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24 March 2019

Scotland Outperforming Rest of UK in Cutting Emissions

Scot Gov Bill Sets World Leading Climate Change Targets

New independent analysis from the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPICe) has confirmed Scotland is leading the rest of the UK in the fight to reduce harmful carbon emissions.

Scotland's total emissions reduced by 35% between 2008 and 2016 - outstripping a 27% reduction across the UK for the same period. Meanwhile, England achieved a 29% reduction between 2008 and 2016.

Decarbonisation of Scotland's electricity sector, and reductions in emissions from waste, have helped Scotland outperform the UK overall as emissions continue to fall year on year. The closure of the Longannet power station in March 2016 has also had a substantial impact.

Independent, expert advisers have described the targets in the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Bill, set to be debated by MSPs next month, as at the very limits of feasibility.

The bill would mean that Scotland is carbon-neutral by 2050, and includes an ambition to achieve net-zero for all greenhouse gases as soon as possible.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

"These latest statistics are hugely encouraging and show that Scotland continues to lead the rest of the UK in reducing its carbon emissions.

“Parliament will shortly debate the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Bill that sets some of the most ambitious climate change targets in the world.

"But there is no room for complacency. We all have a role to play in meeting our carbon emissions targets whether that's as an individual, as a community or as a business.

"The fight against climate change is one of the defining challenges of our time - the SNP is fully committed to maintaining Scotland's place as a global leader in emissions reduction, delivering ambitious, credible and affordable targets for the future."

22 March 2019

'MODO Matters' Says Local MSP

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has praised the work of Modo, the social circus group based in Peterhead which works with young people. The SNP MSP was attending the Modo Awards last night in Peterhead where he presented the Saltire Ascent and Approach Awards, and the Gold and Silver YAVAs (Young Aberdeenshire Volunteer Awards).
The Saltire Awards, echoed by the YAVAs at a local level, are designed to formally recognise the commitment and contribution of youth volunteering. Supported by the Scottish Government, the Saltire Awards enable young volunteers to record the skills, experience and learning gained through successful volunteering placement.

Commenting, Stewart said:

“It was a real pleasure to present these awards to so many talented young people.

“While everyone can appreciate the spectacle of the public performance, in so many ways, the real value of Modo is the important work it does with young people in developing their confidence, helping them to work in co-operation with others and giving them a sense of pride in what they do and in their community.

“Martin Danziger, his team, and the young people who make Modo the success which it undoubtedly is deserve our thanks for their efforts and I look forward to the next community event from Modo.”

20 March 2019

Latest CAP Payments Begin for North-East Farmers

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has said Common Agricultural Payments (CAP) to eligible farmers, crofters and land managers can be expected in coming months.

More than a third of a billion pounds in payments have begun, with around 78% of eligible claimants having already received up to 90% of their entitlement through a government loan in October last year.

In total, over £300 million of European funding will be paid to more than 18,000 farmers, crofters and land managers, offset by the recovery of BPS2018 loans where customers chose to take one.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP, said:

“These payments are in line with the schedule published by Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing and will support investment, jobs and the rural economy.

“It will help to provide certainty for many in rural communities including in my constituency.

“Brexit continues to present the biggest threat to the farming industry. Common Agricultural Policy payments are guaranteed at current levels until 2021, which offers a degree of certainty and stability during these uncertain times.

“The Scottish Government is still pushing for the UK Government to confirm that Pillar 2 funding will be included in their funding guarantee, which they have failed to confirm.”

19 March 2019

Stevenson Calls on North-East Businesses to Apply for Brexit Funding

Businesses will be able to access support from the Scottish Government as they prepare for Brexit with funding of up to £4,000 each.

The move has been welcomed by Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson who has urged small and medium sized businesses to apply for the Brexit Support Grant.

It will be administered by Scottish Enterprise and will help to manage a range of Brexit impacts.

The grant had previously been open to exporters but will now be available to SME’s in Scotland for a wider variety of Brexit preparation.

It can be accessed by businesses employing up to 250 staff and can be used for activities including consultancy support, professional fees, external training, and international market research.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I would urge businesses in my constituency of Banffshire and Buchan Coast to apply for funding if they are eligible.

“Brexit creates a huge array of challenges for small and medium sized businesses and we must do everything we can to help mitigate against the damage to the Scottish economy.

“This funding will help alongside practical support and advice and I would urge all North-East businesses to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Steve Dunlop, Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise, said:

“It is critical that Scottish businesses continue to assess the challenges presented by Brexit and take necessary action to safeguard their growth.

“Preparing your business for Brexit is about developing a flexible planning approach so you can adapt and be resilient across a range of potential Brexit outcomes.

“We are stepping up support with additional financial and people resource to make sure businesses have access to support that will help them meet challenges head on.”

13 March 2019

Stevenson: Tory MP Fails to Stand Up for Banff and Buchan

A North-East MP has been slammed for failing to ask a question at when given the opportunity at Prime Minister’s Questions by Theresa May.

Following an historic vote on Brexit in the House of Commons 24 hours earlier, in which the UK Government was once again defeated, Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid was unable to think of any questions to ask on behalf of his constituents.

Tory David Duguid has been the MP for the Banff and Buchan Constituency since he was elected in 2017.

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Speaker of the House John Bercow calls upon Mr Duguid to ask a question but is rebuffed by the MP.

Mr Bercow goes on to point out to the Tory MP he had previously indicated a desire to speak.

It comes as sectors across the North-East risk losing an influx of migrants who come to live and work in the area.

A number of sectors including hospitality, tourism, fishing and social care could be left with a skills gap.

Now Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has put forward questions the MP could have asked on behalf of his constituency.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Mr Duguid represents one of the constituencies most at risk of a hard Brexit or No Deal and yet he has failed to stand in the House of Commons and ask a question of the Prime Minister.

“To say this is a failure of his duty would be an understatement. The Scottish Tory MPs have been inadequate in their representation of Scotland.

“From concerns about the state of the economy and how the salary threshold of £30,000 will impact the number of migrants to the North-East, funding provisions for digital connectivity and the impact huge tariffs could have to sheep farmers for imports to the EU, there are an abundance of issues facing Mr Duguid’s constituents.

“At the most critical time in recent history for the UK Mr Duguid has simply chosen not to stand up for the people of Banff and Buchan.”



Watch the video at:

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2206930136290515

Stevenson Calls on UK Gov to Axe Migration Salary Thresholds

The UK Government has been called on to abandon its current post-Brexit migration proposals which would set a salary threshold which could harm the number of labour migrants coming to work in Scotland.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has called on the Scottish Parliament urging it to seek assurances the move would be axed.

In a motion to parliament, Mr Stevenson has warned the move will have a “disproportionate negative impact” on the Scottish economy by creating a huge decline in the working age population.

There are also fears it would cause staff shortages in key areas including textiles, hospitality, sales, seasonal agriculture and vital social care services.

It comes after a recent report from the Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population found that less than 40% of workers in the Aberdeenshire Council area and less than 30% of workers in the Moray Council area earn above the £30,000 threshold.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The isolationist migration policy proposed by the Tories is totally out of step with Scotland’s needs - freedom of movement has enriched both our workforce and communities here in the North-East.

“Setting a £30,000 threshold will drive people away from Scotland, damaging our local economy and hammering vital public services - our social care sector in Aberdeenshire simply wouldn’t function without migrant labour.

“The North-East relies on steady migration from both the EU and elsewhere to support industries including fish processors, tourism and hospitality.

“It is clear from the Expert Advisory Group that the impact of a £30,000 threshold for workers who wish to come to Aberdeenshire and Moray would be significantly challenged by this base level of income.”

