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CORONAVIRUS

My staff and I remain available to assist constituents in any way we can.

However, for the time being, we are not undertaking face to face contact.

We are regularly checking voicemails and emails and are receiving physical mail addressed to our office at a staff member's home address.

Please do not use social media as a channel to make requests to us as these personal accounts are monitored less frequently.

Understand that the pandemic may mean that we take a little longer to respond than we would normally.

Please DO NOT visit the office as we are all working from home.


29 September 2020

Stevenson Welcomes Funding to Support Health and Social Care

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed £1.1billion of funding to support Scotland’s health and social care sector.

The additional funding will be allocated to NHS Boards and Health and Social Care Partnerships across the country.

The move has been made to help support COVID-19 related costs such as additional staffing or sickness expenditure, enhanced infection prevention and control measures, and the purchase of PPE.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This additional funding is welcome as the country prepares for the winter period.

“It will help the sector as it continues to support the public through the greatest public health crisis in our lifetime.

“The Scottish Government is taking the action to support services and ensure NHS Boards and local Health and Social Care partnerships are prepared for the continued presence of COVID-19.”

24 September 2020

MSPs Back Transport Planner for Commuters

North-east MSPs have welcomed a new service which will let commuters check how busy public transport is to help plan their journey during the coronavirus pandemic.

The move has been announced by Traveline Scotland for multiple operators across the country including NESTRANS in Aberdeenshire.

Aberdeenshire has been picked to take part in the first tranche of the roll-out by travel operators which was part funded by £50,000 from the Scottish Government.

And both Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson are supporting the plans.

With capacity restricted on public transport due to physical distancing measures, the public are being encouraged to plan their journey avoid busy times where possible.

This development, which significantly improves people’s ability to plan their journey more effectively and travel safely, is the first part of a phased roll out that aims to cover the whole of the country over the coming months.

Information is being collated and verified so that the journey planners on the Traveline Scotland website and associated IOS & Android apps will now show how many seats are available, or how busy a bus is when it is in service.

By using the on board ticket machine and driver input, digital data is also able to indicate whether a service is quite busy, not so busy or relatively quiet in real-time for passengers benefit.
Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“This will help allow members of the public to plan their journeys safely and I am delighted Aberdeenshire has been included in this first phase of the roll-out.

“As physical distancing continues this means people can effectively plan their journey knowing how busy their commute is likely to be.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I welcome this announcement as well as the funding support of £50,000 from the Scottish Government.

“We know much has changed across public transport including mandatory face coverings and physical distancing.

“Now commuters will be able to how busy the service is and plan ahead, making the travel process easier than before.”

15 September 2020

Stevenson Welcomes Launch of Doric Course

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed news Doric will now be taught at university for the first time.

In a motion to the Scottish Parliament, Mr Stevenson celebrated the move by the University of Aberdeen.

Doric is a form of North East Scots which is spoken by 49% of people in Aberdeenshire.

It will now be taught to undergraduates at Aberdeen University with the course counting towards a student’s degree.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am delighted Doric will be taught to undergraduates at the University of Aberdeen.

“It has a long history and there are many words and phrases linking Doric with Scandinavian languages too.

“This language is a critical part of north-east culture and I wish the University all the best in delivering this course which I hope will bring more interest and many new speakers.”

MSPs Warn Constituents to be Vigilant to Track and Trace Scammers

North-East MSPs have warned constituents to be vigilant after concerns were raised over scam artists asking for cash in exchange for coronavirus tests.

It comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned the Scottish Government had been informed fraudulent calls had been taking place.

During the daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon called attempts to scam people for money as “despicable”.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have now urged to people living in the north-east to take caution when contacted by anyone claiming to be from track and trace.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“It is truly shocking that during such a time of crisis anyone would attempt to take advantage of it, I would urge anyone who receives a phone call regarding track and trace in which they are asked for any bank details to immediately hang up the phone.

“No one working in contact tracing will be asking for these details – tests are free.

“As the First Minister has highlighted, if you receive a call and you are unsure you always have the option to hang up and call back.

“Calls regarding track and trace will only be received from 0800 030 8012.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Anyone calling from track and trace will not ask you for any details regarding health other than directly related to the coronavirus.

“A caller will also not ask for social media details, passwords or pins or request you to make any payments.

“It is important we also alert any older people in the community who may be vulnerable to this time of scam what to look out for.”

Stevenson Slams House of Lords "Hardship" Claims

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has criticised peers in the House of Lords after they called for a hardship fund to help them during the coronavirus crisis.

The appeal, which was revealed in a freedom of information request, was included in a host of internal complaints to the Lords’ Commissioner.

Peers saw their daily allowance cut to £162-a-day as the House of Lords moved to remote working during lockdown.

A flurry of complaints from unnamed privileged peers followed, with the detail now being made public for the first time.

One unelected peer claimed that “a number of Peers have been financially embarrassed by the present arrangements”, while other peers queried “if there was any chance of setting up a hardship fund for members in financial difficulty during this time?”

Another Lord moaned that “I would be very disappointed to give up my lease and then find things back to normal” while a colleague remarked that peers may be forced to resign from their roles as “the financial pinch is so horrible”. A fellow Lord also claimed the pay cut has left them “feeling exploited” and “completely undervalued”.

Astonishingly, one peer also remarked that the changes to pay are “not even minimum wage”. Minimum wage for a worker over 25 in the UK is currently £8.72 per hour.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This Freedom of Information request exposes the total privilege and sheer arrogance of unelected Lords at Westminster.

“As people across Scotland struggle to make ends meet due to the financial impact of coronavirus these peers have the audacity to complain £162-per-day is not enough.

“These Lords are out of control and even more members of the privileged elite, like Baroness Ruth Davidson, will be skipping down the road to join them very shortly.

“It’s time to put the brakes on this gravy train and abolish the House of Lords for good.”

11 September 2020

MSPs Welcome Broadband Figures for Aberdeenshire

North-east MSPs have welcomed figures showing more homes are connected to superfast broadband.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have welcomed the most recent statistics from Thinkbroadband.

It comes after significant investment from the Scottish Government.

The new figures show 83.4% of homes now have superfast broadband compared with only 16.6% in 2014 – a 66.8% increase.

A report published this week from Ofcom also found that 172,889 properties across Scotland have been connected to superfast broadband in the last year alone.

Despite connectivity and broadband remaining reserved to Westminster, Scotland is the only part of the UK that has guaranteed 100% superfast broadband access.

The Scottish Government is investing £600 million in the R100 programme, the single biggest public sector investment in digital connectivity in the UK, Westminster has contributed less than £21 million to the project – just 3% of the total funding.

Commenting, Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin said:

“These latest figures show a huge improvement compared with previously.

“It is so important homes are connected to superfast broadband – especially when the demand has increased due to home working.

“It’s also been important to keep families and loved ones connected too.

“The Scottish Government has made a commitment to invest £600 million in the R100 programme which will ensure superfast broadband speeds reach every corner of Aberdeenshire and Scotland.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Broadband is a reserved issue to Westminster, but successive UK governments have sat on their hands and done next to nothing to connect Scottish homes to superfast internet speeds.

“While the Tories might be happy to sit in the slow lane, this SNP Government won’t stop until 100% of Scottish homes are connected to superfast broadband by the end of 2021.”

10 September 2020

MSPs Urge Student Caution as University and College Students Return

North-east MSPs have urged students returning to university and college campuses across the region to listen to advice from Scotland’s most senior clinicians.

