22 May 2019

Stevenson Calls for Immigration Powers to Come to Holyrood

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has called on the Scottish Government to be given more powers over immigration.

It comes after Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development Ben Macpherson warned the proposed changes by the UK Government in their white paper on immigration would be “catastrophic” for Scotland.

Mr Stevenson has urged for changes to attract people to come and live and work in the North-East and for the Scottish Government to be given further powers.

The Confederation of British Industry recently warned of the detrimental impact exiting the European Union will have on employment in key industries.

Mr Stevenson echoed these sentiments and warned of the cost current proposals would have to sectors in his constituency including fishing, farming, hospitality and social care.

The Minister said:

“They would send our working-age population into decline and would have a significantly negative impact on many sectors, including those that have been mentioned by Stewart Stevenson, as well as local care, tourism, construction, financial services and several others.

“In opposing many of the proposals in the UK Government’s white paper on immigration, and considering Scotland’s distinct demographic challenges, we recognise that there is growing support for the Scottish Parliament to obtain additional powers

as part of a UK framework, in order to tailor migration policy to meet Scotland’s needs, so that Scotland remains attractive to migrants and so that we can deliver new solutions.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP, said:

“The UK Government has shown complete disregard for the different needs from immigration in Scotland.

“We rely on migrants to help support the work in a number of industries and the changes proposed in the white paper will, as the Minister said, have a 'catastrophic' impact on industries across Scotland and in the North-East.

“I would urge the UK Government to think again and let the Scottish Government have the right to additional powers so that we can maintain our current workforce.”

21 May 2019

Stevenson Joins FM in North-East as Journey Times Cut after AWPR Opening

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has joined First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and business chiefs in the North-East to celebrate the initial success of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR).

It comes after the £745 million infrastructure project was completed earlier this year after investment by Transport Scotland.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave a keynote speech at the event which marked the work of the GoNorthEast campaign which promoted the AWPR’s benefit to both communities and businesses.

Ms Sturgeon was also joined by Oil & Gas UK Chief Executive Deirdre Michie as well as other business leaders.

Data revealed by Transport Scotland has shown that travelling between Stonehaven and Dyce previously took around 47 minutes in the morning, and 42 minutes in the evening on the old A90 route. This has now been cut to approximately 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, Charleston to Dyce previously took around 33 minutes in the morning and 32 at night, however has also now shortened to only 16 minutes.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP, said:

“The AWPR has been transformative for commuters in the North-East who have really benefited from the infrastructure improvements.

“Journey times and congestion have seen a marked change, and this will have huge benefits to both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and make it clear we are open for business.

“The AWPR is expected to generate an extra £6billion in economic benefits and create around 14,000 jobs over the next 30 years.

“I am pleased the First Minister was able to come to the North-East and recognise the early successes of the AWPR of which there will be many more to come."

17 May 2019

Stevenson Hails Infrastructure Investment in North-East

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has hailed figures which show billions of pounds of investment has been awarded to the North-East for transport infrastructure.

It comes after the Scottish Government was asked how much it had invested in transport infrastructure in the region over the last decade.

The figures reveal, in addition to the £745million spent on the AWPR and investment for the Balmedie project and the Inveramsay Bridge improvement, £3billion will be spent on the planned dualling of the A96.

Mr Stevenson welcomed the figures as well as the potential already being realised by the completion of the AWPR.

He cited recent evidence from Aberdein Considine which had shown a substantial increase in the number of views by potential customers of houses to the south of Aberdeen and in Stonehaven to the north.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said feedback on the AWPR had been “overwhelmingly positive” and an example of the economic benefits already being recognised since its completion.

Mr Matheson said:

“The AWPR is a demonstration of the Scottish Government’s determination to ensure that Scotland has a strong and robust economy, including in the north-east.

“We will continue to invest in major infrastructure projects, not just in the north-east but across the country, to support our communities and the Scottish economy.”

Additional figures show £7.8million has been awarded to local authorities in the North-East for cycling, walking and safer streets.

A total of £330million has also been awarded for improvement projects between Aberdeen and Inverness and the central belt, including a new station at Laurencekirk.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The Scottish Government continues to invest millions of pounds across the North-East in a range of infrastructure projects.

“The completion of the AWPR has already begun to create economic benefits as well as improving journey times for commuters.

“But the Scottish Government is not stopping there and continues to look at how to build on this colossal investment.

“From £745million to build the AWPR to work on the A96 dualling there is a commitment to make North-East residents more connected than ever.”

15 May 2019

Gove Should Rule Out Power Grab at Holyrood Committee

Appearance Gives Opportunity to Withdraw Devolution Threat

Michael Gove should emphatically rule out any attempt by the Tory government to seize control of devolved powers when he appears before Holyrood’s environment committee today [Wednesday],the SNP have said.

The Secretary of State recently threatened interference with the devolution settlement, suggesting that the UK government should be able to legislate and spend in areas such as health and education – which are fully controlled by Holyrood. That comes despite his pledge before the EU referendum that Brexit would see Holyrood given substantially increased powers.

