Karen Adam is now the MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast

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31 March 2006

MSP Questions Scottish Water On Warning Delay

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has questioned Scottish Water on delays in informing Peterhead residents of contamination to their water supply.

The MSP has also received complaints that Scottish Water’s Emergency Helpline went unanswered for long periods of time.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I understand that the company responsible for the contamination reported it immediately to the authorities. Scottish Water have experience of handling situations like these so it makes it all the more concerning that there should have been difficulties encountered by those trying to telephone the emergency helpline.

“In addition, I have received reports that, in some cases, notification that the water supply had been contaminated was not given until some five hours later.

“I have taken these issues up with the Chief Executive of Scottish Water as it is completely unacceptable that a delay of this length should have occurred.

“I am grateful to the work done by Scottish Water staff in getting supplies of bottled water to those affected and I trust that a clean supply will be restored very soon.”

24 March 2006

MSP Stevenson Welcomes Outcome Of Peterhead Prison Consultation

With the publication of the results of the consultation on the future of North East prisons showing three quarters of respondents supporting a new build prison for the North East, local Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has hailed this as an important step forward in the campaign to deliver a re-build for Peterhead Prison.

He commented:

"Although it has been a long time coming, Peterhead will welcome the substantial support shown by this consultation for a new build to replace the Victorian prison in the town.

"The option to build a new prison on the large area of unused land within the existing Peterhead prison walls is a clear 'winner' with half respondents making that their first choice. About half as many again would prefer a green-field site. Together they constitute a massive vote of confidence in the work undertaken by dedicated staff at our prison.

"We now need the Scottish Prison to press ahead with the preliminary planning for a new prison. While the money for the new prison is unlikely to be available until 2007, it is vital that the preparatory steps commence quickly so that conditions can be provided that will further improve the vital rehabilitation process undertaken at Peterhead.

"I congratulate all who have campaigned for the new build, particularly the 'STOP The Closure of Peterhead Prison' group, who contributed so much to ensure that we have moved so far. No other community in Scotland has shown any interest in taking over Peterhead Prison's role. The time for delivery approaches."

23 March 2006

Stevenson Urges Nominations For National Lottery Awards

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson is urging local groups who have benefited from lottery funding to participate in the National Lottery Awards. 

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“The National Lottery Awards will recognise the public’s favourite Lottery funded projects and celebrate the amazing impact that Lottery funding has had around the UK.  Last year’s Awards proved very successful with over 750 projects entered or nominated and I therefore urge all successful applicants to enter this marvellous scheme.

“There is no doubt that Lottery funding can have a huge positive effect upon communities and this is the ideal opportunity to celebrate this fact and to search for the most inspiring people and projects.

“All successful Lottery applicants, whether big or small, should enter so that they can share their success story and show how they have made a positive difference.

“Criteria for entry is that individuals or projects must have been awarded and used Lottery funding and only completed projects and those which can demonstrate public benefit can be considered.  The main beneficiaries of the project must be based in the UK and any projects that applied last year but were unsuccessful are welcome to enter again this year.

“I welcome this Awards Scheme and would be proud to see appropriate organisations from my constituency participating.  It is always nice to get the chance to celebrate success and for effort to be given recognition.

“Good luck to all nominees.”

McConnell defends secret honours system

Today at First Minister's Questions, MSP for Banff and Buchan, Stewart Stevenson challenged First Minister Jack McConnell on the Scottish Executive's use of the honours system.

McConnell responded by revealing that over 1,700 honours had been awarded since 2003 on the recommendation of the Scottish Executive. But in response to questioning about the secrecy over the system of recommendation, McConnell defended the existing refusal to reveal any information how names were selected and put forward.

After First Minister's questions, Stewart Stevenson commented:

"With the morass of difficulty over honours into which the Tony Blair has walked in London, it is astonishing that the First Minister has refused to live up to Scottish Parliament principles of openness and accountability.

"McConnell's failure to give any information the process of recommendation for honour can only feed suspicion that the Labour party in Scotland have something to hide.

"Jack should should 'come clean' now and avoid the kind of accusations that engulf Tony Blair and his London cronies."

