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31 October 2019

MSP Saddles up in Support of Annual Poppy Ride Contest at the Scottish Parliament

Stewart Stevenson MSP has taken part in the charity event, organised by Poppyscotland which sees politicians compete on an exercise bike to see who can cover the greatest distance.
Mr Stevenson cycled 2.88 km in just four minutes in a bid to raise awareness of this year’s Poppy Appeal.

The Scottish Poppy Appeal is Scotland’s largest annual street collection and helps to raise millions of pounds each year which Poppyscotland uses to support the country’s Armed Forces community.

This week, more than five million poppies and 60,000 collecting tins have been distributed around Scotland as the public is encouraged to wear a poppy with pride.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am proud to lend my support to this year’s Scottish Poppy Appeal and to do my little bit to encourage us all to contribute to Poppyscotland as they continue their ongoing work to support the Armed Forces community throughout Scotland.

“The launch of the Scottish Poppy Appeal is a very important date in the calendar of Remembrance and I will certainly be putting on my poppy with pride to remember all of those who selflessly served our country, both past and present.

“It really does feel like a time when the country comes together to support a common cause – and we need that more than ever in these chaotic times.”

Poppyscotland Chief Executive Mark Bibbey said:

“We congratulate Stewart and all his parliamentary colleagues who showed what good sports they were by taking part in the 2019 Poppy Ride.

“While there were lots of laughs and banter along the way, it was important opportunity for Poppyscotland to highlight the issues facing the Armed Forces community and remind our politicians why the Scottish Poppy Appeal continues to be so vitally important in raising funds to support them.”

29 October 2019

'Do It Now' says Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP

The constituency MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast has urged constituents to register their electrical items as part of Electrical Safety First’s new ‘Do It Now’ campaign.
Around three quarters of fires in Scottish homes are caused by electricity – with most linked to electrical appliances.

If consumers’ electrical items are registered, it means they can be contacted much more easily if a product they have bought has been recalled for safety reasons.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It is obviously very useful to register your electrical items – and to read Electrical Safety First’s guide.

“The process will only take a few minutes but it truly could save your life and others’ lives.

“I am helping to raise awareness about this because of how vitally important it is.”

Wayne Mackay, deputy public affairs manager at Electrical Safety First, added:

“Registering your product is essential in helping manufacturers to contact you rapidly if there is a known problem, or a recall of a product.

“Many electrical products are recalled because they can lead to fire or electric shock – presenting a serious threat to life and property.

“And with the low (roughly 20 per cent) success rate of recalls, there could potentially be thousands of recalled items still in Scottish homes.”

Since 2007, 559 recall notices have been issued for electrical products, yet Electrical Safety First’s research found that only 21 per cent of Scots always register their electrical goods.

The guide is also supported by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Services (SFRS).

David Dourley, SFRS head of fire investigation, said:

“We are regularly involved in fires, some of them fatal, which have been caused by faulty electrical appliances.

“So we’re urging people to protect themselves from these risks by always registering their products.”

MSP Welcomes Victory on "Historic Injustice" for Scotland's Farmers

CAP Funding Returned after Years of UK Government Delay

Stewart Stevenson MSP has today welcomed news that North-east farmers and crofters will benefit from the first instalment of convergence funding – addressing an “historic injustice” which the Scottish Government has long campaigned for.

The funding is the first tranche of an £160 million package the UK government has finally returned to Scottish farmers after pocketing EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding intended for Scotland since 2014.

The initial £80 million will be distributed to support active farming, with a focus on those who farm in marginal uplands, hill farms and island areas.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This is money that was hard fought for over many years, and I am delighted for farmers in the North-east that the £160 million of convergence money that the UK government tried to appropriate from Scotland has been returned.

“Scottish farmers have been short-changed by the UK government for years, and the SNP has argued long and hard for that injustice to be addressed.