Members of key Scottish Parliament committees wrote to Mr Gove on Saturday, demanding that he keep his hands off Scotland’s powers. Mr Gove failed to respond to requests for comment at the weekend.

The First Minister addressed the Tories’ “grubby” power grab last week – making clear that the people of Scotland and their parliament should make all decisions, and that Brexit must not be a cover for Westminster centralisation.

Environment committee member Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Michael Gove has the perfect opportunity today [Wednesday] to emphatically rule out his threats of a power grab.

“The Tories never wanted a Scottish Parliament in the first place, and now they’re seeking to reverse the hard-fought gains of twenty years of devolution.

“Mr Gove’s comments were deeply troubling. Key powers over health, education and the environment should lie with Holyrood – not with a Westminster government working against Scotland’s interests.

“And his remarks also expose his 2016 claims about Scotland gaining power over immigration after Brexit as the empty rhetoric it always was.

“Scotland’s future should lie in Scotland’s hands– building on the success of devolution, and winning the powers that our parliament still needs so we can thrive as an independent country.

“The Tories can’t be trusted, and we cannot allow them to drag Scotland backwards.”

8 May 2019

Stevenson Backs Reform of Farming to Help Climate Change Challenge

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed a new farmer-led initiative to drive low-carbon, environmentally sustainable farming practices in Scotland.

The move has been launched under reforms to the Farming for a Better Climate (FFBC) programme.

The new group has been established to develop ideas on farms which could provide practical, innovative solutions to help climate change mitigation.

Mr Stevenson, a member of both the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee and the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, as welcomed the decision.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The launch of this group will allow the next generation of farmers and crofters to ensure they have adapted to the changing needs brought on by climate change.

“It will help to ensure a longevity and secure business viability. It is important we have feedback from all farmers to understand how we can help them make these adjustments.

“I look forward to seeing how farms in the North-East can put forward their contributions for how we target the challenges of climate change.”

7 May 2019

Stevenson Urges Community Groups to Apply for £11.5 Million Funding

Community groups in the North-East have been urged to apply for a new £11.5million fund which aims to tackle disadvantage, poverty and inequality.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is encouraging groups to apply for the funding announced by the Scottish Government.

It encourages community-led development, design and delivery of sustainable solutions addressing local issues, circumstances and aspirations.

This includes supporting out-of-school provision, providing activities and workshops, creating a community and improving job opportunities.

Grants of up to £250,000 are available over three years providing stability and recognising the need for longer term planning in some projects.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It’s the people that make my Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituency such a great place to live and work.

“This funding would be allocated by listening to the views of residents who know best how to invest in our community where it’s needed most.

“I welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement and commitment to supporting groups and projects which could really benefit from funding and would urge applications.”

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said:

“We know that the best people to decide how to tackle local challenges are the people who live and work in the area.

“The introduction of this flexible, multi-year fund is the result of listening to the views of people in many different communities. It will enable community groups to make sustainable and impactful changes by providing them with the resources they need, when they need them.

“It will empower communities to have more control over of their own affairs and take forward more of the activities they have identified as being vital to their local area.”

2 May 2019

Stevenson: Report Warns CCS is 'Necessity, not an option' in Climate Change Battle

The need for Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) technology in the fight against climate change is a “necessity, not an option”, a new report has warned.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) have released their latest findings which claimed the UK’s contribution to global warming can be ended within three decades by setting ambitious new targets.

And it has urged the UK Government to act soon on ensuring key measures are in place to protect against the impact of climate change.

Now, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has urged the findings of the report to be listened to and for plans for CCS to the North-East of Scotland to be resumed.

It comes after then Tory Chancellor George Osborne axed £1billion investment plans for the technology in 2015.

Peterhead Power Station had been earmarked as a potential site for the technology and oil major Shell and Scottish Power completing a feasibility study.

Since the plans were put on hold, several reports have called for CCS plans to be resumed.

Last year, St Fergus near Peterhead was highlighted by a Westminster taskforce as a key site to deploy CCS at scale.

In the detailed report from the CCC it said: “Carbon capture and storage (CCS) in industry, with bioenergy (for GHG removal from the atmosphere), and very likely for hydrogen and electricity production. CCS is a necessity not an option.

“The scenarios involve aggregate annual capture and storage of 75-175 MtCO₂ in 2050, which would require a major CO₂ transport and storage infrastructure servicing at least five clusters and with some CO₂ transported by ships or heavy goods vehicles.”

Mr Stevenson said the necessary infrastructure was already in place between Peterhead Power Station and nearby St Fergus.

In November last year the UK Government published a clean action plan after announcing plans for clean energy technology to be rolled out more widely in the 2030s.

But none of the nine points in the strategy which were meant to be completed in 2019 have been achieved yet, leading to fresh concerns over the region being “sold short”.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP, said:

“Once again we have a report which emphasises the need for CCS technology to be implemented to meet climate change reduction targets.

“These latest findings, which emphasis that CCS is a “necessity and not an option” show the Tories cannot keep dragging their feet on this issue.

