Karen Adam is now the MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast

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27 December 2017

MSP Praises Work of Peterhead's Street Pastors in Parliament

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has praised the work of Peterhead’s Street Pastors during a debate in the Scottish Parliament.
Speaking in Holyrood, the MSP said:

“Earlier this year, I attended the induction of new pastors in Peterhead. I have not been out on the street with street pastors, but I have certainly been out on a Saturday night with the police on three occasions for approximately five hours, so I know the environment into which street pastors go.

“One of the interesting things that I have heard from those street pastors is that their mere presence changes the character of what is going on. In a place like Peterhead, we might wonder why that should be so. Peterhead has a population of 19,000, but the odds are that the street pastor knows your mum. 

Being able to walk up to somebody who is just a little bit off the proper behaviour and asking,“Will I call your mum? You are obviously needing a wee bit of help” is sometimes enough to nudge people back to proper behaviour. 

It is a very practical thing. We are talking about practical, polite, pastoral support. Getting support is the very meaning of the word “pastoral”.

“The pastors give practical advice and help that will make a real difference to people in places like Peterhead.

“Peterhead is a diverse community. The academy has 28 languages spoken in it. There are therefore plenty of opportunities for confusion and misunderstandings between different parts of the community. The presence of street pastors can help to deal with that. They can help to identify vulnerable people and connect them to support and sources of help.

“Street pastors are a return to the roots of much of what Christian faith is about: supporting other people and being non-judgemental.”

26 December 2017

Stevenson Challenges UK Treasury on Police & Fire Vat U-Turn

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has written to the UK Treasury challenging the UK Tory Government on their climbdown on charging Scotland’s emergency services VAT.

Mr Stevenson has repeatedly called for the UK Treasury to introduce VAT exemption for the police and fire services. In his most recent correspondence, the HM Paymaster General Mel Stride MP said the Scottish Government had “understandably” decided to proceed with its restructuring plans due to the estimated financial savings. But the Tory Minister refused to budge from the previously-stated position that Westminster would levy VAT on Scotland’s police and fire services. Four weeks later, a complete U-turn on VAT was announced in the budget.

Now, Mr Stevenson has written to the Paymaster General asking what changed in the intervening four weeks. In his letter to Mel Stride MP, Mr Stevenson says:

“Notwithstanding your stated position at that time that the UK Government would not change its position and would continue to levy VAT on the emergency services, I am pleased that the Chancellor of the Exchequer – to whom I originally wrote – agreed this would be a sensible move in his Budget Statement on 22 November 2017.

“In your letter of 24 October 2017, you also stated that the Scottish Government “understandably” decided to proceed with police and fire restructuring because the advantages outweighed the costs. You will no doubt be aware that restructuring has allowed the numbers of front-line police officers to be maintained whilst merging back-office functions from eight separate police forces produced economies of scale. This is doubtless why the Scottish Conservatives included proposals for a single police force in their 2011 Manifesto.

“The Chancellor has suggested that this sudden change of mind after four years of lobbying by MSPs and Scottish MPs was entirely down to the arguments put forward by your Scottish Conservative MP colleagues. Given your stated position as at 24 October was one of no change, I should be grateful if you would let me know what highly-persuasive arguments were put forward by the Scottish Conservative MPs in the period between 24 October and 22 November which resulted in this change of mind.”

Mr Stevenson added:

“Along with my SNP colleagues both at Westminster and in the Scottish Government, this issue was raised over 100 times with the Westminster Government. Since the summer alone, I’ve done so twice and received negative responses from the Treasury, albeit the Paymaster General did accept the restructuring of police and fire services to protect frontline services was entirely understandable.

“The Tories themselves, so keen recently to portray restructuring in a negative light for political gain, even included proposals for a single Scottish police force in their 2011 manifesto.

“Given the UK Tory Government dismissed all the arguments in favour of VAT exemption put to it between 2013 and 24 October this year, I’m keen to understand from the Treasury what arguments they actually did listen to which were markedly different from the 100 other approaches made to them during this time.