MSP Visits Home Start Deveron

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson enjoyed a recent visit to Home Start Deveron in Carmelite Street, Banff. The MSP met with the recently-appointed Senior Co-ordinator, Martin Robertson, and called in on the staff, volunteers, mums and babies of the ‘Baby Buddies’ group which meets at the Home Start centre every Friday.
Home Start Deveron has been supporting families across the Deveron Valley area since 1999 and formed a consortium with other schemes across the Aberdeenshire area back in 2015. The Deveron group covers the Banff and Macduff, Turriff and Huntly areas, offering advice and support to families with younger children, and is affiliated with Home-Start UK/Scotland, a leading family support charity.

In 2016/17 Home-Start Deveron supported 366 families through a combination of 1:1 home-visiting support, group sessions & social events. Support is tailored to each family and their individual needs, and Home Start works with the whole family.

The organisation also recruits and trains volunteers to visit families within their own home for 2-3 hours per week to offer informal, friendly, non-judgemental and confidential support. In addition to the Senior Co-ordinator, there are two Family Support Workers who support families on a 1-1 basis as well as running groups alongside volunteers. Families are mainly referred to Home Start via a range of agencies through the Aberdeenshire Health & Social Care Partnership, or by self-referrals direct through the office.

Home-Start Deveron helps families facing many different challenges, these include but are not limited to rural/social isolation, post-natal depression, families affected by disability, chronic or terminal illness, or affected by substance misuse or domestic abuse.

Speaking of his visit, Mr. Stevenson said:

“I was extremely impressed by my visit to Home Start and very much enjoyed meeting with the mothers and children of the ‘Baby Buddies’ group. It was great to see the youngsters interacting with each other, while the young mums were able to enjoy the companionship of others as they joined the children at play.

“The staff members and volunteers were very positive and enthusiastic and helped to facilitate exercise, music and play activities in a very relaxed and pleasant atmosphere.”

Cullen Association Gets Boost from MSP

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has presented a £250 boost to the fundraising efforts of a local voluntary group courtesy of research interviews he took part in recently.

Research firms Ipsos MORI and PA Advocacy asked the MSP to take part in an interview and offered a donation to charity if he agreed to take part. Mr Stevenson did so and nominated the Three Kings Cullen Association as the worthy recipient.

Mr Stevenson presented the cheque to Association Chairperson Brenda Gifford during a visit to Cullen Community and Residential Centre where he heard about their fundraising efforts and was updated on their project.
(l to r): Cllr Theresa Coull; Stewart Stevenson MSP;
Brenda Gifford, Chair, Three Kings Cullen Association
Commenting, Stewart said:

“I get approached to take part in these surveys and research interviews from time to time in my role as an MSP. Most of them usually offer a fee for taking part and I donate these to good causes around the constituency.

“I was aware that the Three Kings Cullen Association was fundraising having met Stan Slater at a coffee morning in Cullen last year. I was delighted to be able to contribute in a small way by following-up a £100 donation in November with another £150 from surveys this week and I wish the volunteers every success going forward.”

MSP Calls for Reinstatement of Gamrie Saturday Bus Service

Following on representations from local residents, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has called on Aberdeenshire Council to review its decision to cut the 273 Saturday bus service to Gardenstown.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“This is a community which has already faced months and months of disruption as a consequence of a landslip and the extensive assessment and remedial work which resulted.

“I have been approached on behalf of a number of local residents who have protested that the axing of this service will result in the isolation of vulnerable residents. It will also seriously inconvenience the many tourists and visitors who rent summer properties in the village, for which Saturdays are a common ‘changeover day’.

“It has been reported to me that there had been problems with the reliability of the service even before the landslip, so it is no surprise that passenger numbers may have dropped. That notwithstanding, it remains an essential service for those who are forced to rely on it, and I am told that there had previously been an undertaking to provide a smaller and more reliable vehicle to service the route.

“It is, of course, a matter for local authorities as to how they allocate their budgets, but I feel that there is merit in reviewing this decision and conducting a more meaningful consultation with the local community.”

12 March 2019

Stevenson Hails Funding for North-East Community-Led Project

A community project in the North-East has been awarded a six-figure cash boost after securing National Lottery Funding.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast Stewart Stevenson MSP has hailed the investment for the Moray Reach Out project.

The £123,253 funding from the Big Lottery Fund Scotland will support a move into new premises in central Buckie and to refurbishing the building.

They project will also engage a Training and Support worker who will be responsible for helping people with poor mental health, learning disabilities and those experiencing isolation or loneliness.

The Big Lottery Fund Scotland is focussed on distributing National Lottery Good Cause funding to help people and communities most in need throughout Scotland.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This six-figure sum will go towards helping the wonderful community-led project in moving to new premises as well as supporting a worker who can help those in the community who need it most.

“National Lottery Funding grants such as this can be a lifeline for groups such as Moray Reach Out Project who deliver such important work in the North-East.

“I would like to wish them every success and I look forward to seeing the new premises.”

8 March 2019

Stevenson Hails Scottish Apprenticeship Week at Visit to Seivwright Brothers, Conrhill

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson paid a visit today (Friday) to local contractors Seivwright Brothers of Cornhill to mark Scottish Apprenticeship Week. Seivwrights currently have ten apprentices in construction and business administration.

The SNP MSP was invited to meet local Modern Apprentices to hear from them about their work-based experiences, and to showcase the benefits of apprenticeships for young people, for employers, and for the Scottish economy as a whole.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Modern Apprenticeships are all about building skills for the future. There now are over 27,000 new apprenticeships started every year in Scotland, providing excellent opportunities for young people and employers alike, and building the skilled workforce that Scotland will need in years to come.

“It's great to see local young people and local businesses participating in the scheme. The extra support that the Scottish Government has provided for apprenticeships in rural areas is helping to ensure that all parts of the country can benefit from apprenticeships. Good links between schools, colleges and employers mean that opportunities are available to more young people than ever before.

“I am grateful to Seivwright Brothers for hosting this visit today and introducing me to the apprentices who will be the skilled workforce of tomorrow.”

Stewart Stevenson’s visit coincides with an announcement from Minister for Fair Work, Jamie Hepburn MSP, that the number of Modern Apprentice opportunities will be increased to 29,000 next year. Announcing the new figure, Mr Hepburn said:

“It is vital we continue to develop Scotland’s young workforce to meet the emerging needs and opportunities of our employers and economy.

“That is why we are expanding the number of Modern Apprenticeship places available to 29,000 next year, meaning even more people can access a wide variety of work-based learning.

“Apprenticeships are a fantastic way for all employers to invest in their workforce and provide the skills the economy needs now and in the future.

“The Scottish Government are funding more apprentices than ever before and we remain firmly on track to achieve our ambitious target of 30,000 new apprenticeship starts by 2020.”

5 March 2019

Welcome for £330 million Investment in North-East by Scottish Government

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson and Turriff & District SNP councillor Alastair Forsyth have welcomed the £330 million investment in North-east railway infrastructure by the Scottish Government.

The SNP MSP was speaking after attending a briefing with Network Rail and ScotRail officials in Aberdeen outlining the work schedule for the upgrade of the Aberdeen to Inverness line.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Following on from the long-awaited completion of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route and the Balmedie-Tipperty dualling, this project represents another huge and welcome investment in the North-east’s transport network by the Scottish Government.

“The details of the project outlined by Network Rail and ScotRail officials at the briefing I attended are impressive and will deliver enhanced rail services to and from this important transport corridor once complete.

“I look forward to the next phase of this ambitious project being completed by its target date of late August.”