An open joint letter has been written by Dr Gregor Smith, Interim Chief Medical Officer, Professor Fiona McQueen, Chief Nursing Officer, and Professor Jason Leitch, National Clinical Director.

In the letter they also urge students to get tested if they experience any of the three main symptoms of COIVD-19 including a new and continuous cough, a fever or high temperature, or a loss of or change in their sense of taste or smell.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“It’s really important that new students and those returning to campuses are vigilant about any symptoms they develop.

“In order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at universities and colleges we must ensure students are sticking to Scottish Government guidance at all times.

“I know these are different circumstances than many students would have envisaged but the more we do now to follow these measures and to get tested early will benefit us all.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This letter clearly sets out the guidance on detecting signs of the coronavirus.

“It is up to us all to stay alert and to look out for symptoms of the virus. We know colds and flu-like symptoms are common at this time of year, so it is important we know what symptoms to look out for.”

Stevenson Urges Constituents to Download COVID App

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has urged people in his constituency to download the new ‘Protect Scotland’ app - to help slow the spread of Coronavirus and support the easing of lockdown restrictions.
The app can be downloaded onto phones and will let users know if they have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

The app will automatically alert users if someone reports that they’ve tested positive for Covid-19 and that they have been in close contact recently.

No personal identifiable information will be entered on the app and the Scottish Government has assured that it will not monitor the location of individuals as the app uses Bluetooth technology, and not GPS, to identify contacts.

The app has already been downloaded more than 50,000 times since its launch on Wednesday.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The Scottish Government has now launched the ‘Protect Scotland’ proximity tracing app, to help stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus and complement the person-to-person approach of Test and Protect.

“The app - which takes less than a minute to download - will allow us to alert people at risk far more quickly, so that we can all take steps to reduce the risk of infecting others.

“Scotland’s official contact tracing app will help us all to protect ourselves, our family, our friends and our community by enabling faster contact tracing.

“The more people who have the app, the more it can help to slow the spread of Coronavirus.

“That’s why I’m urging people in the north-east to download the app, and let’s all protect Scotland.”

Stevenson Urges Women to Visit GP Amid Drop in Ovarian Cancer Diagnoses

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is encouraging women to visit their GP with any health concerns after a drop-in cancer referral.

It comes after a report which looked at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Target Ovarian Cancer UK published their findings earlier this year which showed many women have been worried about contacting their GP with symptoms.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I would encourage women who are showing any symptoms to visit their GP.

“Early diagnosis is very important, so I would urge women to make sure they see a doctor as soon as possible.

“I welcome this report by Target Ovarian Cancer UK which highlights the very real and devastating impact this disease has on women.”

9 September 2020

MSPs Welcome Payment to Tackle Child Poverty

North-east MSPs have welcomed a payment which will help tackle child poverty in Aberdeenshire.

More than 10,000 children across Aberdeenshire could benefit from the Scottish Child Payment which will be worth £10 per child for low-income families by the end of 2022.

The introduction of the payment for children under six will began as early as next year.

Latest figures from the Scottish Fiscal Commission estimate that 194,000 children aged under six in Scotland will be eligible for the new Scottish Child Payment.

Both Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have welcomed the move.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

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

“This support is needed more than ever, and when this additional £10 per week per child becomes available in February.

“It will help reduce financial pressures and demonstrates the potential of social security to make a positive difference and reflect our society’s shared values of compassion and fairness.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Tory cuts are driving many families in the north-east into poverty.

“This payment from the Scottish Government shows we are using every power at our disposal to help families make ends meet. We must do all we can to help support families.”

7 September 2020

Stevenson Welcomes Funding for North-East Businesses

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a six-figure sum for businesses across the North-East.

It comes from the Scottish Government’s Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund (PERF) and the Creative, Tourism and Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund (CTHEHF).

The PERF was a grant scheme for small businesses able to demonstrate they had been made vulnerable by COVID-19 but could present a strong business case for a viable future.

Meanwhile, the CTHEHF was designed to support companies in immediate hardship due to ongoing pandemic.

A total of seven businesses in the Banffshire and Buchan Constituency benefitted from the funding including the Fraserburgh Indoor Leisure Centre, Gourmets Choice Ltd and the Palace Hotel in Peterhead.

The funding given to these businesses totals £402,729.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Many businesses in the north-east have suffered loss and hardship from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is important the Scottish Government and other organisations can help to support in the immediate aftermath as well as in the long-term.

“I am pleased well-known businesses have been able to benefit from additional support in what is a difficult time for so many.”

3 September 2020

Stevenson Marks 60th Anniversary of Macduff Distillery

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has marked the 60th anniversary of a north-east distillery with a motion to the Scottish Parliament. 

The Macduff Distillery in Banffshire opened in 1960 and has produced both The Deveron and previously the Glen Deveron single malt whiskies. 

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:
 
“I am delighted to mark this significant anniversary for the Macduff Distillery with a motion to the Scottish Parliament. 

“The distillery has brought many benefits to the local area in its 60 years and I am sure it will continue for many decades more. 

“Its recent contribution helping to produce 15,000 litres of hand sanitiser for use by the emergency services NHS and cares home has also been greatly appreciated.”

Stevenson Welcomes Major Investment in Macduff Substation

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed major investment by the Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) in the north-east.

It comes as part of a £5million programme of investment in Moray and the north-east with more than 11,000 properties expected to benefit.

SSEN is investing £1.2million in the local substation powering Macduff by replacing transformers and switchgear with new, upgraded equipment.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This investment will boost the resilience of the network and serve more than 6,500 properties in the local area.

“It will also help to allow for future growth in electricity demand. Some of this equipment was installed in the 1960s and has been due an upgrade so this next step is very welcome.

“I know this will benefit many people in the area, particularly with the demand caused by more people having to work from home and staying at home during the upcoming winter period.”

Michael Hilferty, Head of SSEN’s North Caledonia region, said:

“Our priority is to ensure a safe, secure and reliable supply of electricity for our customers, and this investment goes a long way to delivering on that commitment for thousands of existing homes and businesses, as well as those looking to connect to our network in the coming years.”



Disclosure: Stewart is a very small shareholder in SSE plc.

2 September 2020

MSPs Welcome Announcement on Recent COVID Cluster

North-east MSPs have welcomed the announcement by NHS Grampian concluding a recent cluster of positive coronavirus cases stemming from an outbreak at Aberdeen pubs is now over.

The health board’s incident management team met earlier this week and made the assessment.

It means they have ruled that it is no longer possible any positive cases can be linked back to the cluster and would be unrelated.

Both Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have welcomed the confirmation.
Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“I would like to thank the hard work of the track and trace teams within NHS Grampian who have been committed to stemming this most recent cluster. 

“I would also like to thank everyone in the north-east impacted by the recent loc
al lockdown, I know it will have been a challenging time for many. 

“It is only down to your efforts that this announcement has been made possible. We must continue to adhere to guidance and make sure we are practising safe hygiene and social distancing.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This is very welcome news and I hope it gives a sense of relief to people who have been impacted it.

“We must continue to take extra precautions and be mindful as we go about our day-to-day lives while fully aware of the impact COVID-19 continues to have.”

Stevenson Welcomes Ambitious Plan to Rebuild Economy

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced an ambitious Programme for Government aimed at ensuring a strong economic recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic.

Under the commitments, all young people in Scotland aged 16 to 24 will be guaranteed a job, education, apprenticeship or formal training through a new £60 million government scheme.

By this Autumn, a £100 million Green Jobs fund will be launched to help up to 10,000 people of all ages retrain for jobs in growth sectors such as renewables.