“What we need to implement CCS is an already existing infrastructure which can be adapted and what we have known for quite some time is Peterhead Power Station and the surrounding infrastructure connected to St Fergus is capable of doing just that both by land and sea.

“Peterhead was promised £1billion investment and 600 jobs before the plug was pulled in a cynical betrayal.

“Scotland already leads the world on engineering expertise in the energy sector.

“We have huge potential to use those skills and infrastructure to lead the world in carbon capture and storage which could create thousands of jobs, while developing new technology to help meet our climate change obligations as this ground-breaking report from the CCC demonstrates.”

CCS is a process which captures large quantities of carbon emissions and stores them underground, stopping them from being released into the atmosphere.

Oil and gas pipelines could be used to store CO2 in rock formations under the North Sea.

It is estimated region could store 75% of the UK’s CO2 emissions when coupled with carbon capture infrastructure.

Last year, Acorn at St Fergus was awarded the Oil and Gas Authority’s first licence for storing CO2 under the North Sea.

1 May 2019

North-East MSPs Urge Voters to Register for EU Elections

North-East MSPs are urging constituents to register to vote by May 7th for the upcoming European Parliament elections.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson and Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin have warned voting is the only way to ensure Scotland’s voice is heard in Europe.

Research published has revealed that an estimated 600,000 Scots who are eligible to vote in this month’s elections have not yet registered.

And unlike the Brexit referendum, EU citizens living in the UK can vote in European parliamentary elections.

To be able to vote in the European Parliament elections, people must be registered to vote by midnight on May 7th.

The elections will take place on May 23rd.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP and Gillian Martin MSP, said:

“People in Scotland overwhelmingly voted to remain in the European Union - but even many of those who voted to leave have real concerns about the extreme Brexit now being pursued.

“We know that Brexit will harm our economy, cost jobs and hit people's pockets, which is why it’s vital that anyone who has not registered to vote does so as soon as possible.

“Never before have European elections been so important. We need strong SNP voices in Europe to send a clear message that we will not accept a Brexit process which fails to represent Scotland's interests.”

30 April 2019

Stevenson Warns Older People Could Lose Out in Pension Credit Changes

Changes to Pension Credit by the UK Government could see couples missing out on the entitlement amid changes to eligibility.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has urged constituents whom it might impact to submit their claim before a deadline in two weeks’ time.

Pension Credit is an entitlement for people in the lowest levels of the State Pension.

It means their State Pension is “topped up” to a minimum of £167.25 for a single person and £255.25 for a couple living together.

But if a person is in a partnership where one person is of pensionable age and the other is younger than their State Pension age, the changes mean they will no longer be able to claim Pension Credit unless they have already submitted a claim before these changes come into effect.

It could mean thousands of older couples living in Scotland could be worse off to the tune of £140.40 per week, or around £7,000 a year.

Age Scotland said the changes could have a “devastating impact on the lives of some of the poorest pensioners” and mean couples were better living apart.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP, said:

“Age Scotland are right to express concern about the changes to Pension Credit.

“As Pension Credit is a “passporting benefit” those affected could miss out on thousands of pounds worth of extra financial assistance such as Cold Weather Payments, maximum help with Housing Benefit, maximum help with Council Tax Reduction and assistance for those affected by the Bedroom Tax.

“Without Pension Credit, people will not have access to claim Social Fund Funeral Payments and they may not be entitled to the warm home discount.

“This decision by the UK Government is deeply unjust and I would urge the decision to be reversed.

“In the meantime, every older person who is eligible to claim Pension Credit should do so before the May 15th deadline.”

Stevenson Backs Charity's Appeal for Volunteers

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is backing a charity’s call for people in the North-East to volunteer for a service supporting older veterans whose lives have been distressed by hearing loss or tinnitus.

Action on Hearing Loss Scotland’s Hearing Forces service is part of the Unforgotten Forces consortium led by Poppyscotland.

Now, the charity is looking for volunteers to give a few hours each month to provide local veterans aged 65 or over, their families and carers with vital information and support to help them to cope with hearing loss or tinnitus.

Volunteers will be trained to clean, re-tube and adjust NHS hearing aids and provide vital information about ways to reduce the impacts of tinnitus.

They will also be trained to give advice about assistive equipment, such as amplified telephones or personal listeners, which can make everyday life easier.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP, said:

“I’m delighted to discover that Action on Hearing Loss Scotland is working with 15 partners in the Unforgotten Forces consortium to provide holistic support for older veterans.

“I encourage people in Banffshire and Buchan Coast to come forward to volunteer for the Hearing Forces service which will provide life-enhancing one-to-one support for many of those who are affected by hearing loss.”

Alan Dalziel from Action on Hearing Loss Scotland said:

“We appreciate Stewart Stevenson MSP backing our Hearing Forces service’s volunteers appeal.

“We’d welcome the opportunity to speak with people from throughout Banffshire and Buchan who are interested in helping older veterans to hear more clearly and participate in conversations with family, friends or neighbours and remain active in their community.”