Councillor Alastair Forsyth added:

“People using our local stations at Inverurie and Huntly will benefit greatly from more frequent services which, once completed, this work will allow.

“This project will really help to ‘connect-up’ the North-east with the rest of the country and build on the road improvements delivered by the AWPR. More locally, improvements to the A947 will help complete the picture.”



Network Rail will be carrying out planned closures of the Aberdeen to Inverness rail line between Saturday 4 May and Monday 19 August, commencing with Dyce to Inverurie from 4 May to 14 June. Further details available here: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/our-routes/scotland/aberdeen-inverness-improvements/

Stevenson Welcomes Lottery Funding for Community Groups

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a five-figure sum of funding for community groups.

It comes after the funding was given for the National Lottery Awards for All Scotland grant from The National Lottery Community Fund.

The Anna Ritchie Parent Council received £10,000 which the group will purchase a 16-seater wheelchair accessible minibus to transport pupils to sporting and community engagements.

A cash boost of £3,500 was received by the Cetacean Research & Research Unit (CRRU) which will be used by the group to purchase a laptop, a projector, banners and educational tools to deliver marine stewardship workshops to schools and youth groups in coastal communities in Moray and Aberdeenshire.

The National Lottery Awards For All Scotland gives groups a chance to apply for a National Lottery grant of between £300 and £10,000 for projects that aim to help improve local communities and the lives of people most in need.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The funding received by these groups will be of great benefit to them and the work they do.

“I know the £10,000 awarded to the Anna Ritchie Parent Council will make transport much easier for getting pupils to sporting and community events.

“As an MSP for a coastal constituency, I am delighted the CRRU will be able to purchase items which will help them to visit local schools and youth groups and educate them on marine life.

“I would encourage all groups who are in need of further funding to look at applying to the National Lottery Awards For All Scotland.”

1 March 2019

Aberdeenshire Council Urged to Make Most of Town Centre Funding

Aberdeenshire Council has been urged to make the most of its funding allocation from the Scottish Government’s £50million Town Centre Fund.

It comes after SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay announced plans for the fund, which aims to drive local economic growth by helping town centres fund projects such as re-purposing buildings for retail, business and community enterprise, while improving access and infrastructure.

After allocations were announced this week by the Scottish Government, it has now been confirmed that Aberdeenshire Council will receive a share of £3.2million from the new ring-fenced fund.

Now, the cash-boost has been welcomed by Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson and the local authority’s SNP group.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“This funding announcement will help to transform town centres in Aberdeenshire, including towns like Ellon in my constituency.

“The health of our town centres is vital to the economic and cultural life of our communities – and this new investment can make a real difference.

“Aberdeenshire Council must now ensure that the £3.2million is spent wisely and ensure our local town centres reap the benefits of this huge investment.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The SNP’s Town Centre Fund is part of a wider package of business support measures that will help drive economic activity in Aberdeenshire, helping give our local high streets a welcome boost.

“This announcement of funding is extremely welcome. Having spent some time last year visiting a range of new businesses, refreshed businesses and other community schemes I would very much wish to see this funding support innovative ideas which can support our town centres.

“In so doing, this would not only support potential new businesses but also supporting existing shops and businesses by increasing footfall and visitors to town centres.”

Aberdeenshire SNP Group Leader Councillor Richard Thomson, who represents Ellon and District, said:

"This is excellent news. I'm particularly pleased that Aberdeenshire has received such a high, above-population share of the £50m that was available Scotland-wide.

"This investment from the Scottish Government will give us the opportunity to invest in improving our town centres right across Aberdeenshire to help deliver sustainable growth and jobs, making them even more attractive places to be."

Councillor Gwyneth Petrie, who represents Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford, said:

“Huntly town centre has been deteriorating for a number of years now, and this was a major factor in the establishment of the Huntly Town Team, which is a regeneration project for the town.

“It’s by far not the only town centre which is struggling at the minute, and I’m delighted to see dedicated funding from the Scottish Government to address these issues.

“Shopping habits have changed and may not change back – funding like this means that we can begin to look at alternative uses for our town centres, to ensure that they can thrive as vibrant centres to the areas where we live and work.”

27 February 2019

Aberdeenshire Firms Benefit from Small Business Bonus Boost

The Scottish Government’s Small Business Bonus Scheme provided £11.7million of support for businesses across Aberdeenshire in 2017/18 – a 34.3% rise on the previous year.

The Small Business Bonus Scheme, delivered by the SNP in 2008/09, supports local firms by reducing their rates liability or taking firms out of business rates altogether.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have welcomed the cash boost for the North-East.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP and Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“These figures prove the success of the Small Business Bonus Scheme for firms across Aberdeenshire.

“Businesses in the North-East have benefitted from a massive £11.7million in rates support, providing stability for local jobs and communities and giving firms that valuable headroom to grow and thrive.

“While Labour and the Tories have no credible plans between them, the SNP is getting on with the job – creating a better business environment in Aberdeenshire, boosting employment and creating a business environment where local companies can flourish.”

22 February 2019

Budget for a Fairer Scotland Given Holyrood Backing

North-East SNP MSPs have backed the Scottish Government’s budget for the coming financial year – securing a cash boost for the NHS while offering economic stability in the face of Tory Brexit chaos.

Despite Westminster cuts of almost £2 billion over the last decade to Scotland’s block resource grant, the SNP has committed £729 million extra for health and care services – with spending on NHS frontline boards rising by £430 million.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have backed the budget which will provide NHS Grampian with an additional £37million rise in spending.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay also announced an £8 billion investment in Scotland’s education system, including £120 million delivered directly to head teachers – helping schools address the poverty related attainment gap.

Scotland’s colleges will benefit from a £606 million investment over 2019-20, while universities will receive more than £1 billion.

As part of the Scottish Government’s plan to almost double the paid-for provision of childcare to 1,140 hours from August 2020 for all 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds, the budget also commits £500 million to support the expansion of early learning services and facilities across Scotland.

The SNP’s plans also ensure local councils receive a fair funding settlement, delivering a total local government settlement of £11.1 billion next year – that includes an additional £90 million to the core spending grant.

This budget will ensure Scotland remains the lowest taxed part of the UK – keeping council tax increases below the 5% cap in England while ensuring 55% of income taxpayers will pay less in Scotland than they would elsewhere in the UK.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP and Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“With Westminster in complete chaos, the SNP has delivered certainty and stability for Scotland’s economy with a budget that protects our cherished health service and supports our schools here in the North-East.

“I am delighted that Holyrood has given its backing to a progressive budget that will help create a more prosperous and equal society for all.

“This budget confirms Scotland as the fairest taxed part of the UK, with most income tax payers paying less than they would elsewhere.

“A hard Brexit remains the biggest threat to Scotland’s economy, which is why the Tories should rule out a no-deal outcome before it’s too late.

“This Brexit shambles simply reinforces the case for an independent Scotland, where we could take real control of our own future, continuing to build one of the world’s most successful economies on a firm foundation of strong and dependable public services.”

14 February 2019

Stevenson Warns UK Gov Must Compensate Farmers Over 'No Deal' Brexit

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has warned the UK Government must compensate North-East farmers in the event of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit.

It comes after a wealth of evidence which indicated that farmers would be worse off under every scenario when compared to the current trade arrangements, with some or all producers facing lower returns.

Sheep farmers are particularly at risk, with UK sheep meat exports worth £390m each year, and with nearly 90% of this destined for the European market, the prospect of tariffs as high as 45-50% being imposed on these exports would be devastating.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It is clear a no deal Brexit is the biggest threat to farming and to our food and drink sector which is very important in the North-East of Scotland.