The SNP government has also announced a new £10 million Tenant Hardship Fund, which will open later this year and offer interest-free loans to those unable to access other forms of support for their housing costs.

A comprehensive independent review of adult social care will also take place – setting out options for the creation of a National Care Service.

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

“Coronavirus has been the greatest public health crisis in our lifetime – impacting our health, economy and our way of life.

“The SNP government has made it its mission to create new jobs right here in the north-east. This is a Programme for Government that protects people’s livelihoods, guarantees opportunities for all our young people and points the way to a future with better, greener jobs as Scotland looks to becoming a net-zero country.

“We can’t simply go back to how things were – we have an opportunity to build back a fairer and better Scotland.

“That’s why the First Minister has announced these unprecedented measures to help us reform social care, protect our young people and invest in our local economy – all while continuing to suppress the virus.

“As ambitious as these commitments are, the Scottish Government continues to fight Coronavirus with one hand tied behind its back. Westminster’s plans to end to the furlough scheme prematurely and crash out of the EU without a deal later this year, will be deeply damaging."

Stevenson Backs Support for Hardest Hit Families

The Scottish Government has paid out more than £8million in crisis grants from the Scottish Welfare Fund to families this year.

This was up 63% compared to the previous year - with applications substantially higher due to increasing financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the support given to families.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“In only a five-month period between March and July, the Scottish Government has supported some of the most vulnerable families by increasing investment in Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs).

“This has helped to support people on low incomes and facing financial hardship amid the impact of COVID-19.

“I would urge anyone in the Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituency who may need it to apply. This will be particularly important as we approach the end of the UK Government’s furlough scheme.”

1 September 2020

Stevenson Slams Scottish Tory Leader NFUS Claims

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has said he backs the NFUS (National Farmers Union Scotland) after its policy director criticised claims made by the leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

Moray MP Douglas Ross came under fire for twisting the views of the NFUS regarding comments he made in an interview with Good Morning Scotland.

During the interview, Mr Ross was called out over his voting record at Westminster on upholding standards - including his vote against Clause 11 in the UK's Trade Bill which looked to protect high welfare and food standards in the UK, and prevent low-quality produce - such as chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-injected beef - flooding supermarkets.

The MP claimed that NFU Scotland's policy director, Jonnie Hall, said that no MP voted to reduce animal welfare or biosecurity standards.

But in response, Mr Hall stated that he was "fuming" over the remarks, adding:

"I remain very concerned that an honest and straightforward answer to a question has been basically turned through 180 degrees to misrepresent the situation whereby I think people are being misled.”

Hall went on to say that the purpose of Clause 11 was to uphold the high food and agricultural standards currently in place - adding that he was "perplexed" over Douglas Ross' remarks and that the Scottish Tory leader had "taken my answer out of context."

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Douglas Ross is only weeks into his role as leader of the Scottish Conservatives job and he has already been accused of twisting the words of the NFUS.

"This is not just embarrassing for the Scottish Tory leader, it is yet another sign of the Tories' sheer contempt for Scotland's vital agriculture sector.

"The fact that NFU Scotland's policy director has had to come out and call out Douglas Ross over his remarks and state that the Scottish Tory leader has misled the public is damning.

“Mr Ross must now publicly apologise to Scotland’s farmers for twisting their words, and to the Scottish public for trying to mislead them over this crucial issue.

"It's no secret that the Tories' plans will aim to lower Scotland’s world-class food standards in pursuit of a bottom of the barrel trade deal - and rather than owning up to his voting record that risks undermining Scotland's high-quality produce, Douglas Ross shamefully tried to twist the comments of NFU Scotland."

31 August 2020

Stevenson Welcomes Winter Disability Allowance

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed extra support for families of children with disabilities over the winter period.

The Scottish Government plans to put forward legislation to enable the delivery of the new Child Winter Heating Assistance.

It is the first disability benefit to be introduced using new social security powers.

Families with children in receipt of the highest rate care of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will receive an extra £200 to help with their heating costs.

These payments will be made automatically to eligible families through Social Security Scotland.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This is fantastic news and will help to support many families as we move into the colder months.

“Additional funding will help to support seriously disabled children and their families with the additional costs they can have with heating a home.

“It is also very encouraging to note these payments will be made automatically to eligible families by Social Security Scotland alleviating some of the hurdles often faced when applying for benefits.”

27 August 2020

Stevenson Welcomes 12-Minute Coronavirus Test

NHS Scotland has agreed a £6.76million deal to purchase new machines capable of turning around coronavirus tests in 12 minutes.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said the investment will help meet needs in more remote locations.

It comes after the agreement with UK-based life sciences company LumiraDx to supply 300 rapid testing machines as well as a minimum of 500,000 tests.

The LumiraDx Platform instruments can be used anywhere making them ideal for local clinics or mobile units in Scotland’s rural communities.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This announcement is superb news for communities across the north-east and the wider country.

“This is a great example of our pioneering life sciences sector in Scotland. I am pleased it will also help to support a quick turn around on testing, particularly in rural areas.”

The instruments connect to a cloud system, which means outbreaks of COVID-19 can be tracked quickly by health authorities playing a vital role in Scotland’s Test and Protect strategy.

The test was authorised for emergency use by the US Federal Drug Administration last week and is going through the final stages of validation for use in Scotland and Europe.

Stevenson Welcomes Signing of Heads of Terms for Moray Growth Deal

The Moray Growth Deal has taken a further step forward after the heads of terms were signed by Moray Council, the Scottish and UK Government.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the move.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This is a fantastic step forward and I am pleased to hear it has reached this stage.

“The Moray Growth Deal will provide a long-term boost for the area, helping to grow the local economy and create high value jobs.

“This is more important than ever with the impact of COVID-19 on the wider economy and this deal will help support diversification.”

Stevenson Welcomes Bill to Help Farmers Post-Brexit

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a Bill which will allow the Scottish Government to ensure the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) can continue beyond this year.

It also means Ministers will retain the ability to make improvements to the scheme following Brexit.

Earlier this week, the Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Bill passed Stage 3, following a debate in the Scottish Parliament.

And it will also improve the legal basis for collecting information about the agri-food supply chain and activities relating to agriculture.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Brexit continues to create ongoing uncertainty, coupled with the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19).

“It emphasises how important it is to give farmers in the north-east financial stability in the next few years.

“This Bill will help to ensure CAP schemes can operate from 2021 – including the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme, Knowledge Transfer and Innovation and Small Farmers Grant Scheme.

“We will continue to press the UK Government to ensure they keep their commitment in which they promised the Scottish rural economy that EU funding would be replaced.”

25 August 2020

Stevenson Thanks Mystery Donor for Six-Figure Cash Donation to College

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has thanked an anonymous donor- after it was revealed the mystery person gave a six-figure sum to a further education hub.

The contribution will go towards the development of an innovation area within the Fraserburgh campus of NESCOL (North-East Scotland College).

Mr Stevenson has submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament to praise the donation from the mystery donor.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am really pleased this very generous sum of money has been gifted to NECOL’s Fraserburgh campus.

“This contribution will go towards the innovation area at the college. This generous donor will have helped to further enhance the learning of students and I would like to say thank you on behalf of my constituency.”

21 August 2020

MSP Attends Parliament from Unexpected Location

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson surprised fellow committee members in the Scottish Parliament after appearing during the meeting from a north-east car dealership.
Mr Stevenson’s own internet at his home had been hit earlier this month by storms which had battered much of Scotland.