22 March 2006

Stevenson Condemns Phasing Out Of Post Office Card Accounts

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has given support to fellow North-east MSP Richard Lochhead’s Parliamentary Motion regarding the shock news that Post Office Card Accounts are to be phased out.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“It has come as a huge shock that Post Office Card Accounts are due to be phased out by 2010.  Pension and benefits claimants in the North-east of Scotland will regard this as a colossal blow as many rely on the service heavily, especially in places where local bank branches are now no longer to be found.  Post Office staff who view the scheme as a vital service are also puzzled by this recent announcement.

“I believe that the phasing out of this service could put the future of some rural Post Offices in severe danger and lead to many of these lifeline services being lost to communities already being stripped of other vital services.  This I find extremely worrying.

“I am fully supportive of the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters’ campaign to have Post Office Card Accounts retained and the Scottish Government should make appropriate representations to the UK Government on behalf of Post Office Card Account users in Scotland.”

14 March 2006

Community Transport Vital Rural Lifeline Stevenson To Tell Parliament

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson will tomorrow (Wednesday) hold a Members’ Debate on the issue of community transport in which he will call for the National Concessionary scheme to be extended while praising those organisationS that provide community transport.

Mr Stevenson met with representatives from the Banffshire Partnership and Buchan Dial-a-Community Bus in advance of tomorrow’s debate.

Commenting in advance of the debate, Mr Stevenson said:

“This debate is of vital importance to the many thousands of people that rely on community transport to enable them to have a degree of freedom that otherwise they wouldn’t have.  

“The statistics are shocking in my constituency like mine: 44% of passengers in some towns have to wait over 64mins for a bus.

“I welcomed the National Concessionary Scheme but I believe that it should be extended, as at present the scheme does not take into account the whole of community transport, the scheme is open to scheduled bus services, but not to non-scheduled services, this discriminates against those people whom conventional transport has failed we as a Parliament should not fail them also

“Community transport providers like Buchan Dial-a-Community Bus and the Banffshire Partnership should be commended for their determination and spirit that they have shown in fighting for peoples transport needs. However they should not take this fight on solely by themselves, for too long the Executive has passed the buck to local authorities. 

“That is why I will call for a true partnership between the Executive, Councils and various Community Transport organisations so that all people have the independence and freedom that so much of us take for granted, money must be ring fenced to ensure that money meant for community transport is actually spent on community transport not somehow swallowed up in council funds.

“I hope that Parliamentarians from all sides will give their backing for the call of partnership.”

13 March 2006

Stevenson Calls On Government To Secure Future Of Farming Industry

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has called on Rural Affairs Minister Ross Finnie to address the ‘age crisis’ in Scottish farming by introducing a scheme to assist new entrants into the industry.

With the average age of farmers now around 60, Mr Stevenson is backing calls from local farmers for a support scheme to encourage the next generation of young farmers. The Banff & Buchan MSP raised the matter on the floor of Parliament during an agriculture debate last week.

Speaking during the debate, Mr Stevenson said:

“The median age of farmers is now 60 - an age at which they will receive their bus pass from the Executive, which will be a blessed relief, I am sure. That illustrates the big problem with getting youngsters into farming and the significant barriers that prevent young people from working in the industry. I know that the Minister agrees that the age profile of the agriculture industry is simply far too high.

“Other countries have schemes to help new entrants to go into farming. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland launched such a scheme on 5 June 2005. It supports the establishment of young farmers under 40 by providing an interest rate subsidy on loans. In my submission to the rural development consultation, I made the point that the minister has an opportunity to address the age profile of the agriculture industry in Scotland. I hope that the matter is still on the agenda, notwithstanding the fact that no scheme has been introduced yet.”

Mr Stevenson went on to urge the Government to procure more of its food requirements from local sources. He continued:

“The issue of local produce should undoubtedly be mentioned again. The Executive, in its many arms, buys a lot of food. It buys food for civil service canteens and for the 7,000 prisoners whom it houses. It can make a significant contribution both financially and by setting an example. It can show other institutions and commercial ventures that there is value in buying locally. After all, as commercial operations, the supermarkets can hardly be criticised for not buying locally and not supporting local suppliers if the Government does not do that. The Minister should address that point in his future deliberations.”

Mr Stevenson concluded:

“Agriculture continues to be at the core of the local economy in much of Scotland. Rural areas are defined as local authority areas where the population is less than 1 person per hectare. In those areas, agriculture accounts for 5 per cent of the economy, but, of course, many hamlets and small villages depend on agriculture for their survival. Too many communities become commuter shells or holiday-home shells when people have no realistic opportunity to work in agriculture. That affects agricultural engineers, veterinarians, the smithy, the mart staff and so on.”