“More and more research shows that under all possible scenarios, a failure to replicate the current trade arrangements with the EU will have a detrimental impact on farmers, with our sheep sector under particular threat.

“UK sheep meat exports could suffer considerably if tariffs come into play. The UK Government needs to set out its policy on tariffs now, so that businesses are clear about what they will have to contend with.

“The UK Government should guarantee that farmers will be compensated in the event of a no deal.

“A failure to do so, would increase the risk of businesses going under, significantly reduce net profitability across beef, sheep and crops sectors, and lead to widespread land abandonment across the North-East.”

MSP Encourages Musicians to Apply for Rural Grants

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is encouraging young musicians to apply for funding available to help further their talent.

The Agar Trust supports young people living in rural Scotland who want to further their education beyond their local area, through tuition, courses, rehearsals or auditions.

Grants can be used to assist with travel, tuition or course fees and anyone aged eight to 21-years-old living in rural parts of the country are eligible.

This year, the Northern Meeting Charity is offering support to pipers who live in areas including Banffshire and Moray.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This is a wonderful opportunity for musicians who live in rural areas like my constituency of Banffshire and Buchan Coast to apply for funding to support their talents.

“Gifted musicians should be given access to funding which can benefit and support their ability. I would urge anyone who may be eligible to apply before the March deadline.”

11 February 2019

Best Start Grant Pays Out £2.7 Million in First Two Months

Families across Banffshire and Buchan Coast have benefitted from £2.7 million paid through the Scottish Government’s new Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment scheme since it opened for applications.

Since December, Social Security Scotland has made payments to more than 7,000 low-income households. The support provided to families across Scotland, as of 31 January 2019, totals £2.7 million.

The Best Start Grant, which provides low-income families with financial support during the early years of a child’s life, sees eligible applicants receive £600 for their first child - £100 more than the UK government’s equivalent in England.

Best Start Grants replace and expand on the UK Government’s Sure Start Maternity Grant by providing eligible families with £600 on the birth of their first child, and £300 on the birth of any subsequent children.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am delighted that more Scottish families are receiving help from the Scottish Government’s new social security system, which puts dignity, respect and fairness at its heart.

“£2.7 million worth of payments - more than the DWP paid out in a full year under the previous system - will ensure that all Scottish children get the best possible start in life.

“It’s vital that the SNP government can provide help at a time when many families across Banffshire and Buchan Coast are seeing UK government social security support drastically reduced, and Universal Credit is causing hardship across Scotland.

“By reversing and mitigating Tory cuts that have been so damaging to families in the North-East, and ensuring that we support those on the lowest incomes, the SNP is building a social security system which provides a safety net for the most vulnerable in society.”

6 February 2019

SNP Burns Night at Longhaven

Cruden Bay, Hatton & Longhaven Branch of the SNP held its annual Burns Supper at Longhaven Hall last Saturday which saw an attendance of over 70 guests.

In attendance and speaking were Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin, Stewart Stevenson MSP, who compered the event, and Robin Barclay who addressed the haggis and entertained the audience with his very physical rendition of Tam O’Shanter. Local singer and traditional music enthusiast Bill Gray entertained the company with some Burns songs to round off the evening.

Delivering the Immortal memory was SNP Health spokesperson at Westminster and MP for Central Ayrshire Dr Philippa Whitford.
Bill Gray; Gillian Martin MSP; Stewart Stevenson MSP;
Dr Philippa Whitford MP; Robin Barclay
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It was a pleasure to be able to welcome Dr Philippa Whitford and Gillian Martin to Longhaven Hall. Philippa delivered an excellent Immortal Memory as befits someone who represents Ayrshire and Gillian gave food for thought with her Toast to Scotland.

“It’s fair to say Robin Barclay wowed the audience with his Tam O’Shanter and acted out the whole poem with help from props and some audience participation and we ended the evening in fine style with Bill Gray giving us some Burns songs.”

Gillian Martin MSP added:

“This was a very enjoyable event and I’m grateful to the local SNP branch for inviting me to give the Toast to Scotland.

“There was a good turnout of over 70 guests for the event and there was general consensus that the evening was a great success.”

1 February 2019

UK Tory Government Says NO to Funding for North-East Broadband

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has condemned the UK Tory Government after it emerged that it had turned down a bid from Aberdeenshire Council to the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) for funding to improve digital connectivity in the North-east.

The funding bid from Aberdeenshire Council also included NHS Grampian and is believed to have been for a seven-figure sum.

In a letter to the SNP MSP, Conservative Minister Margot James said there were “stronger bids” and confirmed that the Aberdeenshire bid for UK Government funding had been refused.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“It is extremely disappointing that the UK Tory Government have refused this request for funding which came not only from Aberdeenshire Council but also from NHS Grampian.

“It exposes the hypocrisy of the Tory Party in Scotland who complain about the Scottish Government’s record on broadband roll-out when the reality is that this is a matter reserved to Westminster and the Scottish Government is having to step in to ensure the service is rolled-out precisely because of actions like this from Westminster.

“I am sure that officials in Aberdeenshire Council worked very hard on the bid and instead of complaining from the sidelines, the local Tory MP should have been lobbying the DCMS and his colleagues in the Tory Government and speaking up for Aberdeenshire.”

30 January 2019

Stevenson Welcomes Banff Pastor to Parliament to Speak

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a Pastor from his constituency to deliver ‘Time for Reflection’ in the Scottish Parliament.

Pastor Rob McArthur and colleagues from Banff’s River Church met with Mr Stevenson for lunch in the Parliament before speaking to MSPs in the Chamber.
Martin Skinner; David Clark; Pastor Rob McArthur;
Anne Heinrich; Stewart Stevenson
Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“It was a great pleasure to nominate Rob McArthur to deliver Parliament's 'Time for Reflection' and to welcome him to Holyrood.

“He is a well-known and respected figure in the community. Pastor McArthur spoke eloquently about the recent unity service he arranged as part of a team at Banff Bridge.

“I am sure the people of Banff and beyond will be very proud of Pastor McArthur.”

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Pastor Rob McArthur said:

“Presiding Officer, elected members of the Scottish Parliament, it is an absolute honour to be with you this afternoon.

“One thing that I love is being with my wife and four children. Times together as a family are a high priority for us. There is something about being together in heart and mind that makes us stronger. Is it not true for us all that making time to be with family and friends is good for us?

“Nine years ago, I dedicated my life to Jesus and I chose to bring my heart and mind into alignment with his purposes for my life. That was not in my life plan, but God’s plans are always better than ours.

“Recently, I was part of a team that organised a unity service for remembrance Sunday. We decided that the best location for the service would be the connecting area of our two towns, Banff and Macduff—the Banff Bridge. During the service, which more than 500 people attended, I asked folks to come together and to link arms, in order to make a human chain across the bridge. It was a beautiful symbol of local unity and there was such a sense of togetherness.

“However, in the early stages of preparation for the service, we had many doubts as to whether people would come. We had to challenge our thinking and replace our “as ifs” with “what ifs”—going from, “As if this could work,” to, “What if this could actually work?” That was a powerful shift in our minds. As a small group, we had to think big.

“I wonder what could happen if we, as a people, asked “what if” questions rather than the negative “as if” questions. What if God could use us, as a people, to do great things for this nation? What if he actually listens to our prayers and wants to help us? What if we believe that God is for us and not against us?

“It was one thing to have a physical bridge connecting our two towns; it is quite another to have people connecting hearts in fellowship and relationship. Hearts that are connected are stronger together.

“My prayer is that, in the year ahead—for each one of us who is here and for those people who cannot be with us—we, as a people, think big, that we have hope and think “what if”, and that we remind ourselves that the Lord Jesus is absolutely for us.