Fearing he would be unable to attend the most recent COVID-19 committee meeting due to his connection issues, a local car dealership came to his rescue.

Ewen’s of Cornhill – which sells new and used Hondas – offered to provide space for the MSP to be able to connect virtually to his meeting.

The appearance in the car dealership sparked a number of comments online from journalists and constituents entertained by the change in location.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Unfortunately the bad weather last week caused damage to the internet connection in our home.

“Living in quite a rural part of my constituency meant it’s not quite fixed and I would have had to miss my most recent COVID-19 meeting.

“Luckily Ewen’s of Cornhill were able to step in and help, offering me a spot at their dealership.

“I am incredibly grateful for their help particularly as the COVID-19 committee is of such great importance as we make our way through this pandemic.

“I would like to thank them for their help and I’m pleased to have been able to offer a light-hearted moment in what has been a very challenging time for Scotland.”

North-East MSPs Welcome Funding for Care Experienced Young People

North-east MSPs have welcomed a number of Scottish Government funded projects designed to help raise the attainment of care experienced young people.

Funding of £11.6million will be provided across the country and local authorities will work with Chief Social Workers and Directors of Education to decide how this year’s allocation will be used.

Last year, projects as diverse as mentoring programmes and outdoor and play-based education were supported through the Care Experience and Young People fund.

And during COVID-19 children have been provided with laptops to support their home learning during the pandemic.

The Scottish Government has also said local authorities will have the flexibility to redirect some of the funding from existing plans to best support the most vulnerable and disadvantaged families.

The North-East will get a total of £901,200 split across Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray.

Aberdeen City will receive £409,200, Aberdeenshire will be awarded £324,000 and Moray will be allocated £168,000.

Commenting, Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin said:

“It is really important we ensure care experienced young people are given the best chance in life.

“Enhancing their opportunities through mentor schemes and other educational programmes is a positive step in the right direction as we look to break down some of the barriers they face.

“I am especially pleased a focus has been made on how to help them through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am delighted care experienced young people in the north-east will be able to benefit from further funding this year.

“Investment helps to remove obstacles while also allowing local authorities to provide targeted help for those most disadvantaged.

“Improving the education and life chances of all our children and young people is the defining mission of this Scottish Government.”

19 August 2020

Scottish Tory Claims National Farmers' Union of Scotland "Wrong, Wrong, Wrong" on Internal Market Fears

North-east Regional MSP Peter Chapman has accused Scotland’s leading farming organisation of being “wrong, wrong, wrong” on concerns over plans for the UK’s internal market.

Mr Chapman stunned fellow MSPs in the Scottish Parliament chamber as he made clear he disagreed with the views of the NFUS (National Farmers Union of Scotland).

Earlier this week, NFUS President Andrew McCornick warned the proposals "limit the devolved administrations" ability to act if any standards were lowered and give the UK Government a final say in areas of devolved policy, such as agriculture, the environment or animal health and welfare."

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said the outburst was “a glimpse into how little respect Tories have for Scottish farmers.”

When questioned over whether he agreed with the views of the NFUS, Peter Chapman MSP said:

“I do disagree with the NFUS and I normally respect their views but they’ve got it wrong, wrong, wrong on this occasion. So I’m sorry they have.”

The former Rural Economy spokesperson for the Scottish Tories – who was forced to quit in disgrace after a lobbying row – had served as NFUS Vice President from 1998-2000.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The comments made in the chamber by Peter Chapman are not at all a surprise.

“Once again, they offer a glimpse into how little respect Tories have for Scottish farmers.

“The NFUS is rightly concerned about what UK Government internal market policy is going to do to devolution because their plans are simply wide off the mark.

“The Tories’ plans will significantly reduce Scotland’s world-class food standards and trample over the hard-won powers of devolution.

“Peter Chapman has shown he is not committed to doing the best for farmers in the area he represents or for Scotland more widely.

“He would rather do Boris Johnson’s bidding than stand-up for farmers.”

18 August 2020

Stevenson Welcomes Voucher Scheme for Superfast Broadband

A voucher scheme will be launched next month to help both residential and business premises ensure they can access superfast broadband of at least 30 Megabits per second (Mbps).

The move has been launched by the Scottish Government to help support areas where there are no plans to bring superfast broadband to addresses by the end of 2021.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the move and is encouraging businesses and residential premises to apply for the scheme.

Businesses with addresses that are either not in scope for a signed R100 contract or for planned commercial investment prior to the 2021 deadline will be eligible for the main voucher.

It will provide up to £5,000 per premise - including those in the North of Scotland where roll-out plans are still to be firmed up.

Meanwhile, residential premises - where superfast broadband plans are known but not likely to be deployed until after 2021 - will be able to access support up to £400.

Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, said:

“We will also ensure that those in the most difficult-to-reach locations can secure vital connectivity by providing an additional subsidy of £250.

“This will not prevent the deployment of the planned R100 intervention for those premises, for example where fibre to the premises is ultimately scheduled under the R100 programme but will allow customers to access an interim superfast service using alternative technologies while the build on the longer-term solution is undertaken.”

Vouchers can be used to cover the cost of installation association with securing a service across a range of superfast-capable technologies including fibre, fixed wireless, mobile broadband and satellite.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am pleased the Scottish Government has set out its plans to help support business and residential premises where superfast broadband roll-out will not be accessible before December 31st 2021.

“It is important we continue to provide the best access we can – particularly in rural areas – as the roll-out continues.

“This voucher scheme is of a level exceeding any other in the UK for broadband and I would encourage anyone who may be eligible to apply.

“This is an interim step which will allow for alternative technologies while the Scottish Government continues its work on the longer-term solutions.”

17 August 2020

Stevenson Welcomes Cash-Boost for Job Seekers

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a new benefit to help young people who have been unemployed for six months.

The Job Start Payment is a one-off £250 financial support grant which aims to help with the costs of starting a new job.

It will help those aged 16 to 24-years-old, with the upper age limit rising to 25-years-old for care leavers.

The payment will also increase to £400 if the applicant has a child.

It is estimated that within its first year, around 5,000 young people will benefit from the new financial support.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am really pleased the Scottish Government has launched the Job Start Payment which will give a much-needed financial boost to young people entering work.

“The coronavirus pandemic has caused uncertainty for many people hoping to enter the jobs market or for those who may have lost employment as a result of the ongoing impact to the economy.

“This package will help thousands of young people - It is vital we support the next generation of young people entering the workforce.

“I would urge young people in the North-East to apply for the Job Start Payment to help them gain access to work.”

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“I am delighted that our Job Start Payment is today now open for applications; it really couldn’t come at a better time to support our young people to take up job offers.

“Last week, we announced an additional £10 million for a range of measures to recruit and retain apprentices. Combined with our commitment of at least £50 million for youth employment and Scotland’s Youth Guarantee, we will ensure no one is left behind.

“Costs like travel, new work clothes, or childcare often have to be met before people get their first pay."

Skills Development Scotland’s Director of Career Information Advice Guidance Operations, James Russell said:

“This new payment will offer welcomed practical help to many young people who our advisers are supporting at this time.

“It will be especially important to those taking their next steps into employment and who may need some additional support to start the right career opportunity for them.”

Stevenson Warns Over UK Government Plans for Farming Post-Brexit

Concern is growing over plans by the UK Government for a post-Brexit “internal market”, with fears it could threaten a range of devolved policies.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has also warned of the damage it could do to Scotland’s food and drink industry.

It comes after NFU Scotland said the current proposals pose a “significant threat to the development of Common Frameworks and to devolution.”