10 March 2006

MSP Visits Oridquhill School

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson visited Ordiquhill School  on Friday, where he met with Primary 6 and 7 pupils.

Commenting on his visit, Mr Stevenson said:

“I enjoyed immensely my visit to Ordiquhill School and was very appreciatve of the warm welcome I received. It’s always a privilege to engage with the youth of the constituency and to see the progress of their academic lives.

“It was encouraging to see how enthused the pupils were in their wish to learn all about the Scottish Parliament. The question and answer session was fairly taxing and I didn’t get away lightly.”

9 March 2006

Stevenson Raises Importance Of National Science Week

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has highlighted the importance of National Science Week that takes place from 10th - 19th March.

Commenting on the initiative, Mr Stevenson said:

“National Science Week is an ideal opportunity for people of all ages to take part in science, engineering and technology activities and we should all celebrate its importance to our lives.

“So I urge you all to participate in this wonderful event by finding out what there is to do within your local area, or you can always go one better and choose to organise a science event of your own.”

2 March 2006

Stevenson Slams SMG Over Loss Of Grampian TV Identity

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has attacked Scottish Media Group, owners of Grampian TV, over their announcement that the Grampian on-screen identity is to be ditched after 45 years in favour of STV.

Mr Stevenson is seeking assurances that local programming – already under pressure in recent years from Glasgow-produced material – will continue.

Mr Stevenson – who was a guest at a celebration to mark Grampian TV’s 40th anniversary - commented:

“Since the takeover of Grampian TV by STV owners Scottish Media Group in 1998, we have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of local programmes being produced in the North-east and a gradual erosion of the Grampian identity.

“Now it seems that we are to lose the very name ‘Grampian Television’ which for so long has been synonymous with good quality local programmes produced for North-east audience.

“At a time when other regional broadcasters, such as Ulster TV, are strengthening their identity and being rewarded with a 50% lead in audience share over the BBC, it seems crazy for Grampian to be merged into the STV brand which has always been associated with Glasgow and Central Scotland.

“If this trend is allowed to continue, then Grampian will no longer represent the culture and character of the region. At a time when Scotland is developing its own political and news agenda, this is particularly concerning.

“This further strengthens the case that broadcasting should be subject to regulation by the Scottish Parliament.”

1 March 2006

Stevenson Responds To Consultation On Rural Development Programme


Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has called for a cross-cutting agenda across the Scottish Executive in order to tackle the needs of the countryside.

The SNP MSP made the call to Ross Finnie in his response to the Scottish Executive’s consultation on the Strategic Plan for the Rural Development Programme.

Among the key changes called for by Mr Stevenson to sustain and develop rural areas are:
  • A new entrants scheme for young farmers
  • A new approach to public sector procurement with the emphasis on local produce
  • A presumption against rural school closures
  • An overhaul of the planning system relating to rural business development and rural housing
Speaking from his Scottish Parliament office, Mr Stevenson said:

“Rural Scotland has faced a range of pressures in the last decade or so which have been unprecedented in recent history. These are most obvious in terms of the drift away from the countryside of basic services such as shops, Post Offices, banks, petrol stations and so on.

“But other less obvious pressures are also building. The average age of those involved in farming for example is a concern and this needs to be addressed. Northern Ireland, for example, has a scheme in place to provide support for new entrants into farming and we should have the same support from our Government in Scotland for young farmers.

“If we are able to retain and attract young people into farming and therefore into the countryside, it follows that they will often have young families and this in turn supports the local school and local services.

“I welcome this consultation from the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD), but one department working in isolation cannot deliver for Scotland’s rural areas. The clear message that I am sending to the Scottish Executive is that the support and investment in our rural infrastructure has to be delivered across all Government departments working together.

“For example, inward investors will not be attracted to an area where they know that they may have difficulty recruiting employees because people will be reluctant to move to an area where there is no NHS dentist or basic health services for example.

“The Government’s Strategic Plan for Rural Development needs a cross-cutting approach across all departments in order to deliver for Scotland’s rural areas. I hope that the Scottish Government will take that on board and start to deliver for rural Scotland.”

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