“It’s a simple question and a failure to answer will reveal the Tories have simply been playing politics with Scotland’s emergency services, to the detriment of the public purse."

25 December 2017

Local MSP Welcomes Funding Boost for People First Fraserburgh

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a grant from the Corra Foundation to a local group. Each year, the foundation distributes just under £1 million through its Henry Duncan Grants programme to grassroots charities working in their local communities.

People First (Fraserburgh), which is based in Banffshire & Buchan Coast constituency, has been awarded the grant £4,000 towards the salary of the Part-time Facilitator.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“These awards show how Corra Foundation continues to be at the heart of funding local communities. I’m delighted these grassroots charities are receiving these funds, enabling them to continue their great work in my constituency. Many of the Henry Duncan Grants go on staff and running costs like this, meaning they are a lifeline for local charities in this tough financial climate.”

Corra Foundation Chief Executive Fiona Duncan added:

“Corra Foundation is privileged to be able to contribute to the work of local groups across Scotland, supporting them as they make a real difference in the lives of many people, including vulnerable children and young people, isolated older people, unpaid carers, families experiencing poverty and people affected by disability or mental health issues. We are committed to our vision of a society in which people create positive change and enjoy fulfilling lives and distributing £1m a year via the Henry Duncan Grants is part of this.”

24 December 2017

Stevenson Pledges Support for Families Across NE Raising Disabled or Seriously Ill Children or Young People

Stewart Stevenson MSP has pledged his support for Family Fund, the UK’s largest charity providing grants for families raising disabled or seriously ill children and young people, and their commitment to increase the number of grants and services they provide to families.

In Scotland, Family Fund supported 6,176 families with grants worth £2.9 million and in North East Scotland they supported 562 families with grants worth £263,892.
Stewart Stevenson MSP with Salena Begley MBE
Family Fund supports families on low incomes raising disabled or seriously ill children and young people to have the same opportunities as others, and help to break down some of the barriers families face on a daily basis.

Families can find out if they’re eligible to apply for a grant by visiting The charity provides grants for a wide range of items, such as kitchen appliances, sensory toys, family breaks, tablets, furniture, outdoor play equipment and clothing.

Family Fund also provided 1,751 Take a Break grants for families in Scotland last year. Take a Break supports carers and their families to take a break, and help improve the quality of life, health and wellbeing of the whole family. Families will next be able to apply for a Take a Break grant in May 2018.

Stewart Stevenson said,

“I’m proud that the Scottish Government funds this work to support disabled children and young people and I pledge to support Family Fund’s commitment to provide 150,000 grants and services to families across the UK by 2022.”

Salena Begley MBE, Scotland Partnership Development Manager for Family Fund, added,

“Getting it right for every child and improving the outcomes and wellbeing of disabled and seriously ill children and young people in Scotland is at the heart of what we do in Family Fund. Raising a disabled child can be up to three times more expensive compared with other children.[1]

“Throughout 2018 Family Fund will be celebrating the achievements of disabled young people in Scotland as part of the as part of the Year of Young People. We are grateful for the continuing support from the Scottish Government and are committed to doing more to improve the outcomes for disabled children and young people over the coming years.”

23 December 2017

"Merry Fishmas" from Stewart Stevenson

MSP Sends Fishy Present to Davis to Highlight Brexit Risks

The MSP representing Europe’s biggest fishing port (Peterhead) and biggest shellfish port (Fraserbugh) is calling on Brexit Secretary David Davis to provide urgent guarantees over continuing access to the European Single Market.

Stewart Stevenson has highlighted that nearly 80% of the seafood landed and processed in Scotland is currently exported to the EU, with tariff free, unimpeded access to consumers across the continent. It is the third largest export sector, valued at over £633 million last year.
The Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP has posted David Davis a Christmas present of a Cullen Skink pie from award-winning fishmonger Downies of Whitehills – containing locally-landed fish which is exported across Europe, and likely to be acutely impacted by a hard Tory Brexit.