“This funding will play a vital role in helping us meet our agricultural commitments, and will make a crucial difference to the future viability of Scotland’s farming industry.

“However, Brexit is by far the biggest threat to Scotland’s farming and crofting communities, but this funding will help to provide some security to North-east farmers during these uncertain times.

“With future arrangements for agriculture still unclear amidst the turmoil around Brexit, it is absolutely vital that North-east agriculture benefits from the EU support to which the sector is entitled, while it still can.

“We now need real commitments over future funding, and an end to the attempted power grab over farming powers that should rightfully be at the Scottish Parliament.”

28 October 2019

MSP Pledges to Stand up for Nature

Stewart Stevenson MSP has added his pledge to Scottish Environment LINK’s campaign ‘Fight for Scotland’s Nature’.
The campaign has seen 37 environmental charities from across Scotland coming together to ‘Fight for Scotland’s Nature’ and gather support for a Scottish Environment Act.

The North-east MSP added his support following growing uncertainty of the threat Brexit has to current EU environmental protections that enhance Scotland’s nature.

At a time when 1 in 11 species in Scotland are at risk of extinction, environmental charities are calling for a Scottish Environment Act to set clear ambitions for Scotland’s own environmental policy and set a clear trajectory towards a more sustainable future, particularly in the approach to 2020, a year critical for the culmination of global efforts to halt biodiversity loss.

“The joint emergencies of rapid biodiversity loss and climate breakdown require transformative action. As a member of the Scottish Parliament, I have added my pledge to stand up for nature.

“I will do everything in my power to ensure Scotland’s natural environment has strong and effective protection, alongside ambitious targets for its recovery and enhancement.

“When 1 in 11 species in Scotland is at risk of extinction, these measures are vital, whatever our future relationship with the European Union.”

25 October 2019

Stewart Stevenson MSP Welcomes New Funding for Care Experienced Young People

Stewart Stevenson has welcomed news that care experienced young people in Aberdeenshire will benefit from £328,800 of funding.

The Scottish Government announced today (Friday) that the Care Experienced Children and Young People fund would increase from £8 million to £12 million in this academic year.

The fund is designed to support the educational attainment of young people, up to the age of 26, who have been in care, with projects as diverse as mentoring programmes, counselling services and driving lessons were supported.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan MSP, Stewart Stevenson said:

"Improving the education and life chances of all our children and young people is the defining mission of the SNP in government.

"Young people living in, or leaving, the care system often face additional barriers to learning - which is why this funding can be so vital.

"I'm delighted that care experienced young people in Aberdeenshire will benefit from £328,800 of targeted funding this year, with a substantial increase in funding across Scotland."

22 October 2019

MSP takes a trip down Guide Dogs’ Memory Lane

Stewart Stevenson MSP recently met with the charity Guide Dogs Scotland to discuss the challenges that blind and partially sighted people face when walking the streets, including pavement parking, street clutter and shared spaces.
Pavements blocked by parked cars or street clutter such as wheelie bins and overhanging branches can force pedestrians to walk onto the road, putting them in danger of oncoming traffic.

Shared space streets, where vital safety features such as kerbs and controlled crossings are removed, can also be dangerous and disorientating for people with sight loss.

To illustrate these risks, Guide Dogs asked Stewart Stevenson MSP to take a trip down memory lane and play their ‘Navigation Game’ – a take on the classic final challenge of the Generation Game – memorising the hazards that a guide dog owner might encounter on a typical journey.

Guide Dogs are calling for action on the most common dangers for people with sight loss, including a new law limiting pavement parking to areas determined by the local council, action from local authorities on street clutter and a safety review of existing shared space schemes.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I applaud the work of Guide Dogs Scotland- through their work guide dogs transform lives for individuals who are registered blind or have partially lost their sight.

“On street parking and blocked pavements can add to the complexities and challenges facing blind or partially-sighted individuals and so I was delighted to meet with Guide Dogs and discuss their new campaign.”

