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30 August 2019

MSP Receives Commitment from SPS on Support for HMP Grampian

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has received details of the commitment by the Scottish Prison Service on support for HMP Grampian to address their staffing issues.

A report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland published in July found issues with staffing shortages at the prison, with recruitment and retention of staff being highlighted as a problem owing to the high employment rate in the Buchan area.

Responding to a letter from the SNP MSP, Chief Executive Colin McConnell detailed a range of actions and initiatives designed to support the prison and recruit staff members.

Welcoming the commitment, Mr Stevenson again highlighted the overall positive nature of the inspectorate’s report and the efforts of the staff at the facility, stating:

“It was clear from the report that, despite some challenges, the staff at HMP Grampian are carrying on the ethos of the old HMP Peterhead and deserve to be commended for their hard work. Back then, the officers charged with custody of what was then a sex-offender population were a team who were highly motivated in their jobs by doing their utmost to protect the public by ensuring their inmates got every support to make them not re-offend. Prevention of re-offending remains a top priority for the staff.

“Bringing together two prisons with very different cultures in HMP Peterhead and HMP Craiginches was always going to present some challenges, but the report stated the “inspection team found an establishment that had matured, and despite a small number of significant incidents in 2018, was largely calm and purposeful with emerging signs of stability and progress”.

“There were issues highlighted in the report which require to be addressed, and I raised these with the SPS, who have responded positively with details of what they are doing to address staffing and other issues.

“In particular, new initiatives and changes to the recruitment process appear to be generating increased interest from potential job applicants. These include Open Days, online testing as part of the recruitment process, funded visits with a family member to HMP Grampian to meet other staff who had also relocated to the area, and also promoting career opportunities at North-east secondary schools.

“None of these represent a ‘quick-fix’ but I am confident that SPS management are taking all reasonable steps to address the staffing situation highlighted in the report.”

28 August 2019

MSP Echoes Safety Advice on Tumble Dryers

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has highlighted safety advice issued by campaigning charity Electrical Safety First on avoiding tumble dryer fires.

“With 47 fires caused by tumble dryers in Scottish homes last year and a major, ongoing tumble dryer recall, all of us need to check and use them safely”, explains Stewart Stevenson MSP “So I’ve joined Electrical Safety First’s campaign to ensure my constituents stay safe in their homes.”

White goods manufacturer, Whirlpool, is recalling a number of its tumble dryers – but the company estimates that there are still around 500,000 affected machines in UK homes.[i]

Mr Stevenson continued:

“I am supporting the charity’s campaign to ensure that all recalled tumble dryers are removed from use and to encourage people to check if they have an affected model. But even if you are not one of those affected by the recall, it’s really important to follow some simple safety tips when using your machine”.

"Currently, recalls have just a 20% effectiveness rate, so checking you don’t have an effected model is a priority. However, Wayne Mackay, Deputy Public Affairs Manager at Electrical Safety First, explains that the campaign also has a wider aim.

“We also want to provide a timely reminder on using tumble dryers safely”, reveals Wayne. “And we have devised a range of tools and top tips to help, including our dedicated site - www.whitegoodsafety.com - where my constituents can check if you have an affected tumble dryer, or indeed, other recalled ‘white goods’, such as fridges and washing machines”.

For more information, take a look at Electrical Safety First’s top tips, below:

To check if you have a recalled tumble dryer
  • Visit: www.whitegoodsafety.com.
  • Check if you have a Whirlpool owned brand machine, such as Hotpoint, Creda, Indesit or Swan. You can do this by looking at Whirlpool’s online model checker to see if your product is affected – if it is, call Whirlpool on 0800 151 0905 to have it replaced or consult https://safety.hotpoint.eu to check your model.
  • If you’re in any doubt, stop using - and unplug - your machine immediately.
Top tips for tumble dryer safety
  • Never overload the dryer – take large or bulky items like duvets to the dry cleaners.
  • Always allow each drying programme, including the "cool-down cycle", to completely finish.
  • If you have to stop the dryer before the end of the cycle, remove all items and leave the door open to dissipate heat.
  • Don't use your tumble dryer to dry clothes that are contaminated with combustible substances like solvents, grease, oils or fats.
  • Don't leave your tumble dryer running overnight, or when you are out.

