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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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