Niall Foley, Engagement Manager at Guide Dogs Scotland, commented:

“The street environment has a huge impact on people with sight loss. When a street is blocked with obstacles or lacks vital safety features, it can make the difference between getting out and about with confidence or feeling forced to stay at home.

“We’re calling for action to tackle the most common hazards that affect blind and partially sighted people on their local streets: pavement parking, street clutter and shared spaces.”

21 October 2019

MSP’s Welcome £460 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband Rollout

North-east MSPs Gillian Martin and Stewart Stevenson have welcomed a £460 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband rollout.

The rollout will enable more households and businesses across Aberdeenshire to upgrade to faster fibre broadband. Across Scotland, thanks to the programme, more than 940,000 premises will now be able to connect to the new network. The programme has brought fibre broadband to Cornhill, Lumphanan, New Pitsligo and Strathdon, with more fibre also now live in several communities including Alford, Ellon, North Water Bridge and Forgue.

Some of the latest premises to be reached – in places like Glenkindie and New Deer – are connected to a full fibre network. Also known as Fibre-to-the-Premises or FTTP, the technology provides ultrafast broadband directly into local homes. They are among more than 117,000 homes and businesses across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire which are now able to connect to the Digital Scotland network as engineers from Openreach continue work on the ground during 2019/20.

Across the country more than 5,000 new fibre street cabinets are now live – offering broadband services at speeds up to 80Mbps – and more than 13,700km of cable has been laid, equal to the length of around 25 per cent of all the roads in Scotland.

Fibre broadband offers fast and reliable connections at a range of speeds and there are many suppliers in the marketplace to choose from. Local people can check if the new fibre services are available to them at www.scotlandsuperfast.com/yourstreet.

Gillian Martin MSP, said:

"More and more people are now able to sign up to fibre broadband thanks to the £460 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, and it is particularly pleasing to see this in rural areas and rural market towns such as New Deer.

"The difference that having fibre broadband can make to businesses or to improving the range of services available in the home is amazing. I’d urge everyone to take advantage of the faster speeds now available.”

Research has suggested that every £1 in public investment in fibre broadband in Scotland is delivering almost £12 of benefits to the Scottish economy. The independent report commissioned by DSSB and undertaken by consultants Analysas Mason estimates the total benefit from investment as £2.76 billion over 15 years.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

"The Digital Scotland rollout is reaching new communities across the North-east and bringing better broadband to rural residents, families and businesses.

“Better connectivity right across Scotland means digital progress on every level – from pupils doing homework and communities tapping in to the tourist trade online to virtual assistants helping vulnerable people to live more independent lives.”

Thanks to additional investment as a result of innovation and new funding generated by stronger than expected take-up, the rollout will continue in every local authority area during 2019 and into 2020, complementing ongoing commercial build across Scotland. More than 50 per cent of properties reached by the programme have switched to fibre broadband.

11 October 2019

Stewart Stevenson MSP Renews Calls to Restore TV Licences to Over 75s

A new report published today by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee has criticised the UK government for seeking to "bounce" the BBC into accepting a deal that exposed it to "administering welfare benefits," and calls for free TV licences to be restored to over 75s who don’t receive Pension Credit.

North-east MSP Stewart Stevenson has slammed the Tories for their handling of the 2015 negotiations that led to the BBC making decisions regarding welfare payments – ultimately leading to free TV licences for over 75s being scrapped - and has renewed calls for them to be restored after campaigning consistently for them to be saved.

The report finds that the 2015 "flawed" funding negotiations gave no opportunity for consultation with licence fee-payers, that the BBC put itself in the "invidious" position as administrator of welfare benefits, and criticises the 2015 UK government for seeking to ‘bounce’ the BBC into accepting the measures.

The DCMS Committee has recommended that the UK government and BBC work together to find a funding formula to restore free TV licences for over 75s.