26 August 2019

MSP Highlights Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, which begins later this week

Starting on Saturday 31 August, the fortnight long campaign will amplify the great work that’s happening now and talk about the future potential for Scotland’s food and drink industry.

The Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP believes this is an opportunity to highlight some of the innovation that is going on across the sector and profiling the work that goes on behind the scenes with retailers and foodservice customers to help Scottish companies realise their full potential, as well as promoting the rich array of locally-produced food and drink in the North-east.

Commenting Mr Stevenson said:

“Scotland can be rightly proud of the outstanding products being reared, grown and manufactured on our doorstep- particularly in the North-east.

“Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight is a phenomenal opportunity to cement Scotland’s reputation as the Land of Food and Drink and celebrate the reputation we have globally.

“The Food and Drink industry in Scotland deserve great congratulations for all that has been achieved as we approach our target of being home to a sector worth £30 billion by 2030.”

25 August 2019

Stevenson Asks RBS to Look at Shared Rural Banking Hub Pilot Scheme

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has written to Royal Bank of Scotland Chief Executive Ross McEwan asking the bank to consider setting up a pilot scheme for a shared banking hub in a rural area.

Through its NatWest bank subsidiary, RBS is already involved in such a pilot in England with Barclays Bank and Lloyds Bank.

It is understood there are several trials currently ongoing, all of them in urban areas and Mr Stevenson has asked RBS to trial such a scheme in a rural area such as the North-east before reaching any conclusions.

In a letter to Mr McEwan, Mr Stevenson states:

“As you will be aware, various banks including RBS have closed a large number of branches in the North-east in recent years and, increasingly, one of the things I am hearing from constituents is the desire for the banks to co-operate through shared provision of premises.

“I understand . . . that none of these pilots are taking place in Scotland but the results of the pilots in England will be assessed before any decisions are reached.

“I should be grateful if you are able to update me on when you expect the reach any conclusions from the data gathered. I note also that all of the pilots are in urban areas and should be grateful if consideration could be given to a similar trial in a rural area, such as the North-east, so that the data gathered is not based entirely on urban experiences.”

Commenting on his approach, Stewart Stevenson said:

“The North of Scotland has suffered a large number of bank branch closures in recent years, with the closures affecting even large towns such as Fraserburgh, Banff and Buckie.

“Any initiative which could retain or even bring back a range of services provided by the banks themselves is worth serious consideration. It’s very interesting that there is a pilot scheme in place in some urban areas in England and there is no reason why a similar pilot scheme could not be set up to assess its viability in a rural area of Scotland, so I hope RBS will agree in principle as a first step.”

23 August 2019

Stevenson Joins Banff Community Policing Team on Beat

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson joined officers from Banff Community Policing Team on the beat this week.
The SNP MSP was taking part in the ‘Give a Day to Policing’ initiative for MSPs which saw MSPs joining police officers across the country, allowing them to see first-hand the hard work and commitment that police officers display on a daily basis to support communities across Scotland.

Commenting afterwards, Stewart Stevenson said:

“This was an exceptionally useful visit and I am grateful to the officers at Banff for hosting me and giving me the opportunity to learn more about their daily responsibilities.

“It also provided an opportunity to see how policing and the expectation of the public in respect of policing has changed, reflecting the changing nature and complexity of crime, and the fact that an increasing amount of officer time is spent helping to safeguard vulnerable people.

“Spending some time with our local police gave a valuable first-hand insight into their day to day work, and gives a broader understanding of the operational challenges facing policing. It is difficult to overstate how important the work of Police Scotland is to our daily lives, and it is right that they are recognised for their significant contribution to our community.”

20 August 2019

MSP welcomes rail reopening

Stewart Stevenson MSP has praised the work of Network Rail as passengers travelling between Aberdeen and Inverness will return to the track today.

Network Rail has been improving the stretch to increase capacity and upgrade the service- another substantial investment in the North East.

Sections of the line were closed as part of a £300 million project to dual the track and improve the North East transport network. This follows hard on the heels of the recently upgraded Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route.

The majority of Aberdeen to Inverness services will be highspeed and an extra 1,400 seats a day will be available.

Commenting Mr Stevenson, said

“I am delighted today to see the rail link between Inverurie and Dyce reopening for passengers to use and welcome yet another substantial investment in the North East.