Stevenson Supports MS Society in Bid to Improve Treatment

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has urged constituents to support the work of MS Society Scotland to highlight the condition.

It comes after the organisation visited the Scottish Parliament as part of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week to discuss the important role of research in the lives of people affected by MS.

MS affects more than 11,000 people living in Scotland and can cause problems with how we walk, move, see, think and feel.

Now the MS Society is driving research into more treatments.

The charity currently funds 10 research projects in Scotland with the studies receiving over £3.56million over their lifetimes.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP, said:

“The work of MS Society Scotland is vital in supporting those who live with this condition.

“By encouraging new research, we can develop understanding and know-how of other treatments and how they could help improve the lives of the more than 11,000 people who suffer from MS.

“I was pleased to meet with the MS Society Scotland when they visited the Scottish Parliament to find out about the incredible work they do.”

Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland said:

“This MS Awareness Week we are highlighting the importance of MS research.

“For more than 11,000 people in Scotland, living with MS is a daily reality. This is why the MS Society is driving cutting-edge research into more – and better treatments to ultimately stop MS.

“By contributing and joining a global group of fundraisers people can help us find new treatments for people living with the often painful and exhausting condition.”

MS is an unpredictable condition that is different for everyone. It affects how a person thinks, feels and moves. For support and information, please contact the helpline on 0808 800 8000.

29 April 2019

Stevenson Urges Families to Apply for Early Start Payment

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has urged families who may be eligible for a new Early Learning Payment to put their applications in.

The new £250 social security benefit will be available for low income families.

Families with children aged between two to three and a half can use the three-figure sum for anything from children’s clothes and shoes to toys, books or days out.

This payment is part of the Scottish Government’s new Best Start Grant package. This financial support includes the Pregnancy and Baby Payment, which has been open for applications since December and the Best Start Grant School Age payment which will open in June.

When the School Age Payments begin in June, the Best Start Grant package, along with Carer’s Allowance Supplement, will bring the total number of Scottish Government benefits being administered by Social Security Scotland to four.

Best Start Grant is for families in receipt of eligible benefits – including Universal Credit, Income Support, Housing Benefit – and tax credits to help at key stages in a child’s life.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP, said:

“The Best Start Grant package will be available to families across the North-East and could help between 30,000 to 40,000 families across Scotland this year.

“The investment, totalling £12million, is £10million more than previously provided by UK Government support.

“The new £250 payment will help low income families around the time a child normally starts nursery demonstrating this Government’s ambition to put more money into the pockets of families who need it most.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“Since December, low income families have been eligible for a payment of £600 on the birth of a first child, and £300 on the birth of any siblings.

“In just the first two months of the Best Start Grant, the Scottish Government got more money into people’s pockets than the DWP had managed under the old system in an entire year.

“Now, we will go further.

“I can announce that low income families will get a further £250 when their child starts nursery. Applications open tomorrow. And from June they will get the same again when their child starts school.”

25 April 2019

Tory Welfare Cuts Drive Record Foodbank Use

Universal Credit 'Key Driver' of Increasing Need for Food Parcels

Thousands of food parcels have been handed out to families across the North-East hit by the introduction of Universal Credit by the UK Tory Government.

Figures released from the Trussell Trust said its food banks provided more than 210,000 packages to people in crisis in 2018-19 – up from 23% from the previous year.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson slammed the figures caused by the “botched roll-out” of Universal Credit.

In Aberdeenshire, 4,800 of three-day emergency food supplies were provided to people in crisis by food banks.

The food bank provider said that issues with the Tories flagship welfare reform Universal Credit were a “key driver” of increasing food poverty.

In Scotland, 42% of food bank referrals made due to a delay in benefits, were linked to Universal Credit.

In November last year, Mr Stevenson visited the Peterhead Foodbank facility to meet with staff.
DWP ministers recently admitted the direct link between Universal Credit and soaring foodbank use – something which Tory MSPs have consistently denied.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP, said:

“The botched roll-out of Universal Credit has been a disaster – driving people into poverty and forcing families to rely on food banks.

“In a country as wealthy as ours it’s unacceptable that emergency parcels and food banks have become so commonplace – and we know, beyond any doubt, that Tory policies are to blame.

“The fact that foodbank use is growing across Scotland is a clearly damning indictment of UK Government cuts to welfare, it truly is a case of ‘poverty amongst plenty’.

“When I visited the volunteers at Peterhead it was clear they provide a valuable service for the most vulnerable sectors of our society at their greatest time of need.”

24 April 2019

Former Banff & Portsoy Councillor Dr Norman Allan Dies Aged 96

Dr Norman Allan, who served as a councillor for the Banff & Portsoy Division on Grampian Regional Council has died aged 96.

A stalwart SNP member, Dr Allan gained the Banff & Portsoy seat from the Conservatives at the 1986 regional elections and held it until Grampian Regional Council was abolished in 1996. The result at the time was seen as part of the spectacular local SNP breakthrough at those elections, heralding the loss of the Westminster seat by the Conservatives to the SNP the following year.