Commenting Banffshire and Buchan MSP, Stewart Stevenson, said:

“It is downright shameful of the Tories to pass the responsibility of administering much-needed welfare benefits, such as free TV licences, on to a public broadcaster, and this report rightly lays that bare.

“The report was also right to point out the complete lack of transparency surrounding the negotiations and that the BBC cannot be absolved of responsibility. I hope Lord Hall has learned his lesson – don’t do secretive back-stair deals with people you can’t trust.

“The way they handled – or mishandled - the 2015 funding negotiations by not consulting licence fee payers and allowing false reassurances to be made to over 75s is further proof that this Tory government is uncaring and incompetent when it comes to looking after our older generation.

“The SNP warned of the danger of transferring this decision to the BBC. The UK government should now atone for their mistake and work with the BBC to find a funding formula to restore free TV licences for over 75s – we will not let them off the hook over this broken manifesto commitment.”

8 October 2019

MSPs Welcome £10 billion Investment in the North-east

Aberdeenshire MSPs Gillian Martin and Stewart Stevenson have welcomed £10.1 billion of public and private investment in infrastructure projects due to be delivered in the North-east before 2030 following the Investment Tracker published today.
Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce’s investment update, shows committed future investment in the region has risen by £1.7 billion over the past 12 months.

This comes on top of £800 million worth of projects being completed since the 2018 Tracker was published, including Aberdeen Art Gallery, the Music Hall, Banchory Sports Village and the region’s new world-class events complex P&J Live.

Much of the investment in the document comes from Scottish Government funding which is scheduled for the next three years and includes projects involving transport & infrastructure, office & retail and leisure & culture, as well as health, sport & education.

Gillian Martin, MSP for Aberdeenshire East, commented:

“Digital connectivity is absolutely critical to opening up the huge economic potential of the North East.

"While this is an issue reserved to Westminster, I am delighted that the SNP has taken the initiative and committed £77 million to make sure everyone in Aberdeenshire has access to superfast broadband by 2021.”

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, said:

“The Tracker tells a story of great progress for our regional economy with £2.5bn of infrastructure projects delivered since 2017 and more to come.

“The North-east’s bold investment programmes are creating an energised, connected and revitalised region, one that offers an unparalleled experience for residents and visitors alike.”

MSP welcomes financial discipline reimbursement for farmers

Stewart Stevenson MSP this week welcomed news that Scottish farmers are to receive £5.89 million in reimbursement payments from the European Commission.

Payments under the Financial Discipline Mechanism will begin arriving in bank accounts this week, with the average reimbursement worth around £374 per claimant.

The Financial Discipline Mechanism aims to keep the Pillar 1 budget in balance through the creation of a crisis reserve, which is then released back to farmers the following year, if the reserve is not required.

Welcoming the reimbursement, Mr Stevenson commented:

“I am pleased that around 15,300 Scottish farmers and crofters will receive Financial Discipline Reimbursement payments totalling £5.89 million this week. The repayment varies in relation to the total value of Direct Payment they receive, so not every claimant gets the same amount, but it averages £374.

“With farmers facing the unwelcome prospect of a ‘no deal Brexit’ and the uncertainties this will inevitably bring to their business, it is important that they are aware of the service offered by the likes of RSABI to help them through any hardships they may be facing now or in the future.

“In the meantime, I hope this small injection will be a welcome addition to eligible farmers’ finances.”

7 October 2019

MSP Supports Regulation of Scottish Electrical Trade

Stewart Stevenson MSP with
Alan Wilson, MD of SELECT
MSP Stewart Stevenson has become the latest political brick in the Wall of Support for better regulation of the electrical trade across Scotland.

The representative for Banffshire and Buchan Coast has given his backing to the long-running campaign led by trade association SELECT for the recognition of electricians as a profession.

The Campaign calls for Protection of Title to help ensure that anyone calling themselves an electrician is actually qualified to carry out the work.

It has been estimated that as many as 16% of all domestic electricians operating in Scotland are either unqualified or under-qualified.