“I’d like to thank all at Network Rail who have worked around the clock over the last 15 weeks to ensure this project would be reopened on time.

“These improvements will help to transform rail in the North East and I congratulate all of the staff who have kept customers informed throughout the process. I am pleased to see the service completed today.”

Stevenson welcomes multi-million pound investment in the North

Banffshire and Buchan coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has this week welcomed figures showing a multi-million pound investment in the North of Scotland.

The north has been granted the biggest share of a community fund generated by SSE Renewables according to a new report.

A review carried out by the energy firm SSE Renewables, shows the company has invested more than £4.5 million across businesses and not-for-profit organisations in the Highlands and Islands and the north-east.

SSE have provided more than £6.6m in support for community projects across the UK as a whole between April 1 2018 and March 31 this year.

Local MSP says that this sum is the largest ever invested by the UK renewable energy developer and the £4.5m being invested locally across the region will have a significant impact on rural communities.

Mr Stevenson commenting, said:

“Following the Scottish Governments announcement of a climate emergency earlier this year it is excellent to see the renewable energy sector stepping up to tackle the problem and investing in the north-east.

“Nationally, by 2030 we aim to generate 50% of Scotland's overall energy consumption from renewable sources, and by 2050 we aim to have decarbonised our energy system almost completely.

“I have no doubt this money will make a huge impact towards helping rural communities to thrive and is a positive step in achieving our targets and tackling climate change locally.”

16 August 2019

MSP Calls for Banks to Sign-up to Customer Protection Code

Stewart Stevenson, MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast has called for banks to urgently sign up to a new code which is designed to protect users from payment scams.

The code, which came into force in May, aims to make it easier for victims of authorised push payment (APP) fraud to get their money back and avoids life changing sums of money being lost.

Recent figures from UK Finance shows that a staggering £354 million was lost to bank transfer fraud in 2018, with only £83 million of it recovered.

Mr Stevenson has written to the Chief Executives of several banks which have yet to sign up to the code. He urged them to offer greater protection to fraud victims and introduce the customer protection code.

Commenting Mr Stevenson said

“The launch of the APP voluntary code in May marked a significant moment, bringing a new level of security from scammers.

“Individuals across Scotland must be protected from fraudsters and it’s incredibly concerning that not all bank and building societies guarantee refunds to APP fraud victims yet.

“All too often victims of APP fraud are losing money to this type of crime and so I’m calling for urgent action from banks to help protect those affected.”

12 August 2019

Stevenson Welcomes Bellwin Support for Moray Council

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the Scottish Government’s decision to activate the Bellwin Scheme following a request from the Moray Council following the structural damage caused by the recent extreme weather.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“The emergency services, council staff and local volunteers have done a tremendous job and the focus is now on the clearing-up operation. I’m therefore pleased that the Scottish Government has agreed to Moray Council’s request for assistance under the Bellwin Scheme.”

Minister for Public Finance & Digital Economy Kate Forbes MSP said:

“The Council made the request following the structural damage within the Council area as a result of the recent extreme summer weather. Moray Council’s threshold for 2019-20 is £428,518 which means that all eligible revenue expenditure which the Council incurs over and above this sum as a result of these recent incidents will be funded in full by the Scottish Government.”

Moray SNP MSP Richard Lochhead added:

“I’m pleased the Scottish Government have responded positively to the Council’s request to activate the Bellwin Scheme – which exists to help local authorities deal with the unforeseen costs of emergency incidents, such as extreme weather, and to ensure they can safeguard life and property.

“The heavy rain has made it a challenging few days with flash flooding causing disruption and damage to local infrastructure. Although the rain is set to continue the Council is already turning its attention to the clear up, particularly the works that will be needed to repair damage caused by the landslips.

“I want to pay tribute to the emergency services, Moray Council and all the local volunteers who have been working hard over the last couple of days to protect homes and businesses.”

11 August 2019

Banffshire MSP Congratulates New Lord Lieutenant on Appointment

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the appointment of local man Andrew Simpson as the new Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire.

Mr Simpson takes over from Mrs Clare Russell, who retired last week.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I warmly congratulate Andrew on his appointment as Lord Lieutenant and look forward to working with him to help promote the interests of those Banffshire communities which lie within my constituency.