Failure by the Tory government to reach a deal which guarantees Scotland’s continuing membership or access to the single market could mean seafood hauliers facing lengthy delays – perhaps for days on end – in lorry parks in Dover and other ports along the south coast of England. Industry chiefs fear that this could compromise the international reputation for fresh, high quality Scottish seafood.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I wish the Brexit Secretary a restful and happy Christmas break. One which will allow him to recharge his batteries, perhaps do some thinking, and return to work with a clear plan for exactly how he’s going to protect Scotland’s seafood sector.

“I represent an industry which depends heavily on free access to the Single Market – with no tariffs, no barriers and relatively easy transit from the North East of Scotland to dining tables all across Europe.

“We don’t want to see Tory ineptitude result in no trade deal, or to see needless hurdles erected which make it harder to do business across Europe.

“Nor do we want to see lorry-loads of fresh, high-quality Scottish seafood waiting by the lorryload in queues at Dover for lengthy customs checks. It could compromise the freshness of the product – as David Davis might learn to his peril if he doesn’t pick up his Christmas gift from me in time.

“The best way to guarantee that Scotland’s reputations for quality seafood isn’t squandered by the Tories it to maintain our place in the Single Market.”

20 December 2017

MSP Welcomes Cash Boost for Community Group

A North-East community group has been given a cash-boost by the Big Lottery Fund.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson MSP has welcomed an award of £10,000 for the Rosehearty Community Boat Club.
The funding, which is part of the National Lottery Awards for All Scotland grant, was given to the group which offers boating experiences to people of all ages.

It also offers the chance to learn craft skills development through boat building workshops.

The project will allow them to renovate their new premises which they have recently acquired and develop it into a community space.

Around 100 community groups across Scotland shared the cash injection totalling £789,456.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am delighted the Rosehearty Community Boat Club has been awarded £10,000 towards their work.

“A number of groups in my constituency have benefited from a cash boost this year and I am thrilled another has been added to the list.

“Community groups are at the very heart of the area they serve and provide an outreach for residents to come together and learn new skills.

“This kind of investment can often be invaluable and I am very pleased to welcome the latest round of funding.”

A National Lottery Awards for All spokesperson said:

“This is National Lottery money making a real impact in communities across Scotland.

"All of these awards really showcase the variety of projects that can be funded and highlight the difference a relatively small amount of money can make.

"We wish all of these groups all the best for the festive season and the future.”

15 December 2017

Stevenson Welcomes Budget as Good News for Moray Council

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the budget statement by SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP.

The budget proposals set out in the Scottish Parliament mean a proposed revenue grant for Moray Council that is nearly £2Million better than expected and at a level that had been described as ‘optimistic’ in the Council Administration’s budget proposals.

In addition, the budget reaffirmed the SNP’s commitment to getting Superfast Broadband to every household and business in Scotland with a £600m commitment to achieve that; an additional £179m to raise attainment in schools; an extra £400 million for the NHS and seven out of ten income taxpayers paying less than they did this year.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“My colleagues on Moray Council have analysed what the budget means for local government in Moray and I join them in welcoming the package announced by the Finance Minister as being good for Moray in the face of continuing Tory cuts being handed down from Westminster to the Scottish Government.

“The SNP Group on Moray Council have always sought to play a constructive role as the main opposition, for example, by promoting innovative ways to save the taxpayer money such as sharing services with other councils and public sector bodies. I am sure that search for savings will continue, even though the council will be nearly £2Million better off than forcasted thanks to the budget settlement announced by the Scottish Government.

“I hope the ruling Administration of Conservatives and Independents will recognise that this gives them an opportunity to take a more long-term and strategic approach to delivery of local services than has perhaps been the case in the past.”

Stevenson Comments on Crimond Post Office Closure

The Post Office have advised Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson that Crimond Post Office will close on 27 December 2017 owing to the closure of the existing shop at the same location.

The Post Office state this is a temporary closure and they are currently seeking alternative host premises from which to operate.

Commenting, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“It is always disappointing when a Post Office closes but people’s circumstances do change and while the shop will also be a loss to the community, I wish the present owners well going forward.

“I am heartened that Post Office management see this as only a temporary closure and are keen to continue to provide a service to Crimond and the local community.