“I am delighted to add my support to SELECT’s campaign urging for the regulation of all electricians in Scotland,”

Mr Stevenson said.

“It is important for both safety and professionalism that we ensure anyone calling themselves an electrician holds appropriate qualifications.

“Introducing a title of recognition will create greater trust between consumers and industry and should be standard practice in all types of construction work, be they multi-million-pound contracts or small domestic jobs."

Mr Stevenson’s endorsement comes amid a growing swell of support for the campaign.

As part of its 2019-20 Programme for Government released last month, the Scottish Government has pledged to publish a consultation on the regulation of electricians.

“We would like to thank Mr Stevenson for adding his support to this vital cause,”

said Alan Wilson, Managing Director of SELECT.

“Improving the regulation of electricians will not only better help to protect people’s lives, but also has huge benefits for the wider Scottish economy.

“We are also delighted that the Scottish Government has committed to examining this issue, but continue to urge prompt action – this needs to happen sooner rather than later.”

MSP Encourages Carers To Apply For £1.1million Short Break Funding

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is encouraging carers to apply for more than £1million of funding available for short breaks projects for children and young people with disabilities.

The Better Breaks programme provides 12-month grants to third sector organisations to develop and deliver short breaks projects for those aged 20 and under and their adult carers or young carers.

The projects can include breaks away, days out and shorter sessions including regular activities.

To be eligible for Better Breaks funding, projects must be able to evidence how their activities will benefit both children and young people with disabilities and their carers, by providing a break from their normal routine.

A total of around £1.1 million is available. Grants are for one year between April 2020 and March 2021.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Carers do an incredibly valuable and demanding role looking after loved ones and those who need support in our North-East community.

“Having access to funding which can provide memories which can last a lifetime is so important.

“I would encourage carers and organisations to apply for funding which can be used for short breaks and days out which could be of real benefit to carers and those they help support.”

6 October 2019

MSP Receives Assurance on Peterhead Courthouse Works

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has been given an assurance from the Scottish Courts Service that works at Peterhead Sheriff Court are on schedule and the scaffolding will be removed by the end of the month.

Local residents have long-complained about the eyesore as scaffolding has covered the building for years while works to repair the roof and cladding have been ongoing.

Now, Chief Executive of the Scottish Courts Service Eric McQueen in a reply to the SNP MSP has advised the works are on schedule to be completed on 17 October with the scaffolding removed by the end of the month.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I’m pleased the end is now in sight for these works and the removal of the scaffolding will take place shortly.

“Local residents have been concerned at the length of time taken for these works, albeit there is an understanding the works are of an essential nature. With a previous deadline for completion of the works having passed, I’m pleased it now looks like completion is imminent and we can see an end to the scaffolding covering one of the Peterhead’s main town centre landmark buildings.”

4 October 2019

MSP Welcomes Small Business Bonus for Thousands of Aberdeenshire Businesses

Andrew McRae, Scotland policy chair, FSB
with Stewart Stevenson MSP
Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson recently met with the Federation of Small Businesses to discuss the Scottish Government’s investment in the long term success of towns and high streets across Scotland.

Small businesses in the North-east are a large part of the economy making up 96% of the 14,185 registered businesses in Aberdeenshire Council.

Mr Stevenson took the opportunity to discuss the need to transform towns by delivering a sustainable future for local places and ensure businesses grow locally.

The meeting comes following 7,343 businesses in Aberdeenshire have received the Small Business Bonus in 2018-19.

Commenting Mr Stevenson said:

“I was delighted to meet with officials from FSB to discuss further the investment in businesses in my constituency.

“I welcome the news locally that thousands of small businesses have benefited from the Small Business Bonus.

“I know this bonus will make a huge difference to local small businesses in Aberdeenshire.”

SNP Won't Let Tories Renege on Promise to Scottish Farmers

The SNP has demanded the Prime Minister comes clean on when Scottish farmers can expect the £160 million stolen from them by the UK Government.