“Thank you.”

SNP Depute Leader Delivers Immortal Memory at Broch Burns Supper

Depute Leader of the Scottish National Party Keith Brown MSP delivered the immortal memory at an SNP Burns Supper held in Fraserburgh Leisure Centre last Saturday.
Piper Bill Taylor; Gary Coull; Keith Brown MSP;
Stewart Stevenson MSP; James Reid Baxter;
Maree Todd MSP; John Todd
Also in attendance and speaking were Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson who compered the event, Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd MSP, who gave the Reply from the Lassies, Gary Coull who gave the Toast to the Lassies, and James Reid Baxter who gave a very entertaining Toast to Scotland.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“It was a pleasure to be able to welcome the SNP’s Deputy Leader Keith Brown and Minister Maree Todd to Fraserburgh. Keith delivered a thought-provoking immortal memory and Maree gave a very entertaining Reply from the Lassies which was enjoyed by the audience.

“We had a very successful evening and thanks must go to the team at Fraserburgh Leisure Centre who provided an excellent meal and ensured everything ran smoothly on the night.”

Local MSP Comments on Fish Processing Business Rates

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has spoken out in response to what he considers being exaggerated claims about the differential between business rates for fish processors in the North-east as compared with Humberside, and the selective interpretation of a recent report by the industry body, Seafish.

Commenting, Mr. Stevenson said:

“As the MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, I am extremely supportive of the fishing industry. I have made little by way of public comment in order that the processors from my constituency have been given the best opportunity to make their case to the Ministers, and I have assisted them with that goal. I have actively pursued the sector’s concerns about business rates with the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, and have met with the Minister for Public Finance. However, it would appear that the issue has been hijacked by opposition voices who seek to use it as a diversionary political tactic, or as a stick to beat the Scottish Government.

“In fact, an objective interpretation of the Seafish report clearly indicates that it is the post-Brexit barrier to employing European labour which presents the far bigger challenge to the fish processing industry. The report observes that: ‘in the case of fish processing in north east Scotland, businesses have long been based in the area as all the factors have been favourable’. It goes on to say that: ‘Overall, since the availability of labour is key to production, for a firm that has sufficient workers in its current location, relocation of production does not appear to be an obvious, immediate solution to higher property costs in the area given the overall shortages of labour in the economy’.

“While there is no question that the buoyant economy of the North-east has resulted in increased business valuations, those are not set by the Scottish Government - they are set by the office of the Scottish Assessor, which is wholly independent. In practice these are harmonised with their counterparts in England and Wales. While Hull and Grimsby may have had rates reductions, that is the consequence of having a less vibrant economy than that which we have enjoyed in the North-east for many years.

“In fact, successive Seafish reports clearly demonstrate that although business rates in Aberdeen City are regrettably, but perhaps understandably, higher - the rates for Peterhead are almost exactly on par with those for Hull and Grimsby, and Fraserburgh and other North east towns are significantly more competitive. This must also be taken in the context of the massive investment made by the port authorities, and a third year of record-breaking landings in Peterhead. Consideration must also be given to the fact that the Scottish Government Small Business Rates Relief means that Scottish premises with a rateable value of less than £15,000 per annum are exempt from payment.”

Commenting on criticism of the appeals process, the MSP said:

“I advised businesses in my constituency to appeal against any increase in the 2017 valuation which they considered unreasonable. Opposition politicians subsequently alleged that there was a backlog of appeals which ‘could take years’ to be heard. I therefore raised that with the Minister for Finance, and I am pleased to say that I have been advised that most of the appeals against those revaluations have now been resolved.”

Mr. Stevenson concluded that:

“The challenges facing our processing industry in the future go far beyond the issue of business rates, and our industry leaders must avoid being distracted from addressing them. Chief among them will be the need to increase efficiency and automation, while maintaining the traditional values and high standard product for which the North east is famous.

“At our meeting at the end of last year, the Minister for Public Finance was extremely receptive to my concerns for the future of the industry, and expressed an interest in working with the sector to formulate appropriate financial support for those companies seeking to invest in improving productivity. I would therefore suggest that we should focus on the bigger picture with a view to future-proofing our local businesses, rather than fixate on the issue of business rates - and I would be pleased to assist any constituents to that end.”

24 January 2019

SNP Plans to Invest £500 Million in Historic Childcare Expansion

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have hailed a Scottish Government announcement that promises to commit almost £500 million to expand early learning and childcare provision across Scotland.

Announcing the Scottish Government’s draft budget proposals for 2019/20 in Holyrood last month, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP, outlined the investment that will support the SNP’s plan to almost double the free provision of childcare to 1140 hours from August 2020 for all 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds.

The Scottish Government will also invest £175 million in local authority capital funding in 2019-20 to support the next phase of infrastructure investment - contributing to around 750 new, extended or refurbished nurseries and family centres.

Under the SNP, free childcare has already been increased to 16 hours a week for all 3 and 4 year olds – up from 12.5 hours in 2007 – and extended to 2 year olds from low income households.

By the end of this parliament, childcare spending will have more than doubled to £990 million - saving families over £4,500 per child per year.

Commenting, Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson, said:

“This momentous commitment from the SNP to almost double the provision of free childcare will help ensure children across the North-East are given the best possible start in life.

“Plans to invest almost £500 million to support the expansion will help create jobs in the local area, as the Scottish Government look to grow the highly skilled and dedicated childcare workforce here in both Aberdeenshire East and Banffshire and Buchan Coast.

“A massive investment in childcare is something that MSPs of all parties can get behind – we hope to see my political opponents back the Finance Secretary’s plans in Parliament next month.”

23 January 2019

Stevenson Congratulates North-East Pupils for Award-Winning Calendar Designs

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP has congratulated school children for their award-winning designs which will feature in a calendar aimed at educating the next generation on the sustainable use of energy and water to tackle fuel poverty.

An event to mark the occasion was held at the Scottish Parliament and sponsored by Mr Stevenson, who was joined by the winners as well as Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney.

Speeches were also given by Thane Lawrie, Chief Executive of Scarf and Brian Lironi, Director of Corporate Affairs for Scottish Water.

One of the 13 competition winners was Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituent Isla Noble, from Inverallochy Primary School.
John Swinney MSP, Stewart Stevenson MSP,
Isla Noble, Thane Lawrie Chief Exec of Scarf,
Brian Lironi Director of Corporate Affairs for Scottish Water
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The Scarf Calendar Competition gets young people involved in thinking about the many ways they can help to use energy and water wisely and tackled fuel poverty.

“Getting young people involved in thinking and talking from a young age about how we take more care of our environment is a great and necessary cause.

“I was delighted to welcome my constituent Isla to the Scottish Parliament as well as all the other pupils who have taken part and created the award-winning designs.

“I would like to thank Scarf for organising the event and for helping to provide advice and support services to thousands of households across the North-East of Scotland.”

Stevenson Encourages Families to Apply for Best Start Grant Payment this June

Applications for Scotland’s new Best Start Grant payment will open from this June, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

The announcement has been welcomed by Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson who is encouraging North-East families to make sure they apply.

Regulations have been laid in Parliament, which is the next big step towards introducing the payment which will help the families who need it most with costs associated with the transition to school.

The benefit, to be delivered by Social Security Scotland, will see eligible families receive £250 to help with things such as educational toys and after school activities.

The payment builds on the success of the recently launched Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I would like to encourage all families who are eligible to make their application when the process is open from the 3rd of June.

“The Scottish Government is committed to doing all it can to make sure children in my Banff and Buchan Coast constituency and right across the country, have the right help towards a fairer start.

“This payment follows the successful launch of the Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment, which received an unprecedented number of applications.