“I have written to Post Office management to underline the importance of a continued presence in Crimond and trust that an alternative which is convenient for the village can be found in the very near future.”

Peterhead North & Rattray SNP councillor Anne Allan added:

“I am concerned that the people of Crimond are being left without at Post Office and I hope something can be done as quickly as possible to restore the service in an accessible location.”

14 December 2017

Stevenson Welcomes Additional Fishing Opportunities

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed an additional £44million of fishing opportunities for Scotland’s industry following annual negotiations in Brussels.

The package includes a strong increase of 38% for North Sea whiting, 20% for monkfish, 22% for North Sea Norway lobster and 26% for west of Scotland haddock.

Nine of the 13 stocks the Scottish Government measures its sustainability performance against have been set in line with the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) for 2018.

It is the highest possible annual catch that can be sustained over time by keeping the stock at the level producing maximum growth – an increase from 62% this year.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Once again during challenging negotiations, the Scottish Government has secured a strong result for the sector.

“As well as more than £440million in deals for the industry, crucial increases have also been made for key species.

“Of course, Brexit has had a significant impact on negotiations this year but I have no doubt the Scottish Government will continue to fight for assurances from the UK Government that they will not trade access to Scottish waters away.”

Another important gain made in addressing a major potential choke species under the landing obligation was a new geographic flexibility provision for ling.

It will help the industry deal with shortfalls in the North Sea and allow them to transfer up to 15% of quota from the west of Scotland if needed.

This is in addition to a 10% increase in the total allowable catch limit for the North Sea, which wil provide additional relief to quote shortages.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing commented:

“Compared to 2017 this is an extra £44 million of fishing opportunities which means our industry will go into 2018 in strong health. I am also pleased that we received more
flexibilities for ling, which will prevent our vessels from being tied up early when there is sufficient quota elsewhere.

“However I am frustrated that the European Commission was unwilling to accept any of our proposals on Cod and Norway lobster that would have assisted vessels operating on the west coast of Scotland.

“We cannot and will not accept Scottish fishing interests being put at risk.”

11 December 2017

MSP Encourages Parents in North-East to Make Use of Free Flu Vaccine

SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson is encouraging all parents and guardians of 2-5 year olds in the Banffshire and Buchan Coast area to take advantage of the free flu vaccine before Christmas.

In a bid to keep children virus-free this winter, GP practices across Scotland are providing the nasal flu vaccine free of charge.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“With only two weeks left until Christmas I am urging all parents or guardians in the Banffshire and Buchan area who haven’t yet done so, to take their children between the ages of two and five to their local GP for the free flu vaccine.

“The nasal spray only takes a few minutes, is painless, and does not contain a live virus so will not cause flu in your child and can protect against flu for up to a year.

“It’s very important that children receive the vaccine, which the best defence against flu for your children and also helps reduce the spread of infectious flu.”

7 December 2017

UK Transport Secretary Admits: "Running the Track and the Train Together Makes Sense"

SNP Calls for Full Devolution of Network Rail with Vision to Radically Improve Service

The UK Secretary of State for Transport has conceded that it “makes sense” to run “the track and the train together”, supporting the SNP’s longstanding view that fully devolving Network Rail would improve Scotland’s rail services.

At the moment, while the Scottish Government is in charge of Scotrail’s funding, policy and strategy, Network Rail is still responsible for railway infrastructure and answers only to the UK Government, not Holyrood.
Scotrail figures for the latest four week period and over the last year show that Network Rail was responsible for just over half of all ScotRail delays.

UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling described Network Rail as it currently stands as a “centralised, big blob at the centre".

Commenting, local MSP and former Scottish Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

“In spite of Network Rail’s shambolic operations, Scotrail’s services over the last year were punctual, on average, 91.1% of the time, compared to the UK average of 88.4%.

“The Reform Scotland think tank last year backed the Scottish Government’s vision to fully devolve Network Rail in order to improve the service for Scottish passengers and enable a “clear line of accountability” when things go wrong.