Last month, the Tories finally admitted that Scotland's farmers and crofters had been short-changed by the UK Government on CAP convergence funding with Boris Johnson committing to repaying the cash.

With no clarity on when Scotland will receive the funds owed, local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has warned that the UK Government can’t delay on this issue any longer with the threat to Brexit looming over the industry.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“It’s not good enough for Boris Johnson to keep ducking simple questions on when he’ll handover what he owes to Scottish farming.

“The Tories can’t be trusted - this money belongs to Scotland and it’s time for Boris Johnson to cough up.

“The SNP has fought tooth and nail for the Tories to right this historic wrong and we won’t rest until we see the colour of their money.

“But frankly it’s the bare minimum of what our farmers are due – with the uncertainty of Brexit hanging over the agricultural sector, Scottish farmers need more support from the UK government to deal with the fall out of crashing out of the single market.

“We need a cast-iron guarantee that Scottish farmers will see the money they’re due along with real commitments for support going forward.”

Tributes for Local SNP Stalwart Bob Ritchie

Bob Ritchie holding his SNP Life Membership card
Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has paid tribute to long-standing member of the Scottish National Party in Buchan Bob Ritchie whose funeral took place this week.

Peterhead resident Mr Ritchie was a founding member of Fraserburgh Branch SNP and was the Honorary President of Peterhead Branch SNP.

Mr Ritchie was also the Election Agent for the SNP at the 1964 General Election – the first time the Scottish National Party contested a Parliamentary election in Buchan.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“Bob has been a stalwart of the SNP in Buchan for decades and an inspiration to many activists locally over the years.

“Bob holds a place in history as the first-ever SNP Election Agent in this area when the Party decided to contest the old East Aberdeenshire seat at the 1964 election. Bob tells a story that he narrowly avoided being the candidate at that election because he won the toss of a coin and chose to be the agent!

“At that 1964 election, the SNP got 6% of the vote and 1900 votes. It is thanks to the hard work and dedication of people like Bob in those early days that the party was able to put down such solid foundations to build on locally.

“I had the pleasure of presenting Bob with lifetime membership of the party a few years ago and enjoyed his reminisces about past election campaigns. He will be missed by everyone in the SNP and my thoughts are with his wife Beatrice and family at this time.”

3 October 2019

Stevenson: Legitimate Concerns over Car Park Charges Should be Listened to, not Dismissed

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has expressed his disappointment at the response from Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services chairman, Cllr Peter Argyle (Lib Dem: Aboyne, Upper Deeside & Donside) to calls for a review of free parking spaces in Peterhead.
The free periods were abolished by the Conservative-Lib Dem administration despite costed proposals from SNP councillors which would have seen the car parks breaking even but retaining a half-hour free period.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“This is a dismissive and negative response from the Chairman of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, particularly as I commended the council on its efforts through the regeneration partnership, which I know does good work, alongside Rediscover Peterhead.

“Cllr Argyle repeats the manta that 75% of all off-street parking spaces are free of charge, but again ignores the fact that in Peterhead that is simply not the case and the town has a disproportionate share of chargeable spaces. In fact, free spaces in the town’s car parks account for only 36% of the total available.

“I’ve previously asked for a review to take place, which the council has accepted and will happen next year. What I was asking for here was a review of the distribution of free spaces in Peterhead, particularly as most of the free spaces are not convenient for the main shopping areas.

“I don’t believe that is an unreasonable request and will continue to support that, especially now that we have businesses in other Aberdeenshire towns who have had a dramatic drop in footfall and are now offering to cover the cost of customers’ parking fees.

“I also don’t believe anyone has a problem with the council seeking to not make a loss on the running of its car parks but that should not exclude listening to the legitimate worries of businesses and others and taking on board these valid concerns. Cllr Argyle’s approach is disappointing in that regard.”

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