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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 mail from our office at a staff member's home address.

Please understand that it may be 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.


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.

1 July 2020

Stevenson Welcomes Return of Warmer Homes Scheme

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement from the Housing Minister Kevin Stewart that the national energy efficiency scheme for homes will re-start today.

In a statement, Mr Stewart announced that Warmer Homes Scotland, the national scheme to help reduce people’s fuel bills by making their homes more energy-efficient, will re-start on 1 July. As a result, over 300 staff employed on the programme have been brought out of furlough to start installing energy efficiency measures in people’s homes.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said:

“Our national scheme to help make more homes become energy efficient will re-start on July 1, which should help to reduce fuel bills and provide vital support to those who have been struggling even more as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown.

“Warmer Homes Scotland makes a huge difference to the lives of thousands of fuel poor households every year and I know this will also be welcome news to the hundreds of workers employed to deliver the service.

“We want a Scotland where everyone lives in a warm home and where we have put an end to fuel poverty. By 2021 the Scottish Government will have allocated over £1 billion to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency, making people’s homes warmer and cheaper to heat.

“I would ask people to please be patient while work resumes. Warmworks will contact people as soon as possible to confirm when their service will be restarted.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am pleased that this scheme is to re-start. It is a vital part of the action being taken by the Scottish Government to tackle fuel poverty and also helps the environment.

“Many people across the country have been assisted by this scheme and I look forward to seeing more and more people benefitting now that work can safely recommence.”


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