Banff & Macduff Branch of the SNP honoured Dr Allan in 2017 with lifetime membership. Speaking on that occasion, he said:

“I’ve been a member of the SNP since 1961, when I joined just before leaving for Canada – where I worked as a doctor at the University of Ottawa.

“There was an SNP branch over there that I was the secretary of, so when I came back to Banff, I was naturally involved with the party.”

Paying tribute, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“Norman was a stalwart of the local SNP and will be sadly missed by all who knew him. As a regional councillor, he served the communities of Banff and Portsoy for a decade and continued to be a prominent figure in the local community.

“Norman was a regular attender until quite recently at SNP branch and constituency meetings and could be relied upon to offer sage advice on the prevailing political situation.”

SNP councillor for Banff & District Glen Reynolds said:

"Norman was a local treasure, inspiring and enthusiastic for all that life and the area could offer, not least through the companionship he so lovingly gave and received.

“Maybe that was the key to the boundless energy he retained until the end. He never stopped enjoying the company of people and the local community that meant so much to him. In Norman's passing, Banff has lost a faithful servant.”

Former Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford added:

“Norman was always a source of great encouragement to me and was firmly of the view that it was the younger generation who would deliver independence for Scotland. Our thoughts are with Alison and the rest of his family.”

17 April 2019

Stevenson Pays Tribute to MEP Hudghton's Record of Service

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has paid tribute to Euro-MP Ian Hudghton’s record of service to the North-east.
Ian Hudghton MEP on a visit to
Banff with one of his ‘Euro-surgeries'
The long-serving MEP has announced he does not intend to seek re-election to the European Parliament at next month’s elections, should they take place. Mr Hudghton was elected to represent the former North-east Scotland Euro Constituency in November 1998 at a by-election caused by the death of SNP MEP Dr Allan Macartney. In 1999, following changes to the voting system, Mr Hudghton became one of eight MEPs representing the whole of Scotland.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“Ian has been a strong voice for Scotland in Europe and has a proud record of serving the North-east.

“Changes to the voting system broke the link between MEPs and constituencies in 1999, when each MEP then represented the whole of Scotland, but Ian always ensured the North-east was never overlooked and was assiduous in attending to local matters.

“In particular, his surgery tours of the North-east were unique among Euro-MPs and ensured that Europe was never remote from the people here, who could always call on their MEP to represent them.

"I wish Ian a long and happy retirement, but suspect he will not be idle given his commitment to Scotland and the cause of independence."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon commented:

“Ian Hudghton has championed Scotland's cause in the European Parliament for over 20 years, I am sorry to see him go. Ian has been a passionate advocate for what the EU is and does for Scotland, and proved himself a first-class parliamentarian. I wish him every success in the future.”

MSP Urges Local People to Have Their Say on Minor Injuries Unit

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson is urging local people to have their say at a public consultation event on Wednesday 1 May.

The review of Minor Injury Units (MIUs) in the North-east, is moving into the final phase with a series of public consultation events.

At the June 2018 meeting of the Integration Joint Board (IJB), members agreed the findings of the MIU Review and instructed officers to form local implementation groups to continue the work of the review.

The local implementation groups have looked at the feedback received from the public at the first round of events, as well as the data on how many people use the services and at what times and are now ready to share their findings.

Each area that currently has a Minor Injury Unit will host an event, open to all, to share and discuss a range of future operating models. Following these, events a paper setting out the findings of the review and recommendations on the future operating models for 5 of the units will be presented to the IJB for final consideration.

Each event will be an opportunity for local area residents to see and discuss a range of fully costed options for their unit as well as analysis of attendances to the units. Members of staff will be on hand to discuss any of the recommendations or findings.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“The Integration Joint Board carries out important work in bringing together elements of the health service and social work which previously operated as two separate entities, which didn’t always lead to a joined-up approach for patients.

“This is an important piece of work on the local Minor Injury Unit in Banff. I know how important local service provision is in a large rural constituency like Banffshire & Buchan Coast so I would urge people to go along to the drop-in session and get the information gathered so far and give their view on how they want to see this local service develop going forward.”

SNP Pressure at Westminster Helps Deliver Fair Pay for Post Offices

Stevenson Welcomes Better Deal for Sub-Postmasters

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed news that from October 2019 Sub-postmasters will receive better financial remuneration from the Post Office Ltd for key services that they provide to the public.

The announcement comes just weeks after SNP MP Gavin Newlands secured a House of Commons debate on the sustainability of Community and Sub-Post Offices, in which he reiterated SNP calls to give Sub-postmasters a fairer settlement. In recent months, SNP spokesperson for Small Business Marion Fellows MP, has written to the UK Government calling for these changes to strengthen the Post Office network.

At the National Union of Sub-postmasters Annual Conference, the Post Office Ltd announced that they will be increasing the rates of payment that Sub-postmasters receive for taking personal and business banking deposits, representing a near three-fold increase on current rates. The changes have been welcomed by Sub-postmasters.