“The new £250 payment will help families with the costs of preparing for school and will use the same eligibility as the extremely successful Pregnancy and Baby Payment, which has been welcomed by families across Scotland.

“The School Age Payment does not exist under the UK benefits system – demonstrating the Scottish Government’s ambition to deliver a better social security system.”

18 January 2019

Stevenson Welcomes Funding to Tackle Attainment Gap in North-East

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has challenged his political opponents across the North-East to back the Scottish Government’s plans to invest over £8 billion in Scotland’s education system.

Announcing his draft budget proposals in the Scottish Parliament last month, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP outlined plans to commit £180 million for raising attainment in schools, including £120 delivered directly to head teachers – helping schools address the poverty related attainment gap and helping children overcome barriers.

This funding is to be spent at the discretion of headteachers, enabling them to secure the additional staffing or resources they need to support pupils affected by poverty and boost attainment levels

MSPs will vote on the Finance Secretary’s draft budget proposals next month.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The SNP recognise that every child, regardless of their background, should have the same opportunities and chances to succeed.

“With education the Scottish Government’s number one priority, this £180 million investment, including £120 million direct to headteachers, will help close the attainment gap here in the Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituency and ensure no child is left behind.

“I hope local politicians from all parties will get behind the Finance Secretary’s plans and secure this substantial investment for schools throughout the North-East.”

Stevenson Calls for More Broadband Investment from UK Government

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has called on the UK government to revise its approach to digital connectivity and invest more money delivering high-speed broadband for residents in his constituency, after it was criticised for ‘short-changing’ Scots on high-speed broadband by a parliamentary committee.

The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity committee this week called on the UK government to deliver its fair share of UK broadband funding after it was revealed that the Tories have contributed just 3% of the total funding for the ‘Reaching 100%’ project.

Despite connectivity and broadband being a reserved matter, the Scottish Government has invested £600 million in the ‘R100’ programme to deliver super-fast broadband to every home and business in Scotland.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Digital connectivity is an essential part of modern life and an indispensable tool for stimulating economic growth, which is why it is essential that the UK government stop short-changing residents in my Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituency, and across Scotland.

“The Tories’ ambitions for broadband are extremely disappointing, and far behind those of the Scottish Government – despite connectivity and broadband being a reserved matter.

“Communities across the North-East have been backed into a corner due this Westminster government’s complete lack of ambition for digital connectivity. Rural areas have been especially let down by a lack of adequate broadband coverage.

“The Scottish Government has committed to extending superfast access to all of Scotland by 2021 – with speeds of at least 30Mbps – and committed £600 million to delivering that; it’s time for the Tories to step up to the plate and commit to joining Scotland in the 21st century.

“The Tories must step up to the plate and deliver for people along the Banffshire and Buchan Coast.”

SNP Budget Delivers for Low Income Families and Carers Across North-East

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has called on local politicians from all parties to get behind historic funding for Scotland’s new social security agency – a move that will support carers and low income families across the country.

Outlining his draft budget proposals for 2019/20 last month, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP announced £37 million to fund the Scottish Government’s Carers Allowance Supplement – in recognition of the important contribution carers have in our society.

2019/20 will be the second year the supplement will be paid and will see an inflationary rise in the benefit which will go to around 75,000 carers across Scotland.

The Finance Secretary also revealed plans to commit £12.4 million for the new Best Start Grants – providing financial support of up to £600 for low income families on the birth of a child, with two subsequent £250 payments given when a child begins nursery and school to start later this year.

A substantial £6.2 million of funding has also been allocated to kick start the Scottish Government’s new Funeral Expense Assistance – providing low income families with a contribution towards the cost of a loved one’s funeral - £2 million more than the UK Government previously spent.

The Young Carer Grant will also offer vital assistance to those aged 16 to 18 who do at least 16 hours of caring a week, but don’t qualify for the Carer’s Allowance – giving young carers the chance to explore employment, social or leisure opportunities outside away from their responsibilities.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP, said:

“The Finance Secretary’s plan to commit £37 million of support through the Carers Allowance Supplement will allow the Scottish Government to increase the financial support to carers, ensuring an additional £450 goes directly into the pockets of carers along the Banffshire and Buchan Coast.

“I recognise the invaluable contribution young carers make to society. Support through the new £300 Young Carers Grant will help ensure they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

“Launched last year, the SNP’s Best Start Grant proved extremely popular with families the length and breadth of Scotland. This expanded and improved scheme has been welcome news for many of my constituents.

“These are just the first steps in the delivery of even more benefits to support people in our society, as the Scottish Government looks to tackle inequality and reduce poverty.

“MSPs across the North-East should get behind Derek Mackay’s proposals and secure substantial funding support for carers and low income families across Scotland.”

17 January 2019

Stevenson Welcomes Positive AWPR Impact on Supply Chain

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed reports that the opening of the AWPR has reduced supply chain costs for energy firms in the North-East of Scotland.

It comes after ASCo, which has a base in Peterhead, said it expects costs for North Sea suppliers and operators to drop as a result of the development.

The majority of the AWPR opened last month, cutting congestion at traffic blackspots in and around the city.

ASCo said journey times have been cut by up to 20 minutes on major routes, bringing savings which can then be passed on to customers, as well as improved quality of life for drivers.

In an interview with Energy Voice, Transport and distribution manager Willie Smith, said ASCo expects to see more firms bring their operations closer to the new route.

He said:

“Looking at the benefits to the industry overall, the AWPR will help make goods more accessible and the transporting of them more efficient, resulting in reduced supply chain costs for both suppliers and operators across the region.

“We can also expect to see many companies make a strategic move, bringing their operations closer to the AWPR, where the improved route will have a direct and positive impact on their individual businesses.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The opening of the AWPR has been a hugely welcome moment both for individual commuters and for companies.

“I am pleased the impact has been of great benefit to Asco particularly for staff as they travel to and from the Peterhead base.

“The North Sea energy sector has been hit by the decline in oil price since 2015 which has impacted on the supply chain and created real challenges.

“I am pleased the opening of the AWPR is helping to support businesses and alleviate costs.”

16 January 2019

Farmer's Union Warns "We Cannot Feed Our Nation" After Brexit

A shortage of seasonal labour after Brexit could leave the UK unable to feed itself, according to the President of NFU Scotland.

Andrew McCornick warned that the pilot Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme, granting temporary visas for up to 2,500 non-EU nationals, was inadequate – with some crops left unharvested last year due to worker shortages.

Mr McCornick also said that the UK government’s Shortage Occupation List was “dismissive” of the industry’s needs.

Now, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has warned of the impact a shortage of seasonal labour could have across his constituency.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Even before Brexit, Scotland’s agricultural industry has recently struggled to attract the seasonal workers we need – with the political environment and the falling pound making the UK a less attractive place to work.

“This industry depends on seasonal labour. With low unemployment and agricultural jobs located outside population centres, these jobs can’t be easily filled by existing Scottish residents.

“Yet the Tory approach to Brexit and immigration treats our vital farming industry with complete contempt – and risks leaving our crops rotting in the fields.

“Scotland needs an immigration system that meets our needs – and the power to deliver it.”

Agri-food tariff threat to Scottish consumers and producers

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a call by the Scottish Government on Westminster calling for the setting of applied tariffs for imports to the UK.

It comes in the absence of a trade agreement between the UK and European Union, which means the same tariffs would apply to imports to the UK from the EU as from third countries.

For agri-food products, these tariffs could be considerable with potentially consequences for both consumers and producers.