“The SNP is doing all it can to improve our rail services with the powers we have, but we need greater accountability of Network Rail in Scotland and we welcome Chris Grayling’s admission that a centralised Network Rail is not delivering.

“We know that further devolution will bring substantial savings of around £100 million every year.

“Only with full devolution of rail powers can the Scottish Government consider the full range of options for structuring our railways to meet the needs of travellers in Scotland.”

6 December 2017

MSP Highlights Unfair Delivery Charges Facing Banffshire and Buchan Coast

SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson is calling for an end to the unfair delivery charges facing many online shoppers in his Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituency.

It comes after fresh research by Citizens Advice Scotland revealed many Scots are facing charges of between 30-50%.
Supporting Richard Lochhead MSP’s Fair Delivery Charges campaign in the Scottish Parliament today (Wednesday 6th December), Mr Stevenson has condemned what Citizens Advice Scotland has dubbed the ‘postcode penalty’ facing online shoppers across Scotland.

A constituent in Fraserburgh faced a £19.99 excess charge for a book table which had the offer of free delivery for customers in England and Wales but not Scotland.

Meanwhile in Banff, leggings which cost £7.96 had a delivery surcharge of £11.96.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It is extremely unfair that some of the most loyal online shoppers in the North-East and across rural Scotland are the ones facing location discrimination and having to pay a postcode penalty to get their items delivered this Christmas.

“Citizens Advice Scotland’s research shows that many businesses and families in Scotland are being charged an average of nearly £19 extra when buying goods online, and similar horror stories from the Banffshire and Buchan Coast area including in Fraserburgh.

“I am delighted that Richard Lochhead MSP has brought this issue to Parliament so that we can highlight the problem and stop retailers getting away with charging wildly different delivery fees for neighbouring postcodes simply because they can.

“Hopefully the campaign will force retailers to stop this discrimination and adopt set standards for deliveries to each and every corner of the UK, not least the North-East.”

4 December 2017

MSP Welcomes Jobs and Investment Boost for North East

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a jobs boost for the North-East.

Around 20 jobs are expected to be created through the creation of new fish processing factory Seafood Sourcing at Fraserburgh Harbour.

The firm plans to invest £614,000 in one of the buildings previously occupied by Young’s Seafood.

A £307,000 grant from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and the Scottish Government will meet 50% of the costs of the new project which aims to supply European markets with Scottish whitefish.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This is fantastic news for the area. Investment in the onshore sector is crucial for the growth of our seafood industry.

“The UK’s decision to exit from the European Union has caused huge uncertainty across all sectors particularly fishing.

“The investment by the EMFF and the Scottish Government is a much needed boost for the area.

“I look forward to visiting the new facilities when they are complete.”

1 December 2017

MSP Visits Banff Business to Highlight Small Business Saturday

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson paid a visit to a recently-established small business in Banff to highlight Small Business Saturday, which takes place tomorrow (2 December).

The SNP MSP visited Granny Bakes in Strait Path, Banff to help promote local businesses and ‘shop local’.

Mr Stevenson also referenced the business in a Parliamentary debate earlier in the week about small businesses.

Stewart Stevenson said:

“It was a pleasure to meet with Angela Wiseman and hear about one of Banff’s newest businesses, ‘Granny Bakes’. It is great to see new businesses opening up in this regeneration town and I wish Angela every success going forward.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the Scottish economy, accounting for 99% of all businesses across the country, supporting jobs and growth in our communities as well as providing an invaluable service to consumers.

“An impressive £717m was spent in small businesses during last year’s Small Business Saturday, that’s 15% more than in 2015, and I believe we can do even better this year.

“Independent shops and small businesses have to compete in a market that is increasingly dominated by the big players, and buying from a locally owned business means the money is much more likely to stay in the community.

“Since 2009, the SNP Government’s Small Business Bonus Scheme has provided a total of £1.5bn rates relief and last year, a £500m growth fund was set up to cope with the new challenges posed by a Tory hard Brexit.

“I encourage everyone to take advantage of the delights on our door step and visit our local businesses this Saturday and beyond to ensure our local businesses thrive.”