The SNP has highlighted the rising importance of Post Offices to small towns and rural communities, the overwhelming majority of which are run by Sub-postmasters. As bank branch numbers continue to fall, local Post Offices have become increasingly important to communities - particularly to the elderly and those with additional support needs because of the face-to-face banking services that they provide. This is on top of the role they play in services regarding post, advice, pensions, benefit administration and working as community spaces.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This is very good news indeed and I congratulate my SNP colleagues at Westminster for their campaigning on this important issue. These are important steps in securing the long term financial sustainability of our local Post Offices.

“However, more work is still needed to increase public and business awareness of the banking services available at Post Offices, and to protect Sub-postmasters from the risks associated with handling large volumes of cash.

“The local Post Office plays a huge role in public life – it is both a symbol of the community and a lifeline on everything from pensions and benefits to vital day-to-day banking services. This is particularly important, coming as it does just days after the TSB announced cuts across the North-east to branches and opening hours.

“In many small and rural towns in Scotland, the local Post Office is the last place where a face-to-face service is available, making it essential for the elderly and those with additional support needs.

“Sub-postmasters have continually raised concerns that they are not receiving adequate financial remuneration for services they provide to major banks turning over huge profits, resulting in many post offices operating at a loss. It is great to see that they have finally been listened to.

“I hope that this announcement represents the beginning of the end of this culture of unfair deals and unfair work for Sub-postmasters.”

10 April 2019

Decision to Reinstate Gamrie Bus Service Welcomed by Local MSP

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has expressed his delight for local residents following Aberdeenshire Council agreeing to reinstate the supported bus service on Saturdays to Gardenstown.

Mr Stevenson wrote to Aberdeenshire Council last month urging a rethink following representations from constituents concerned at the inconvenience the loss of the Saturday service would cause.

Now, the council’s Public Transport Unit has confirmed the service will continue as funding has been found due to the outcome of the tendering process.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“This is very welcome news indeed and I’m delighted the council has taken on board the concerns that myself and local residents have expressed regarding the withdrawal of this service.

“A number of local residents approached me protesting that the axing of this service would result in the isolation of vulnerable residents. It would also seriously inconvenience the many tourists and visitors who rent summer properties in the village, for which Saturdays are a common ‘changeover day’.

“Now the route has been secured for this financial year, I’m sure the community will demonstrate that it is indeed a valued and important service.”

4 April 2019

Babybox Gets Banff Makeover as over 9,000 Delivered in NHS Grampian Area Since Scheme's Introduction

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has hailed the success of the Scottish Government’s innovative Baby Box scheme as figures show that over 9000 boxes have been requested by parents in the NHS Grampian area since the scheme’s introduction.

The news comes as a series of new designs for the Baby Box have been unveiled, including one by 12 year-old Demi Burnett of Banff Academy, whose design was selected from hundreds of entries from a nationwide Young Scot competition celebrating the Year of Young People.

Demi commented:

“I enjoyed really getting to know everybody there, sharing ideas and talking about our past achievements. It was a great experience. It means a lot to me being part of the winning team, it really makes me proud of the team and its work. It just makes me feel happy and content with something I’ve helped to do, knowing it’s also really important competition.

“It honestly just feels unreal knowing that. It’s hard to believe that a team I was part of won such an amazing competition. Knowing how much that box will mean to families in Scotland is heart-warming, it still boggles my mind how my own ideas brought me all the way to Edinburgh to end up winning a national competition.

“It’s just great knowing I’m helping to do something that’ll make families so happy. I’m also just really thankful to get the opportunity.”

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson commented:

“There’s no doubt that the baby boxes have been a hit with new parents with the numbers of those requesting the boxes rising from 85% at its launch in 2017, to 96% today. I’m particularly pleased that a design from this constituency was one of the winners and I pass on my congratulations to Demi.”

Commenting, Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd MSP said:

“We are committed to giving every child the best start in life, and we do this by ensuring that every family with a newborn has access to essential items needed in the first six months of a child’s life through the Baby Box. 96% of expectant parents are requesting a Baby Box – a big rise on the 85% since they were first launched - and we have now delivered more than 80,000. That’s a huge vote of confidence in Scotland’s Baby Box.

“This new design - by children for children - is impressive in its detail and creativity. Parents have also told us that they love personalising their Baby Box, and as a result my favourite idea from the winning team is the free space left around the trunk of the tree on the lid to allow the family to add their newborns’ hand and foot print.

“It will touch the hearts of many parents that children from across the country have worked together, investing so much time and effort, into creating something truly special for their babies. I’ve met many families who have treasured their Baby Box and I can’t wait to see the new boxes in homes for years to come.”

Louise Macdonald, Chief Executive of Young Scot, said:

“It is wonderful that a new generation of young Scots will be welcomed into the world with a beautiful Baby Box designed by today’s young Scots. I am delighted that 100,000 of these boxes will spark joy in households across the country over the coming years, and I thank every young person who has been involved in their creation.”

Jackie Brock, CEO of Children in Scotland said:

“The quality, creativity and skill shown by all the children and young people who entered the design competition was breath-taking. Each submission demonstrated what a great opportunity the Baby Box provides for showing what is special about being born and growing up in Scotland.

