decrease in the number of fatalities is welcome but we must not become complacent about the safety on our roads.

“The impact on family and friends from the death of a loved one is tragic and has consequences that are long-lasting.

“I would like to commend the emergency services and local authorities for all their hard work on this issue.

“Progress has obviously been made and I fully support the work of all those involved to see what can be learnt from the most recent figures in order to decrease the number of fatal incidents on North-East roads.”

6 April 2018

MSP Welcomes Changes to Tax Bands

More than two-thirds of taxpayers will pay less on their current income this year under Scotland’s new tax bands.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the move as changes to the Higher and Top rate tax bands take effect from today (April 6th).

It also means there will be an additional £428million available in 2018/19 to invest in vital public services and the economy.

And under the new system, low earning taxpayers are protected through the introduction of a new Starter Rate of tax.

The income tax system will also be more progressive, raising additional revenue through the introduction of a new Intermediate Rate of 21% and increases to the Higher and Top Rates, to 41% and 46%.

As a result of these changes, and the increase in the personal allowance, all taxpayers earning up to £33,000 - 70% of all taxpayers - will be protected from any increase.

Those earning more than £33,000 will pay only a proportionate amount more.

A majority of taxpayers (55%) in Scotland will pay less income tax in 2018-19 than they would in the rest of the UK, while those who can afford to pay more will make a marginally higher contribution to support public services and investment in the economy.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The new income rates and bands will make the system more progressive.

“As well as this, they will help to deliver additional revenues to invest in public services and the economy.

“These measures will help to ensure the North-East and Scotland as a whole will be the fairest taxed part of the UK.”

4 April 2018

Mundell Power Grab Tour Failing to Answer Key Questions

David Mundell faces tough questions over the threat to Scottish farming as he starts a tour promoting the Tory power grab.

Earlier this week it was reported that the Tories may allow low-quality hormone-treated beef to be sold in the UK to secure a trade deal with Australia – a proposal the National Farmers’ Union said would put farmers in the UK at a competitive disadvantage.

The Scottish Secretary is visiting food and drink producers in Scotland to justify a power grab over devolved areas as part of Brexit.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The Tories think they can do anything they want to Scotland and get away with it.

“Once upon a time the Scottish Tories agreed that a power grab over devolved issues would be unacceptable. Now David Mundell is touring the country as a Brexit salesman – but Scottish food producers won’t be sold a pup.

“Despite all of the Tory promises that countries would be lining up to sign gold-plated trade agreements, it’s becoming ever clearer that the UK government would sell their granny to get a deal.

“There’s a very real risk that Brexit will mean the UK market is flooded with hormone-treated beef, chlorinated chicken and GM crops – putting our farmers at risk to save Theresa May’s blushes.

“That’s why the power grab matters, and that’s why David Mundell’s PR operation is falling completely flat.

“The Tories have already sold out our fishermen – they must not be allowed to sell out our food producers.”

3 April 2018

MSP Encourages Youth Groups to Apply for Erasmus Funding

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is encouraging youth organisations to apply for Erasmus + funding.
It has been revealed that there is more than €12million of funding available with the deadline for applications closing later this month.

The Erasmus+ funding enables participants from the UK to go abroad to study, work, volunteer, teach or train.

It funds around 16,000 higher education students to benefit from a study or work placement abroad.

The funding is open to schools, further and higher education, adult education and youth organisations.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The Erasmus+ programme has benefited many young people for years.

“I am pleased even more funding have been made available to help even more young people and groups in my constituency benefit from these opportunities.

“I would encourage everyone to take a look at the possibilities available for them to teach, learn and live abroad.”

Stevenson Responds to Review of NE Minor Injuries Units

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has submitted his response to the review of Minor Injuries Units which closes tomorrow (Wednesday 4 April).
Fraserburgh is one of a number of units under review
Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership initiated the review in December 2017 which aims to take into account “location, demand and activity, practitioner competency and ongoing sustainability”.

In his submission, Stewart Stevenson says:

“The geographic nature of my constituency and indeed Aberdeenshire as a whole is very much rural, and localised medical treatment is an issue of importance for many of my constituents.

“I am aware that some of the services provided in Chalmers Hospital in Banff for example, such as the availability of expert radiographers and the provision of specific blood tests to identify blood clots or heart attacks, help to reduce acute admissions to care providers in Aberdeen and Elgin many of which would require ambulance transport.

“As you will appreciate there are numerous challenges faced by local GP practices in terms of recruitment and the rural nature of the community results in additional pressure on the ambulance service. I am concerned that any diminution in the service provided by local Minor Injury Units could lead to unnecessary demands on the ambulance service or local GPs.”

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“While it is right that provision of any public service is reviewed from time to time to see how it may be improved, it seems clear from the feedback I have received from constituents that these services are greatly valued in their communities and any reduction in service would have knock-on effects, not only potentially to local GPs and the ambulance service, but to patients themselves who may be faced with longer journeys for minor injuries.

“For some people, that will not be sustainable and may simply increase pressure on the health service elsewhere.”

2 April 2018

Tory Trade Secretary Set to Betray Scottish Farmers

Following reports that the International Trade Secretary may consent to watering down food standards to secure a trade deal with Australia, the SNP’s Stewart Stevenson has warned that the Tories “cannot be trusted to protect Scottish farmers’ interests in Brexit negotiations.”
Today’s Scottish Times reports that Liam Fox may bow to the Australian Government’s demands that cheap, low-quality hormone-treated beef can be sold in UK markets in any post-Brexit trade deal. The sale of hormone-treated beef has been banned in the European Union since 1981, amid concern about a potential cancer link.

Responding to the news, the National Farmers’ Union chief livestock adviser has said:

“We do not believe the British public would want our own farmers to be put at a competitive disadvantage by allowing the import of food produced to different standards and using methods which are not allowed in Britain.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP, who sits on Holyrood’s Rural Committee, said:

“The hard line Brexiteers are now a clear threat to the producers of high quality Scotch beef, and their desperate scramble for trade deals is putting the future of Scotland’s rural economy on the line.

“The Tories have already sold out Scotland’s fishermen in Brexit negotiations - they must not be allowed to treat Scottish farmers with the same contempt by lowering food standards and allowing cheap, hormone-treated beef to flood the UK market after Brexit.

“While the SNP continues to stand up for Scottish farmers and the jobs they support - Liam Fox must immediately confirm whether Scotland’s prized farming industry will pay the price for a post-Brexit trade deal with Australia, as his Tory Government continues to pursue a disastrous Brexit ‘at all costs’ policy.”
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