“Clare Russell did a huge power of work in support of local organisations and keeping the historic County of Banff on the map and I pay tribute to her work over many years.

“I am sure that Andrew Simpson is relishing his new role and will be an equally strong advocate for the county and I wish him well in his duties.”

4 August 2019

Stevenson Calls on DEFRA Secretary to Carry Out New PM's Promise

Westminster Continues to Withhold EU Millions from Scotland

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has written to the new DEFRA Secretary Theresa Villiers asking for a timetable for the repayment of the £160 million stolen from Scotland’s farmers by the UK Tory Government.

The £160 million of convergence funding was allocated by the EU to Scotland but was retained by the Conservative Government and used across the UK instead.

However, new Prime Minister Johnston appeared to give a commitment to “make sure Scotland’s farmers get the support they are owed” (The Scottish Farmer, 12 Jul 2019) at a Conservative Leadership hustings event in last month. Stewart Stevenson has written to Theresa Villiers asking her to make good in the new PM’s pledge and release the money.

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 Secretary of State has an opportunity early in her tenure to set right this historic wrong. New Prime Minister Johnston has given a commitment, which has been welcomed by the NFUS President, so it should be a simple matter of carrying out the will of the PM and paying the money.

“Scottish farmers will be expecting more than warm words from the new Secretary of State. She needs to send a clear signal to Scottish farmers that she understands their distinct challenges and is prepared to pay them what is rightfully theirs. In other words, she needs to decide whether she will back Scotland’s farmers, or betray them like her predecessor.”

2 August 2019

Stevenson: "Game Changer" Anti-Poverty Payment to Benefit Thousands of North-East Children

An estimated 11,800 children in 6,800 families across the North-East are expected to benefit from the Scottish Government’s ground-breaking anti-poverty payment, it has been revealed.

The Scottish Child Payment will be worth £10 per child for low-income families by the end of 2022, with introduction for under-6s starting by early 2021.

The brand-new benefit was described as a “game changer” and a “lifeline” by anti-poverty campaigners and is central to the SNP’s ambitions to tackle child poverty.

The Scottish Government this week published estimates, based on the number of Tax Credit recipients prior to the rollout of Universal Credit Full Service, showing how many children and families are expected to benefit in each local authority.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The Scottish Child Payment is an ambitious and ground-breaking new benefit that will directly tackle child poverty.

“When fully rolled out, the Scottish Child Payment will benefit over a third of all children – giving families £10 per week for every eligible child under 16 years old.

“Tory cuts are driving too many families in North-East into poverty – but the SNP are determined to use every power at our disposal to help families make ends meet.”

1 August 2019

Stevenson Urges North-East Groups and Charities to Apply for Funding from £3 Million Cash Pot

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is urging community groups and local charities to apply for funding from a pot of more than £3 million.

The funding has been raised by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery with applications now open until August 14th.

A wide range of community organisations, from registered charities, to voluntary groups and social enterprises, are eligible to apply for grants of between £500 and £20,000.

The funding can be accessed through three different trusts and each trust supports projects focussed on different themes.

Groups are encouraged to apply to the trust that best fits their proposed project including applications from projects aimed at promoting human rights, combating discrimination and poverty prevention.

Other groups urged to apply are initiatives working to improve the health and wellbeing of communities, including arts and physical recreation projects, as well as those with a focus on reducing isolation

The Postcode Local Trust is also looking to provide funding that’s dedicated to improving outdoor space, in addition to increasing access to it.

Groups working on flood prevention measures and looking to implement renewable energy strategies are also encouraged to apply.

More than 300 groups were awarded grants earlier this year, with sports groups for military veterans, counselling support services for young carers and sensory gardens for people with dementia among some of the organisations that benefitted.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson, said:

“There are countless organisations doing fantastic work across the North-East. This is the perfect opportunity for them to take advantage of the funding available and expand the

reach of an existing service, get a new project off the ground, or allow it to help extend an already successful initiative. I strongly encourage as many groups as possible to apply.”

Laura Chow, head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, added:

“It’s not just players who win with People’s Postcode Lottery - over £3 million in grants will have a tremendous impact on grass-roots groups across Britain.

“Between the three trusts, a huge array of projects is able to benefit, and I would urge all groups to look at the funding guides and apply.”

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