President Andrew McCornick warned that the proposals

"limit the devolved administrations’ ability to act if any standards were lowered and give the UK Government a final say in areas of devolved policy, such as agriculture, the environment or animal health and welfare."

A coalition of 40 of Scotland’s leading environment charities also warned today that the UK government’s plan to create a so-called UK internal market could seriously harm Scotland’s precious wildlife, landscape and food standards by dragging down standards.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The farming industry has delivered a damning verdict on the UK Government’s plans for North-East farmers.

“It is apparent Tory proposals will create a regulatory race to the bottom which will threaten the sector.

“We simply cannot allow the UK Government to impose lower food and environmental standards and block Scotland from taking action in devolved areas.

“It would be completely unacceptable and must not happen. Despite claims to the contrary, this Tory government has proven time and time again that it cannot be trusted with the North-East’s farming industry.”

13 August 2020

North-East MSPs Call on Tory Government to Protect Whisky Sector Against US Tariffs

North-East MSPs have warned of further damage which could be done to the whisky industry after the Trump administration took steps to impose another round of punishing tariffs on the sector.
Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson and Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin both have distilleries in their respective constituencies.

Now, they are warning that Boris Johnson’s failure to protect the vital whisky industry could have a further detrimental financial impact.

In October last year, the US administration imposed tariffs of 25% on a broad variety of products, including Scotch whisky.

It has now been reported that following a review the Trump administration will continue to inflict tariffs in its long-running dispute – with Scotch whisky once again included on the list.

Earlier figures have shown that US tariffs have cost Scotland's whisky sector around £200m - with exports to the U.S. down by 30% since the measures came into effect.

The Scotch Whisky Association previously warned that the industry was still waiting for Johnson to come good on his word to tackle the tariffs, stating “he (Boris Johnson) said that he would work to remove the tariffs. But after months of asking we are really yet to see a clear plan from the UK government about how they intend to resolve this."

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“If these reports from the US are accurate, it could be a devastating blow for the whisky sector.

“In my Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituency, the whisky industry is a vital sector and provides jobs, tourism and a boost to our local economy.

“Boris Johnson needs to do much more than simply pay lip service to the sector. Scotch Whisky plays a crucial role in the success of our global food and drinks sector.”

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“Once again this Tory Government has abandoned the whisky industry and the North-East of Scotland.

“Boris Johnson cannot be trusted to commit to his pledge to protect the sector from financial harm and these punishing tariffs.

“The Tory Government must act now if it’s serious about taking every step it can to oppose and end these punitive US-imposed tariffs.”

12 August 2020

Stevenson Welcomes COVID-19 Testing for Teachers, Nursery and School Staff

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed plans for priority access to be provided for teachers, nursery and school staff concerned they may have become infected with COVID-19.

The Scottish Government has announced the step to give additional reassurance to those looking after children and young people in both schools and early learning.

They will be able to undergo testing even if they have no symptoms.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney confirmed the move to Parliament and in a letter to the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), and as he published a summary paper from the Chief Medical Officer on the latest science in respect of COVID-19 and schools.

The statement laid out the details of the £135 million of support previously announced for schools, including £80 million to bring additional teachers and staff into Scotland’s classrooms in the new school year. This funding is sufficient for local authorities to recruit approximately 1,400 additional teachers.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This is a very welcome step by the Scottish Government and I am sure it will help to reassure teachers, nursery and school staff.

“The job they do is essential and incredibly valuable - educating and caring for children - and I support any move to help them feel safer in doing so following the coronavirus outbreak.”

Education Secretary John Swinney said:

“Thanks to our success in suppressing COVID-19 in Scotland, it is now safe for schools to return. Guidance, informed by the latest scientific advice, sets out the range of measures schools should take to minimise the risk of the spread of the virus.

“While clinical advice is clear that testing those with symptoms must be the priority, we are now offering all staff who are concerned they may have been at risk of infection to have access to testing through their employer.”

11 August 2020

Stevenson Backs £10 Million Funding Boost for Young Workforce

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement today (Tuesday) of plans for £10million to support apprenticeships by the Scottish Government.

The move has been made in a bid to help recruit and re-train apprentices – including additional funding for the Adopt an Apprentice programme.

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said the funding would help to ensure the country’s future workforce would be at the heart of rebuilding the economy following the coronavirus.

It will help modern and graduate apprentices who are facing redundancy as a result of COVID-19 get back into work.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“We have faced unprecedented times during the coronavirus pandemic and the scale of this funding allocated by the Scottish Government will help provide essential support for our future workforce.

“This is also an important way for companies to invest in new staff and provide the skills the economy needs.

“It is vital we support young people entering the jobs market for the first time and ensure they have the opportunity to contribute to our economic recovery from COVID-19.”

Announcing the funding, Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:

“This targeted funding will extend the reach of our support for apprentices, including our Adopt an Apprentice programme. Combined with our commitment of at least £50 million for youth employment and the Youth Guarantee, we will ensure no one is left behind.


“Our focus is on protecting jobs, creating jobs, ensuring quality jobs and supporting skilled jobs. By taking this action to protect and support skilled jobs now, we will rebuild a stronger, fairer and greener future for Scotland.”

Frank Mitchell, Chair of Skills Development Scotland, said:

“This welcome announcement underlines the importance of apprentices to the Scottish economy and the crucial role they will play in supporting individuals and businesses in the recovery from COVID-19."

Further immediate investment to support economic recovery from COVID-19 was set out last week by the Scottish Government, with additional funding for workforce training and digital technology announced.

The Flexible Workforce Development Fund, which helps employers upskill and reskill their existing workforce through college courses, will be increased from £10 million to £20 million.

Meanwhile, a further £1.5 million will be invested into the Digital Boost programme - almost trebling the capacity of the initiative for the remainder of this financial year.

10 August 2020

'Harmful' Tory Benefit Cap Hits More Than 200 Families in Aberdeenshire

COVID-19 Crisis Puts Pressure on UK Govt to Scrap Benefit Cap Policy

The number of households in Aberdeenshire hit by the Tory government's 'harmful' benefit cap has soared by 73% since the Covid-19 pandemic started.

New statistics show that as of May this year, a total of 6,034 households in Scotland were hit by the benefit cap - an increase of almost 76 per cent. In Aberdeenshire, around 249 households saw the money they received cut by this policy.

Shelter Scotland has warned that the controversial benefit cap, which the SNP has called to be scrapped, is forcing families into poverty during this Coronavirus crisis.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, said:

“Austerity is having a devastating impact on thousands of families in Aberdeenshire and across Scotland, with vulnerable people hit hard by the benefit cap, as well as a host of other Tory welfare cuts.

"The SNP has long called for an end to the benefit cap, which hits families with children hardest, and leaves people in Aberdeenshire worrying about how they'll pay rent or put food on the table.

"In government, the SNP has done everything it can to support those hit by the benefit cap - but as long as the key levers remain in the hands of Westminster, we are fighting poverty with one hand tied behind our backs.

"Now, more than ever, these shocking figures must serve as a wake-up call to Boris Johnson and his government. If they were really serious about improving the lives of people in Aberdeenshire they would scrap this harmful policy now."

8 August 2020

North-East Gets £1.1 Million Boost to Food Processing Sector

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement today (Saturday) of grant funding awards under the Food Processing, Marketing and Co-operation (FPMC) scheme from the Scottish Government.

Food processing and production businesses across the North-east have been awarded over £1.1 million to invest in infrastructure, purchase new equipment and upgrade or replace facilities.