“Families will be really delighted with this addition to their baby’s welcome. Once the baby and their friends are old enough to colour it in, it will make a wonderful toy and memory in future years.”

Scotland’s Baby Box contains a selection of clothes from newborn up to the age of six months, as well as every day must-haves, like a bath towel, a travel changing mat, muslin cloth squares, a bib and a digital thermometer. Every Baby Box also comes with a number of books which parents and children can read together.

Lessons Can Be Learned From NHS Project Success Says MSP

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has highlighted NHS Grampian’s success in a project which has resulted in shorter hospital stays for patients and saved the NHS £3million over 3 years.

The HAME (Home and Mobility Evaluation) project is a 3-year project which is being trialled until August this year. Two members of staff - an occupational therapist and a physiotherapist - have been based in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary's emergency department as part of the HAME (Home and Mobility Evaluation) project.

The move ensures the team can engage with patients as soon as they enter the hospital and means those coming into the acute facility have their mobility assessed much more quickly leading to more patients being discharged home and some directly to community hospitals.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am delighted to hear of the success of this project and I congratulate Aberdeen Royal Infirmary staff on having carried the HAME project out over the last 3 years.

“This is a fantastic project that is helping NHS Grampian get the right treatment more quickly to patients but also saving vital NHS resources.

“Hopefully the lessons learned from this mean NHS Grampian will continue the HAME project onwards which may lead to even more resources saved and patients recovering more quickly.”

Tributes to Former Peterhead Councillor Michael Ross

Tributes have been paid to former Peterhead SNP councillor Michael Ross, who died on Tuesday at the age of 69.

Michael Ross was elected to the former Banff & Buchan District Council in 1988 for the Clerkhill Ward and re-elected again in 1992. When the authority was abolished in local government re-organisation, he stood down from elected office in 1996.

MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast Stewart Stevenson said:

“Michael was a well-respected and much-liked teacher at Clerkhill School and it was no surprise that he proved to be a popular local councillor.

“He was very much committed to the job of representing the people of Peterhead and did so with a ready wit and enthusiasm. My condolences go to his family at this time.”

Peterhead South & Cruden SNP councillor Stephen Smith, who represents Clerkhill, added:

“I worked on Michael’s successful election campaign back in 1988 and he made it a fun and enjoyable campaign to be part of.

“While not a teacher of mine, Michael taught a number of my academy school friends and it was clear he was held in high regard by them.

“Michael’s health wasn’t the best in recent years but his role in helping build support for the Scottish National Party in Peterhead was vital to our success in the 1980s and he will be missed.”

Local MSP Calls For New DEFRA Minister Robert Goodwill To Back Scottish Farmers In Funding Review

Westminster Continues to Withhold EU Millions from Scotland

DEFRA 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.

The call comes as Conservative MP Robert Goodwill, the newly-appointed UK Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food visits the North-east tomorrow. Mr Goodwill was appointed following the resignation of former Minister George Eustice, a casualty of the latest round of Tory in-fighting over Brexit.

In October 2018, DEFRA, under pressure from the Scottish Government, announced a long-overdue review into funding for farmers post-Brexit, but have repeatedly failed to address Scottish farmers’ concerns about Westminster's decision to withhold £160m in convergence payments. This money is an uplift of EU CAP payments which the UK received because of the low per hectare rate of support received by Scottish farmers.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“Scottish farmers have not forgotten that the UK Tory Government has withheld £160m in funding rightfully due to them. It is solely because of Scotland that the UK, as the Member State, qualified for this funding.

“The new Minister has an opportunity early in his tenure to set right this historic wrong. With future arrangements for agriculture still unclear amidst the turmoil around Brexit, it is vital Scottish agriculture benefits from the EU support to which the sector is entitled while it still can.

“It is overwhelmingly in the interests of Scottish farmers to, at the very least, remain in the Customs Union and Single Market. The fact that we are a week from potentially crashing out of the EU with no deal at all, and with no indication of the UK’s plans for agricultural support in the medium to longer term, is causing immense anxiety to farmers.

“Farmers will be expecting more than warm words from Mr Goodwill. He needs to send a clear signal to Scottish farmers that he understands their distinct challenges and is prepared to pay them what is rightfully theirs. In other words, he needs to decide whether he will back Scotland’s farmers, or betray them.”

29 March 2019

MSP receives Update on A90 Planned Maintenance

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has received details from Transport Scotland of planned maintenance and repair works to the A90 following concerns about the condition of the road surface in certain locations.

The SNP MSP contacted Transport Scotland who have advised a programme of maintenance works are being programmed for early in the 2019/20 financial year, which begins next week. These include works at the following locations:
  • A90 Newton of Sandford – between Boddam and Invernettie Roundabout
  • A90 Invernettie
  • A90 Waterside Inn (between Waterside Inn and Ugie Bridge)
  • A90 Inverugie Bridge (from Ugie Bridge northbound towards St Fergus
Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“These works will be welcomed by motorists and I look forward to them taking place during the coming financial year. Anyone spotting a specific road defect on the A90 Trunk Road can of course log this by calling 0800 028 1414.