Stevenson Helps Launch Peterhead's Compass Point Service

Local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson assisted at the formal launch of Compass Point last week. The service is a new community hub with a focus on employability, financial inclusion, benefits and money support.

Local Third Sector Partners, Aberdeenshire Council and NHS Grampian have worked together to provide an easily accessible venue in the heart of Peterhead in Back Street. The service is managed by a partnership made up of The Foyer, North-east Scotland Credit Union, Aberdeenshire Voluntary Action, NHS Grampian and Aberdeenshire Council. It provides free access to the internet and telephones, and offers advice and signposting as well as opportunities to learn new skills to support members of the local community into employment or training.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“Compass Point is a valuable resource and has already been providing much-appreciated support to local people in the fields of employability support, assistance with financial matters and a whole range of other services.

“I heard from service users at the launch on Friday of how useful the service had been to them. It is a very useful local facility which has been supported through Aberdeenshire Council’s regeneration scheme and also assisted by the European Social Fund.

“It was a pleasure to meet with Angus McCurrach, the service co-ordinator, and also June, one of the founder volunteers, whom I helped perform the official opening.”

Stevenson Seeks Assurances from RBS on Banff Closure

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has sought assurances from the Royal Bank of Scotland on the continued availability of a cash machine in Banff following today’s announcement that the bank’s branch in the town is to close next year.

The closure means that the Royal Bank of Scotland will have closed every branch in Banffshire once Banff Branch closes its doors in May 2018.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“This is very disappointing news, particularly as the Royal Bank branch in Banff is an iconic building in a prime location in a regeneration town. However, the entire banking industry is being affected by huge changes in how people do their banking, with more and more people opting to do this online instead of visiting their local branch.

“There will always be a need for some personal and business customers to conduct some banking face-to-face and the Royal Bank will be introducing a mobile service to Banff, similar to that which operates elsewhere. I will be writing to the Bank asking that they make the details of this arrangement public as soon as possible in order that people can make an informed choice about whether to stick with the new service, or to support one of the remaining banks in the town.

“I will also be seeking an assurance on the availability of the cash machine. When the Clydesdale Bank closed in Banff a few months ago, the ATM was removed. RBS should work with other local businesses and find a location for their ATM which is convenient for customers and can potentially benefit another business.”

30 November 2017

MSP Backs St Andrews Day Initiative

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has visited a well-known volunteer hub ahead of St Andrews Day to mark a new initiative.

It comes after the Scottish Government launched the Be Like St Andrews initiative which encourages people and communities to make a gesture of kindness.

This includes donating blood, visiting someone in a nursing home or holding a charity bake sale.
Mr Stevenson visited the Here For You Centre in Fraserburgh where he spoke with centre staff and volunteers as well as staff members from the Banff and Buchan Citizens Advice Bureau.

The centre has 18 volunteers who provide more than 300 hours of time a month.

Key partners at the centre include the Fraserburgh Development Trust, Aberdeen Foyer and the Grampian Housing Association.

Here For You provides services including legal advice, financial advice, work placements and emergency food parcels.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“St Andrew was known to be a kind, fair and strong man and an example to us all.

“The qualities he held should be ones we all seek to have ourselves. It is also very important we take the time out from our daily lives to help others and those less fortunate than ourselves.

“The Here For You centre and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau do vitally important work in the community and I would encourage anyone to look at volunteering opportunities with them.”

24 November 2017

Top Scottish Food Producer Demands Post-Brexit Clarity

North-East Tories Give Up On Scotland's Interests In Commons Vote

One of Scotland’s largest food producers, Scotbeef, has called for greater clarity from the UK Government on what the post-Brexit marketplace will look like.

The latest intervention from the company’s Managing Director comes a full year after the leading Scotch Beef and Lamb exporter’s first call for certainty fell on deaf ears.

This week, the North-east Tory MPs voted against protecting the UK’s membership of the customs union that would have enabled Scottish producers to continue exporting and importing goods from the EU without the obstacle of trade tariffs.