In total, across Scotland, 30 businesses will receive grants to support the food supply chain, safeguarding 1,386 jobs and creating 97 new ones.

Locally, the projects include improving storage facilities for oats and investing in a dairy business.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The North-east is at the heart of Scotland’s food and drink industry so I’m delighted that so many firms, including several in my constituency, are to benefit from these funding awards.

“This is particularly important at this time as we seek to ensure not only the survival of so many businesses affected by the global pandemic, but actively seek to support those looking to expand, creating jobs and helping to ensure the country’s food security.”

Announcing the funding, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP said:

“The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has underlined the importance of a strong and effective food supply chain and an increased consumer desire for locally produced food. This support will enable established producers and businesses across Scotland look to the future and capitalise on emerging marketing opportunities, as well as offer support to start-up businesses.

“This scheme uses joint Scottish Government and European Union funding to give local businesses a helping hand, helping to ensure the long-term viability of our primary producers. Investing in local producers is an important step to help sustain and create employment opportunities within our rural communities.”

Stuart Allan of Melrose Farms near Banff, said:

“We are very grateful to have received this FPMC grant. It will provide great opportunities and potential within our field of work and will be used to build a new facility on our farm for dressing, drying and storing oats. It will also help support our future plans for the business to grow.”

31 July 2020

MSP Urges Volunteers to Join Cullen Fire Crew

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has highlighted a plea from the Fire and Rescue Service for members of the public to consider volunteering to be a Retained Firefighter at Cullen Fire Station.
Some of the retained crew at Cullen Fire Station
The station, which has been in the town since 1971, is crewed by firefighters who are on-call and respond at a moment’s notice via a pager system.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“Retained firefighters have their own day jobs to carry out but make themselves available for mercy calls whenever these come in. Their commitment and dedication are second to none.

“Cullen’s team of retained firefighters are a vital part of the community’s resilience. It’s therefore very important that crew numbers are maintained.

“Cullen’s Watch Commander and Crew Commander have both spoken very expressively not only of the importance of the job, but how much they enjoy it and the skills and experience they derive from it. I would urge anyone who wants to find out more about helping their community by becoming a retained firefighter to get in touch via the Cullen Fire Station Facebook page or the SFRS website.”

Watch Commander Simon Tucker has been protecting the community and surrounding areas for 19 years after signing up at the age of 25. He said:

“This is the greatest job in the world – that’s the best way I can describe it because it develops and challenges you but with full support. “One of my favourite parts of the job is being able to go into the community, meet new people and help by giving some safety advice.

“Every year we go into the local primary schools and demonstrate CPR with the kids so that they are equipped with the skills to assist a cardiac arrest where seconds are precious until the arrival of paramedics.

“It is always a date I look forward to – and it is amazing to see how much the kids remember.”

WC Tucker continued:

“We’re here and want to help the community – but we need more firefighters to ensure we are always there when local residents need us most.”

John Jappy is the Crew Commander at the station and has been a retained firefighter for 16 years; in his primary employment he works as rough caster and plasterer. He said:

“The job can give so much, with some people it’s just something different outside a normal office job or with others it really enhances their practical skills that they wouldn’t possess otherwise."

“It’s a family - when your pager goes you’re leaving one family to go to another and it’s fostered a lot of great friendships between our children and partners.”

Retained firefighters are paid on a call out basis and crews use a text-based system to inform the SFRS control rooms of their availability.

To find out more information, visit the ‘work with us’ section on www.firescotland.gov.uk or contact Cullen Fire Station or the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service on Facebook.

Residents Urged to Visit Community Pharmacy with Minor Illnesses

NHS Pharmacy First Scotland Service Launched

People across the North-east have been encouraged to visit their community pharmacy for advice and support to treat minor illnesses or common conditions after a new NHS Pharmacy First Scotland service was launched earlier this week.

Local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has said the new service will allow community pharmacies to give people expert help for treating conditions such as sore throats, earache and cold sores, along with common clinical conditions such as Urinary Tract Infections. Pharmacy teams will offer advice, treatment or referral to other healthcare teams if required.

The move will allow North-east residents to access the right care without having to visit their GP pharmacy or an A&E department for non-urgent treatment.

A&E departments remain open for emergency care – with the necessary public health measures in place to protect staff and patients.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The launch of NHS Pharmacy First Scotland means that people in the North-east, and across Scotland, will get the right care and medical support closer to home - often with no waiting time or appointments needed.

“In recent months, perhaps more than ever, the NHS has been there to protect us – but many of us don’t need to visit A&E to get the care we need.

“This new service will provide a local approach to ensure the community has access to healthcare for more minor ailments.

“Let’s remember though – in an emergency you should always contact 999.”

Chair of Community Pharmacy Scotland Martin Green said:

“NHS Pharmacy First Scotland is an exciting service development for everyone. It recognises the role that the community pharmacy network can play in helping patients and the wider NHS team by ensuring people get the right care in the right place.

“Pharmacists, supported by their pharmacy teams, will be able to offer consultations for anyone with minor illnesses and provide the appropriate advice and support.”

29 July 2020

Tory MP Challenged for Voting Down NHS Protection

Local SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast Stewart Stevenson has today demanded an explanation from Tory MP David Duguid for his decision to vote against further protection of the NHS in future foreign trade deals.

David Duguid has come under pressure for his decision to vote down an amendment to the Trade Bill which would have barred any trade deal which “undermines or restricts” our publicly-funded health service.

With all parties claiming they would not support trade deals which threatened the NHS at last year’s general election, SNP MSP Mr Stevenson has questioned the rationale behind the controversial decision.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how precious each of the four UK Health Services are to those who use them, and it’s our duty as local politicians to do everything we can to ensure our NHS is protected.

”The SNP will always keep Scotland’s NHS safe in public hands.

“But while the Scottish Parliament has control of most aspects of health policy, we currently cannot stop Westminster governments from entering into trade deals that potentially put our NHS at a variety of risks.

“In the last few months, perhaps more than ever, our NHS has been there to care and protect us.

“So it beggars belief that David Duguid has decided to turn his back on our NHS when it came protecting our health service from foreign privatisation.

“Voters will remember this, and they deserve an explanation.”

MSP Highlights New Report on Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer

Low Public Understanding of UK's Most Common Cancer
  • Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is the most common cancer in the UK, yet around 7 in 10 adults don’t know what it is.
  • NMSC often develops on the head, face or neck and as a result can significantly affect a person’s physical and mental wellbeing.
Stewart Stevenson MSP has welcomed the new report, “State of the Nation: Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer”, written by Sanofi Genzyme, which highlights the risks of the UK’s most common cancer, particularly for outdoor workers.

The report finds that public awareness of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is worryingly low and urgent action is needed to improve sun safety and symptom recognition. More than 152,000 new cases of NMSC are diagnosed every year; the equivalent of 416 every day. This is more than breast, prostate and lung cancers combined.

A survey of over 3,600 people in the UK, conducted to inform the report, showed that 4 in 10 (40%) of UK adults were not at all confident about identifying the signs of NMSC.

It also found that two thirds (64%) of employees who work outside for more than one hour per day do not get help from their employers to protect against skin cancer. This is despite outdoor workers being more than twice as likely to develop NMSC as those that work indoors, because of increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This report is important in terms of raising awareness of non-melanoma skin cancer, which affected almost 1000 people in the NHS Grampian area in 2018 alone. It’s a very stark statistic that in the last 20 years, the number of cases in the NHS Grampian area has increased by 64%.