As a result, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing has put forward a proposal for the targeted use of tariff rate quotas to achieve a balance in protecting both consumer and producer interests.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The UK Government must find a sensible and sensitive approach to the setting of applied tariffs for imports.

“This issue is particularly of importance with regard to agri-food products particularly in the absence of a trade agreement between the UK and European Union.

“The Cabinet Secretary has provided a proposal which aims to achieve a balance in the protection of both consumer and producer interests, as well as maintaining negotiating capital.

“I would urge the UK Government to give timely consideration to this proposal as there is no time to waste.”

11 January 2019

Step Closer to Scottish National Investment Bank

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has said SNP plans to establish a Scottish National Investment bank will help transform inclusive growth across the North-East.

Last month, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP announced plans for an initial investment in the bank of £130 million as part of his draft budget proposals for 2019/20.

Subject to regulatory and legislative approval, the national investment bank will aim to begin investing in Scottish businesses and communities from 2020 – investing at least £2 billion in its first ten years.

The investment bank will provide loans of up to £10 million for small to medium sized local enterprises with high growth potential.

In advance of the Scottish National Investment Bank’s establishment, a £150 million Building Scotland Fund announced in 2017 will provide debt and equity support to the private sector and organisations, such as housing associations and universities, to support the development of housing across all tenures, develop modern industrial and commercial space and support industry-led research and Development.

MSPs are set to vote on the Scottish Government’s budget proposals at Holyrood next month.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“A national investment bank has enormous potential to transform communities here in North-East and across Scotland.

“Operating within a core set of principles, the bank will deliver sustainable growth – with both individuals and small local businesses set to benefit.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy here in [Constituency], so it’s very exciting that we are one step closer to providing historic investment for projects the length and breadth of Scotland.

“I would urge North-East MSPs of all parties to get behind the plans.”

SCDI’s Director of Policy and Public Affairs Matt Lancashire said:

“We welcome announcement of £130 million to support the creation of the Scottish National Investment Bank, which will deploy patient capital to back long-term investment in business scale-up and innovation, and could have a positive impact. 

"We also welcome the decision not to progress the out of town Business Rates levy and additional support for our struggling town centres to help them adapt in light of continued change.”

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) Policy & Campaigns Officer Paul Bradley said:

“The Bank provides the opportunity for Scotland to establish itself as a global leader in moving to a high-performing and modern economy, one built on sustainable finance to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon economy where the benefits are realised across all groups in Scottish society. SCVO will continue to monitor and feed into the process of setting up the Bank.”

10 January 2019

Stevenson Urges Support for Budget from North-East MSPs

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has called on his parliamentary colleagues across the North-East to back the Finance Secretary’s plans to secure “substantial” funding for the area.

MSPs will vote on the plans next month.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP, said:

“With spending on Scotland’s colleges set to rise by over £600 million, the Finance Secretary’s budget proposals for the year will come as great news for North East Scotland College and other institutions across the country.

“I am calling on local politicians from across the chamber to get behind the plans to secure substantial funding for colleges and universities throughout the North-East.”

Chief Executive of Colleges Scotland, Shona Struthers, said:

“This is a significant financial commitment by the Scottish Government. We are also pleased that there will be additional capital funding which will be used to fund the existing commitment to upgrade one specific campus and allow colleges to carry out essential maintenance.”

Stevenson Welcomes Cash Boost for Peterhead Photography Club

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a cash boost for a North-East photographic club.

It comes after the Craigewan Photographic Club was awarded £4,000 in the National Lottery Awards for All Scotland grant from the Big Lottery fund.

The Peterhead-based group plans to buy a projector, laptop, four new cameras and additional camera equipment to attract new younger members to join the club and to support existing members.

National Lottery Awards For All Scotland gives groups a chance to apply for a National Lottery grant of between £300 and £10,000 for projects that aim to help improve local communities and the lives of people most in need.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The Craigewan Photographic Club is a well deserving group for this latest batch of National Lottery funding.

“I am pleased they’ve been given a cash boost to help them purchase additional equipment.

“Photography is a wonderful hobby to have and I am fully supportive of getting the next generation involved.”
"Winter in Banffshire"
by Stewart Stevenson MSP

9 January 2019

North-East MSPs Encourage Constituents to Help Mark 20th Anniversary Holyrood Celebrations

North-East MSPs are encouraging constituents born on the day powers were officially transferred from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament to join in 20th anniversary celebrations at Holyrood.

It comes after 163 children were invited to mark the 10th anniversary of the event a decade ago.

Now, Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson, are calling on those born on the special date to join them once again as Holyrood hosts several events.

Chief Executive of the Scottish Parliament, Paul Grice, said other events will include the launch of a new public exhibition telling the story of the Parliament and a national photography competition to find the best images illustrating Holyrood’s 20-year history.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP and Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The Scottish Parliament will be hosting a series of events to mark this significant occasion when some reserved powers from Westminster were devolved to the then newly formed Scottish Parliament.

“We would like to hear from any of the young adults who attended the 10th anniversary and would be delighted to hear from them once again so they can come along to the event at Holyrood later this year.

“It is sure to be a memorable few days and we would be delighted if constituents who were born on July 1st 1999 could join us.”

8 January 2019

MSP Highlights Lower Water Charges in Scotland as Buchan Water Plants Taken into Public Ownership

A move to divest waste water treatment works in the North-east away from the Private Finance Initiative to Scottish Water has been backed by Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson.

It comes after the announcement regarding the takeover of a number of sites including one in Peterhead and another in Fraserburgh.

Scottish Water took over the works from Kelda Water Services last month.

A total of 46 staff across four sites in total will continue to work on the sites following the change of ownership.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed the move which will enable opportunities for Scottish Water to deliver value for customers through changes including shared purchasing with Scottish Water’s waste water operations and optimisation of the works with waste water networks.

In Scotland, Scottish Water is publicly owned compared with England and Wales where the Tory Government privatised the water companies.

A report from 2017 revealed consumers in England pay over £2.3billion more a year for their water and sewerage services under the current privatised system than if the utility companies had remained in public ownership.

The water industry in England was privatised in 1989 by the then Conservative Government and is now run as a profit-making business for shareholders where previously universal provision of drinking water and sewerage services in England and Wales was considered a public health service.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am pleased Scottish Water will be taking over waste water treatment works in both Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

“In comparison with England, where consumers are charged extortionate rates for basic public services, we are fortunate enough in Scotland to benefit from a publicly-owned water service.

“It is typical of the Tories to seek to allow private profit from the provision of basic public services, adding unnecessary cost to household bills.”

Scottish Water Chief Executive Douglas Millican said:

“As part of our ongoing commitment to deliver value for our customers, I am pleased to have reached agreement with Kelda Water Services Ltd for the return of the Aberdeen PFI.

“Work is already underway to ensure that these facilities continue to provide a resilient and reliable waste water service to communities in the North East for many years to come”.

North-East MSPs Welcome Appointment of New Health Board Chair

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have welcomed the appointment of Dr Lynda Lynch as the new Chair of NHS Grampian.

Dr Lynda Lynch replaces Professor Stephen Logan, who completed his four-year term at the end of 2018.

In 2013 Dr Lynch was appointed to the board and had previously been a global director and general manager in the pharmaceutical industry.

Her appointment will run until December 2022.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP and Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“We welcome the appointment of Dr Lynch to the role of new health board chair.

“This is a very important position at a pivotal time in the future of NHS Grampian and how we deliver care to patients throughout the region.

“We look forward to meeting with Dr Lynch soon to discuss a range of topics and would invite her to meet with us both as we build a connection which can provide feedback on the needs of our constituents.”

7 January 2019

Stevenson Welcomes Social Security Investment from Scottish Government

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomes investment of more than £125million by the Scottish Government to help those impacted by welfare reforms.