“Meantime, I am pleased to see that looking at the changes in road usage following the completion of the Balmedie-Tipperty dualling and opening of the AWPR has been recognised by NESTRANS who have included this in their recent City Region Deal ‘options generation’. This can only serve to help the case for more significant improvements and upgrades to the A90 north of Ellon.”

UK Govt Urged to Ensure a Secure Future for Post Offices

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed calls from SNP MPs at Westminster for the UK Government to ensure the future of the Post Office network is secure.

SNP MPs obtained an Adjournment Debate at Westminster this week on the matter, highlighting the rising importance of Post Offices to small towns and rural communities and renewed SNP calls for the UK Government to act to protect their future.

The debate comes as UK Finance, trade association for the UK banking and financial services sector, re-negotiates the current deal with Post Office Ltd where financial remuneration for sub-postmasters from banks to carry out services falls short.

Welcoming the strong support at Westminster for sub-postmasters and the Post Office network among his SNP colleagues, local MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“As bank branch numbers continue to fall, local Post Offices have become increasingly important to local communities - particularly the elderly and those with additional support needs because of the face-to-face banking services that they provide. This is on top of the role they play in services regarding post, advice, pensions, benefit administration, and community spaces.

“It is now imperative that the UK Government steps in and acts to ensure that the Post Office, a publicly owned body, gets a fair deal from banks.

“Our local Post Offices play a huge role in public life – they are both a symbol of the community and a lifeline on everything from pensions and benefits to vital day-to-day banking services.

“In many communities in the North-east, the local Post Office is the last place where a face-to-face service is available, making it essential for the elderly and those with additional support needs.

“Sub-postmasters have continually raised concerns that they are not receiving adequate financial remuneration for services they provide to major banks which are turning over huge profits. It’s time for a fair deal for sub-postmasters.”

28 March 2019

Local MSP Backs Fraserburgh 2021 Regeneration Plan

Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) held an event in Parliament this week to showcase local regeneration projects and Fraserburgh was among the towns represented. Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson was pleased to meet with officials from Fraserburgh 2021 to be briefed on progress.
 (l to r) Alison Simpson, Fraserburgh 2021; Fraserburgh SNP councillor Brian Topping;
Stewart Stevenson MSP; Alastair Rhind, Aberdeenshire Council
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It was a pleasure to meet with representatives from Fraserburgh 2021 and hear an update on their plans.

“The event as a whole was a useful opportunity for regeneration towns across the country to be represented and come together to share best practice and compare what works.

“In addition, I was pleased the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government Aileen Campbell was present to hear about the various plans from around the country and to reaffirm the Scottish Government’s support for our towns.”

Communities Secretary, Aileen Campbell MSP said:

“Communities across Scotland are doing fantastic work in our towns. Whether it’s residents, businesses or local groups, it is communities who hold the knowledge and understanding of how their towns work and who have a long-term vested interest in getting things right. Their dedication, ambition and hard work has led to significant improvements in many of our towns.

“We continue to invest in community empowerment through a wide range of funds which support the regeneration of our towns. The Scottish Government is providing £50 million through the new Town Centre Fund 2019/20, set up in partnership with COSLA to enable local authorities to stimulate and support a wide range of investments to help our town centres diversify and flourish.”

Scotland’s Towns Partnership Chief Officer, Phil Prentice, said:

“The recent Scottish budget announcement providing £50 million for Town Centres to drive local economic activity and to stimulate and support place based economic improvements was a welcome respite against the challenging backdrop of ongoing retail closures and public sector shrinkage. We want our high streets and town centres across Scotland to be vibrant, creative, enterprising and accessible. These centres are at the heart of our communities and the lifeblood of our country so it is essential that we support them to become more diverse and sustainable.

“It is crucial that local and national Government continues to support the transition and evolution of Scotland’s small and rural towns given the challenges we face in business demographics and rural depopulation. As such, it is critical that a vision for our small and rural towns is at the centre of any Scottish economic strategy.”

27 March 2019

Stevenson Welcomes Statutory Instrument on Control over Scottish Fishing Waters

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the laying of a Statutory Instrument (SI) which will prohibit foreign vessels from fishing within Scottish waters without first obtaining a licence to do so.

The legislation was discussed at today’s meeting of the Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, of which Mr Stevenson is a member.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“While we still do not even have a date for the UK to leave the EU, far less any clue as to what form that will take thanks to the abysmal shambles the Westminster Tory Government is making of it, thanks to the civil war within the Tory Party, the Scottish Government is preparing for all scenarios.

“If Brexit is to happen, then it is imperative that we make the most of the limited opportunities it will present, and one of those is the ability to have local control over our fishing waters.

“Today’s discussions were a positive step and I particularly welcome the fact that any foreign vessel licenses that may be granted will also have no monetary value and will not be tradeable or transferable.”

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:

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:

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.”

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