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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."

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