Scottish Ministers are on course to invest the funding to help mitigate against the impact of UK Government reforms and help protect those on low incomes.

It comes after the new Social Security agency spent £34 million making more than 150,000 payments of Carers Allowance Supplement and Best Start Grants last month.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The Scottish Government is working hard to provide significant help to carers and low-income families with children.

“It is clear that UK Government welfare reforms have had a stark impact on the lives of many people.

“We must provide as much support as we can to help those in need and this funding does just that, including £51 million to help mitigate against the bedroom tax, £38 million for the Scottish Welfare Fund and £1.8 million to launch a new financial health check service.

“The Scottish service approach to social security is based on the principles of fairness, dignity and respect. A distinct approach that seeks to help those in need unlike the UK Government’s harsh welfare reforms.”

4 January 2019

40% of Parents Failing To Receive Child Maintenance Under UK's DWP Scheme

SNP Renew Call for Devolution of Child Maintenance

40% of parents relying on the UK government’s “collect and pay” scheme for child maintenance are failing to get the money owed – renewing calls for the service to be devolved.

Latest figures for the quarter to March 2018 show that compliance with the scheme is at 60%, with 8,800 parents due to pay and 5,300 paying some of due maintenance.

The UK government-run Child Maintenance Service (CMS) currently places a 4 per cent fee onto any receiving parent, and charges an administration fee of £20 to open their case.

The SNP has repeatedly called for this maintenance tax to be abolished due to fears it is harmful for low-income families.

Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“These figures highlight that the present DWP system is simply not fit for purpose. For many, the Child Maintenance Service is unaffordable and it harms shared parenting arrangements.

“Time and time again we are seeing parents and families frustrated and let down by the Tories at Westminster. Ultimately, it is children who are losing out on money intended to support them under this system.

“It’s clear that the system is failing too many. If the UK government are unwilling or unable to fix it, they should devolve responsibility to Scotland so we can ensure families get the money owed to them.”

MSP Backs Initiative to Encourage Blood Donation from Sports Players

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has praised an initiative to encourage more blood donations from Scotland’s sports participants.

The MSP was speaking after attending an event held in Parliament recently which aims to promote sports working together to save lives and promote blood donation.
The Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society (SABS) organised a drop-in at the Scottish Parliament for MSPs to meet with SABS, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS), the St Andrew's Sporting Club, the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL), the Edinburgh City Football Club and the Scottish Ambulance Service.

Primarily, the meeting showcased the launch of a co-ordinated action in Scotland to promote the work of blood donation and the recruitment of blood donors from all parts of Scottish society and was the platform for this group to seek to obtain the support of MSPs for the work of bringing this message to Scotland's sporting industries.

The drop-in brought together MSPs with these organisations who share a commitment to working jointly to bring the importance of blood donation to the forefront of discussions with young adults in sport. British bantamweight boxing champion Kash Farooq, Ambassador for SABS' Blood Donation Campaign, was also in attendance.
Stewart with Kash Farooq, British Bantamweight Boxing Champion
who is an Ambassador for the SABS Blood Donation Campaign
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“This sports-focused and collaborative approach has the potential to encourage thousands of young people to give blood. The NHS is wanting to encourage young adults over the age of 17 to give blood to save a life. Around half of current blood donors are from people aged 45 and over, so bringing this to the attention of the younger generation is vitally important.

“I commend SABS and their partners for this very worthwhile initiative.”

3 January 2019

New £50m Town Centre Fund Should Support Innovation - Stevenson

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement of a £50 million Town Centre Fund and has said it should support innovative ideas to help our high streets.
Stewart Stevenson with at the Home Bakery with
Hamish McLeay, Denise Sivewright (Café) and Jack McGregor (Baker)
Finance Secretary Derek Mackay announced in the Scottish Government’s a new ring-fenced £50 million Town Centre Fund for 2019-20 has been allocated within the local authority capital settlement to drive local economic activity and to stimulate and support place-based and future-looking economic improvements to town centres.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“This announcement of funding in the draft Scottish Budget is extremely welcome. Having spent some time last year visiting a range of new businesses, refreshed businesses and other community schemes I would very much wish to see this funding support innovative ideas which can support our town centres.

“In so doing, this would not only support potential new businesses but also supporting existing shops and businesses by increasing footfall and visitors to town centres.”
Stewart Stevenson with Wayne Stewart
owner of the Knowes Hotel
The Chief Officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, Phil Prentice, has also welcomed the announcement as a timely boost for communities saying:

“It’s no secret that Scotland’s town centres have faced many challenges, from the aftermath of the last recession to the growth of online retail. However, we are beginning to see our town centres emerge as a new force for social good - a crucial community asset that local people want to see thrive. People now see town centres as community hubs with a real social offering and a movement towards lifestyle services, food and drink, digital, and tourism”.

2 January 2019

Police Scotland Officers Reap Rewards of Largest Pay Rise in UK

Over 17,000 Officers Benefit from Pay Increase

New figures released by Police Scotland reveal that over 17,000 officers have benefitted from the SNP Government’s 6.5% pay rise since it came into force in September.

The commitment gave Police officers in Scotland their biggest single increase in pay for over 20 years.

Police Constables have gained the most from the pay rise, with over 13,000 PCs seeing an increase in pay since September 2018.

Meanwhile, the UK Tory Government offered Police officers in England and Wales a ‘derisory’ 2% pay rise – a move the Police Federation claimed showed “contempt for those who put their lives on the line for the public”.

Welcoming the figures, local MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“I’m delighted that over 17,000 officers have benefitted from the SNP’s 6.5% pay rise.

“The pay increase, that was the largest the Scottish police service have received for over 20 years, was in recognition of the vital work the police force does to help make communities across the country safer.

“In the face of Tory cuts to Scotland’s budget, the Scottish Government has ensured that there are more police officers today than there were a decade ago. Latest figures show that under the SNP the number of full-time equivalent police officers has increased by more than 900."

1 January 2019

Stevenson Calls on Tories to Act on Threat to Veterinary Surgeons

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has written to the UK Government urging action to avoid the threat posed to vets who are EU nationals working as Official Veterinarians monitoring standards in food safety and animal health and welfare by Westminster’s proposed post-Brexit immigration framework.

The UK Tory Government’s Immigration White Paper includes a minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for some immigrants. At this level, many of the skilled roles vital to Scotland’s food and drink industries will be excluded.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“This should not come as a surprise to the Conservative Government. Back in November 2017, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) warned that a £30,000 threshold for EU workers could lead to a near-total wipeout of veterinary surgeons in critical public health roles in UK slaughterhouses, with devastating consequences for UK trade.

“The UK veterinary workforce relies heavily on EU graduates. The consequences of a loss of even a small percentage of the workforce would be huge. Statistics from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) reveal the dependence of the UK on non-UK EU vets. In 2016, the proportion of new registrants in that year from non-UK EU vet schools was 47%.”

A news release issued by the BVA on 8 November 2017 states the following with regards to abattoir vets in the UK:

“Veterinary surgeons from the EU make a particularly significant contribution to critical roles in public health with estimates suggesting that 95% of Official Veterinarians working in abattoirs are from overseas and the large majority of these are from the EU. Reducing the veterinary presence in slaughterhouses would increase the risk of food fraud, provide the potential for animal welfare breaches and remove a level of public health reassurance.”

Mr Stevenson added:

“It is clear this is yet another threat to Scottish agriculture from the London Tory Government and I have written to the Home Secretary requesting that he take account of the expert advice from the BVA and think again about these proposals for the sake of the industry.”

Stewart Stevenson
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