“Although it is largely preventable by minimising exposure to UV radiation in sunlight or tanning beds, the number of new cases of NMSC is rising sharply. Worryingly, a new survey commissioned as part of the report showed that 38% of people in Scotland surveyed were unaware of the risk factors for NMSC, and around a half were not confident they would be able to identify the signs of NMSC.

“So I very much welcome this report as an awareness-raising tool amongst the public.”

RBS Gives Stevenson Assurance on Plans for Mobile Banks

The Royal Bank of Scotland have given an assurance to local MSP Stewart Stevenson that they intend a return to mobile banking services soon.

Mr Stevenson had written to RBS seeking an update on plans to reintroduce mobile banking services to communities in Banffshire & Buchan Coast.

RBS suspended mobile banking services in March due to coronavirus, however, customers in Buckie and Banff have been in touch with the MSP looking for answers as to when they’ll be able to access services again locally.

RBS customers in areas where the bank branch was closed down all rely on the mobile bank to access services in their local community and Mr Stevenson sought clarity from the bank on when these services will resume.

Commenting Mr Stevenson said:

“Access to banking services is vital for local businesses and residents, particularly those who are unable to use online banking and no longer have a branch in their community.

“The decision to withdraw mobile banking services when we went into lockdown was taken to protect customers and staff, and I think everyone would agree that was the right thing to do.

“But as businesses are now starting to reopen, and restrictions are being lifted, many constituents are keen to get clarity on when banking services will return to their community. Bank services are essential and it is vital that people in our rural communities are able to access these services again as soon as possible.”

In a response to Mr Stevenson, RBS said:

“We are in the process of making changes to our Mobile Banks so that they are COVID secure and ensure that social distancing can be maintained for colleagues and customers. Once the changes are completed and tested we intend to progress with a phased return of our Mobile Bank services.”

MSP Joins Age Scotland Campaign to Save Free TV Licences for Over 75s

Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson is adding his voice to Age Scotland’s growing campaign urging the BBC to overturn the decision to scrap free TV licences for over 75s.
The announcement that over 75s who are not eligible for Pension Credit will no longer receive a free TV licence is unfair and a devastating blow to older people, many of whom depend on their TV for companionship and information.

Stewart Stevenson is calling on the BBC and the UK Government to get together as a matter of urgency to find a solution to a problem that will affect more than 300,000 older people in Scotland.

Age Scotland research has found that for those who are chronically lonely, TV is a lifeline.

Half of over 75s said that their TV or their pet was their main form of company and, before the coronavirus pandemic, 9 out of 10 older people said they watched TV every day.

From August 1, only those in receipt of Pension Credit, a benefit to support those on the lowest incomes, will be able to claim a free TV licence.

However, around 100,000 people in Scotland who are entitled to the benefit are not claiming it.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I very much support Age Scotland’s campaign and wholeheartedly back their call for the BBC and the UK Government to address this problem of their own making.

“Giving pensioners free TV licences should not be the job of the BBC. It’s a social provision. The UK Government knew the BBC couldn’t afford it - and now Tory ministers feign shock that it has led to job cuts and will see old people being pursued for non-payment.

“The Tories promised in their manifesto that they’d maintain free TV licences for older people – including the 300,000 in Scotland this will affect. They must follow through on that promise.”

Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland, said:

“We are delighted that so many people are supporting our campaign to have this harsh decision overturned.

“The past few months have been very hard for older people, as many struggled with isolation and loneliness during the prolonged lockdown.

“For those older people the TV was a real lifeline, providing company when they were unable to see loved ones, as well as being a vital source of information about government guidelines around coronavirus.

“To choose to start charging over 75s for to watch TV at this time seems particularly cruel.

“We have called on the BBC to sit down with the UK government to sort this issue out once and for all. There must be a better solution than imposing a new bill on older people.

“We are hearing from so many older people who are appalled and upset about the prospect of having to pay to watch TV. But it’s not too late to do something about it. Join us in making our voices heard and having the threat of this charge removed once and for all.”

Older people can find out if they are eligible for Pension Credit by calling the Age Scotland helpline on 0800 12 44 222, which could allow them to claim a free TV licence after the BBC introduces a fee next month.

24 July 2020

Stevenson Welcomes Funding for More Teachers

Funding of £50 million will be ring-fenced for the recruitment of approximately 850 extra teachers and around 200 additional support staff as local authorities plan for the re-opening of schools.

Education Secretary John Swinney MSP also pledged that £20 million will be allocated to help councils with additional costs associated with new health protection measures, school transport, enhanced cleaning and other essential logistical issues.

A further £3 million will be invested in youth work to support education recovery. The funding breakdown is part of a £100 million package of support announced by Mr Swinney in June.

Clear guidance for schools and councils is being developed by the Education Recovery Group (ERG) to help them prepare for the start of the new term in August. The Scottish Government will announce a final decision on the re-opening of schools on 30 July.
Stewart Stevenson MSP on a previous visit to
Whitehills School
Commenting, local MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“As we’ve progressed from the start of lockdown to today, the science and medical advice has been constantly evolving in terms of what activities can safely be allowed to recommence. I know that it has been a particularly anxious time for school pupils, their teachers, parents and support staff and I want to thank them for their efforts to get us through this situation as a society.

“There is still uncertainty over many aspects of daily life but I hope that the commitments announced by the Education Secretary will go a long way to allowing our dedicated teachers and support staff to deliver education face-to-face once again in the near future.”

Mr Swinney said:

“I want to express my appreciation to parents and carers for their support to young people, to the teaching and wider workforce across Scotland for their efforts to sustain education and to children and young people for their resilience during this difficult period.

“All of the school workforce have a crucial role to play in our education recovery mission, and it is vital that they are supported to do so. The ring-fenced £50 million funding to recruit more teachers and support staff will enable schools to intensify support for children and young people as they return to full time face-to-face education and help to mitigate for learning loss. The final numbers will be dependent on the precise mix of staff recruited and the needs of children and young people.

“The £20 million funding recognises the extremely valuable work of our school cleaners, facilities management and school transport staff, who are essential to the successful delivery of education in Scotland and to whom I want to pay tribute today.

“I also mentioned in my statement on the 23 June that we would be seeking the assistance of the youth work sector in supporting those families and communities who need it most. The sector will receive £3 million of investment because it has continued to support and engage children and young people throughout the pandemic, including using digital technology and outreach work to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on children and young people’s mental health, learning and development.

“While this funding should provide local authorities with the assurance they require to progress plans immediately, we will continue to work with COSLA to understand the additional costs associated with the school re-opening guidance that each local authority is facing, and how these can be addressed alongside any loss of learning.

“We are currently developing guidance, with our partners in the ERG, on health mitigations and precautions that will be in place to allow schools to fully re-open in August and a final decision on school re-opening will be announced on 30 July.”

Stevenson Welcomes Early Delivery of Farming Cash

Local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed today’s announcement that over 15,000 Scottish farmers and crofters are to receive their share of £6.39 million ahead of schedule under the Financial Discipline Mechanism.

The payments commencing this week aim to keep the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) 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.

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“With the looming prospect of a no-deal Brexit, the current Coronavirus situation, and the UK Government’s seemingly endless determination to allow sub-standard imports in their quest for any kind of trade deal, it’s an uncertain time for farmers.

“The Scottish Government is working hard to protect the interests of our farmers and producers so today’s announcement is very welcome.”

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP said:

“These payments usually issue in October so it is particularly welcome during this challenging time they will start arriving in bank accounts from this week.

“This early delivery will be welcome news to many farmers who are facing the unwelcome prospect of a no-deal Brexit and the uncertainties this will inevitably bring to their business.

“It is important that farmers are aware of the service offered by the likes of the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution (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.”

MSP's Concern as Scotland Frozen Out of Maritime Security Discussions

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has expressed concern after it emerged Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been left out of discussions on fisheries and maritime security in the UK Government’s Brexit preparation talks.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf MSP has now called for an urgent four-nation ministerial meeting on the matter. Writing to the UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Mr Yousaf has complained that devolved governments have been omitted from the UK Government’s Ministerial EU Exit Operations Committee, where maritime issues are being discussed.

The UK Government has had no Ministerial level discussions so far this year with the Scottish Government on post-Brexit maritime security, while the EU Exit Operations Committee has had three meetings in the past three weeks to discuss the matter, without an invitation to the devolved governments.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Scotland’s waters cover 62% of the UK’s domestic exclusive economic zone and many functions relating to maritime security are devolved, including fisheries protection.

“Marine Scotland regularly inspects and patrols in Scotland’s waters and to exclude that experience and expertise from the discussions is quite simply bewildering. In order to achieve the best outcome, you need to take a rounded view and excluding three of the four UK nations from the discussions seems to be par for the course with the Conservative UK Government these days.”

Humza Yousaf MSP said:

“While we remain opposed to leaving the EU and believe it is extremely reckless to rule out an extension to the Transition Period, as a responsible government we want to be as fully prepared for Brexit as possible, including working with the other UK Governments.

“The Scottish Government has responsibility for many aspects of maritime security, in particular marine and fisheries protection, and given Scotland represents a large area of UK waters, we have extensive expertise to share.

“We have had a good working relationship with the UK Government, but it is deeply concerning that devolved governments have now been frozen out of UK Ministers’ maritime Brexit discussions.

“This is more than just another example of UK Ministers seeking to undermine devolution and respect for devolved competencies - it compromises our ability to protect Scottish interests and seriously hampers the UK’s Brexit preparations on this critical matter.

“I have written to the UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps calling for an urgent four nation ministerial meeting so we can properly address these issues.”

21 July 2020

UK Govt's Immigration Plans Fail to Address North-East's Needs

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has expressed concern that the UK Government’s announcement on its plans for a new immigration system when freedom of movement with the EU ends in January will create problems for businesses and key sectors which rely on migrant labour.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“The UK Government’s proposed salary thresholds ignore Scotland’s needs with 53% of roles earning less than £25,000, and up to 90% in the care sector as outlined in the expert Advisory Group report.

“This is simply storing up trouble for further down the line so the Conservative UK Government can push ahead with its flawed plans for regulation after we leave the EU.

“We already know how much the North-east economy relies on people who have settled here from overseas, work hard and contribute their taxes from their employment in the likes of the care sector, the NHS, or our local food processing factories. I simply cannot understand why the Tories are determined to undermine the local economy in such a cavalier fashion.”

Scottish Government Migration Minister Ben Macpherson MSP said:

“The UK Government’s new immigration policy plans fail to address Scotland’s distinct demographic and economic needs, and completely disregard key sectors that we have relied upon during this health pandemic, including our valued social care workers.

“Despite repeated warnings from the Scottish Government, experts, businesses and representative organisations about the damage their plans would inflict on Scotland, the UK Government has ignored the evidence and plans to push ahead regardless.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our economy and it is vital that any future immigration system adequately addresses our future needs as a society. As we face the biggest economic crisis in decades, I urge the UK Government to meet with Devolved Administrations to ensure their proposals can be adapted to work for us all.”

What to Expect if You're Called by an NHS Contact Tracer

Scotland’s approach to implementing the ‘test, trace, isolate, support’ strategy, Test and Protect, is now live across the country.

Test and Protect will help us gradually change the restrictions that help to suppress COVID-19 so society can adapt to a new normal.

If you experience any one of the symptoms - a high temperature, a new continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – you must immediately self-isolate for a minimum of seven days.

As soon as you start showing symptoms you should go to www.nhsinform.scot or call 0800 028 2816 to arrange to get tested.

When contacting individuals who have tested positive, contact tracers will ask people to identify others who they’ve been in close contact with and places they’ve been 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms up until the time they’ve self-isolated. This information will then be inputted into contact tracing software and used to identify and contact those identified.

The positive individual will not be named by the contact tracer in line with patient confidentiality unless they agree to have their details disclosed to help the contact tracing process.

Importantly, contact tracers will not ask anyone for information about bank accounts or medical records, and they will not try to sell you anything. The data gathered will be stored securely by NHS Scotland and safely destroyed as soon as possible after the pandemic concludes.

Commenting, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast Stewart Stevenson said:

“I understand that people may be worried about the risks of potential phone scams, but the NHS already has a number of protections in place to stop potential fraudsters and ensure all information is kept confidential.

“Contact tracers will introduce themselves, state the reason for their call, and will always identify who they are calling by name. They will not ask for information about bank accounts or medical records, and they will not try to sell you anything.

“The tracers are supported by software which builds on a tried and trusted platform, allowing teams to identify outbreaks and reduce transmission for high-risk groups here in the North-east.

“Trace and Protect is one way we will tackle this pandemic, but physical distancing and good hand hygiene continues to play a huge role in minimising the spread of infection.”

17 July 2020

Local MSP Welcomes Census Change to Count Armed Forces Community

For the first time in the history of the Census, there will be a question on service in the Armed Forces following a campaign led by Poppyscotland and the Royal British Legion and supported by Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson.

Stewart Stevenson is delighted that the Scottish Government has announced the next Census will now include a question to provide information on whether someone has served in HM Armed Forces.

Poppyscotland and the Royal British Legion, who led the campaign, are at the heart of national networks offering a range of support and services to the Armed Forces community. The decision to include the question on the 2021 census will provide Poppyscotland, as well as public bodies, local authorities, and other military charities with valuable information to ensure they can best meet the needs of serving personnel, veterans and their families.

It has been estimated that there are 2.4 million veterans currently living in Scotland, England and Wales, who make up part of a wider ex-Service community which includes their spouses, partners, dependent children and widow(er)s. However, little is currently known about the exact numbers, location and needs of this significant group. Including an Armed Forces question in the next census would provide public bodies, local authorities, and charities with valuable information to ensure they are able to deliver the best services they can for our Armed Forces community.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Having a better understanding of the profile and needs of veterans is a key part of making sure our public services are tailored for our armed forces community I welcome this historic change to the 2021 Census to include a question on the Armed Forces.”

Mark Collins, Interim Chief Executive of Poppyscotland, said:

We would like to thank the scores of politicians from across the spectrum at Holyrood and Westminster, several local authorities and our volunteers and supporters who came together to support our Count Them In campaign. I am also extremely grateful to National Records of Scotland for their engaging approach, working closely with us throughout the process from devising potential questions through to testing and considering the outputs.

“This is an extremely proud moment for Poppyscotland. After leading a successful campaign, the fact that a military question will be in the 2021 Census will significantly improve our understanding of the Armed Forces community which up until now has been very limited. It will ensure that we, along with other charities and service providers, can deliver the best service possible to them when and where it is needed most.”

Constituents can find out more about the campaign by visiting the Poppyscotland website, https://www.poppyscotland.org.uk/poppyscotland-secures-census-question-for-armed-forces-community/, or by posting their own pledge of support on social media using the #CountThemIn hashtag.

‘Count Them In’ is part of Poppyscotland’s ongoing campaign work to help champion the interests, welfare, and contributions of the Armed Forces Community.

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