Over and above the uncertainty surrounding trading conditions – Scottish farmers rely heavily on EU support, with CAP payments accounting for around two-thirds of net farm income in Scotland.

Commenting, local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The future of Scotland’s rural economy is on the line.

“Scotbeef, like many other significant Scottish producers, is fast losing patience with the Tory Government’s dithering and inaction, which is damaging our food and drinks industry’s ability to plan for the future.

“Scottish Labour MPs this week failed to oppose the Scottish Tories’ plans to rip Scotland out of the customs union, despite an abundance of evidence showing the damage this will cause our economy, threatening jobs and living standards.

“North-east Tory MPs have betrayed Scotland’s rural economy, which, like many other sectors, relies on tariff-free access to the market place to survive.

“The SNP will continue to stand up for Scotland's farmers, and the thousands of jobs they support, while also providing support to boost Scotland’s exports. Exports to the EU27 are growing at a faster rate than exports to the rest of the world, and the SNP will continue to recognise the importance of the single market to our rural economy.

“The Tory Government must urgently wake up to the reality of what removing our trading businesses from the single market actually means and end the drive towards a hard Brexit cliff edge.”

22 November 2017

MSP Calls for Rebate after Chancellor's VAT Budget Decision

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the UK Government’s decision to end VAT liability on Scotland’s Police and Fire Services.

It comes after pressure for the move to be made since the single force changes were implemented four years ago.

Mr Stevenson has repeatedly called for the UK Treasury to introduce VAT exemption.

In his most recent correspondence the HM Paymaster General Mel Stride MP said the Scottish Government had “understandably” decided to proceed with its restructuring plans due to the estimated financial savings.

The move by the Chancellor of the Exchequer means the two emergency services will be eligible for tax refunds in the future.

Both Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will be brought into line with the rest of the UK.

And SNP MPs and MSPs are calling for a rebate on the previous four years of VAT.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The Scottish Government has repeatedly called on the UK Government to end the huge disparity in how the VAT impacts emergency services across the UK for four years now.

“The Scottish Government should also receive a rebate on its VAT bill since 2013 which is estimated to amount now to about £140million.

“The amalgamation has protected frontlines services and helped contribute to the record low levels of crime.

“The Tories have finally caved in and decided to support the measure which we’ve called for the last four years.

“It is a disgrace it has taken so many years to do so when our fire and police services should never have had to pay the VAT costs in the first place.”

MSP Welcomes Peterhead Pastor to Holyrood

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a Pastor from his constituency to Parliament to present the Time for Reflection.

Pastor Neil Cameron, who runs the Apex Church in Peterhead, met with Mr Stevenson before speaking in front of MSPs in the chamber.

He spoke of his childhood and growing up in the North-East of Scotland and called on Parliamentarians to see the best in challenging situations.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It was a great pleasure to nominate Neil Cameron to deliver Parliament's 'Time for Reflection' and to welcome him to Holyrood.

“He is a well-known and respected figure in the community. Pastor Cameron spoke eloquently about the opportunity we have as a society to look for the good in our daily lives, focusing on the positives not the negatives.

“I am sure the people of Peterhead and beyond will be very proud of Pastor Cameron.”

Stevenson Comments on Moray Tory Turmoil

Commenting on the resignation of Cllr Walter Wilson from Moray Council’s Administration and the Conservative Party, citing fundamental differences on key issues and describing former Tory colleagues as ‘right wing extremists’, local MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

© See footnote
“Moray Tories seem to have a track record of their councillors resigning from the Conservative council group and Cllr Wilson is following in the footsteps of Council Convener Cllr Allan and Tory MP Douglas Ross, who was probably more often out of the Tory Group than in.

“Cllr Wilson has referred to his former Tory colleagues as
“right-wing extremists” and has accused them of sacrificing public safety. Local people will be horrified that extremist views are prevalent within Moray Tories and one can imagine it must have taken a great deal of courage for Cllr Wilson to stand up and call them out on it.

“There’s no getting away from the fact that local authority budgets – just like the Scottish Government’s budget – are under pressure from Westminster cuts. However, the SNP councillors in Moray have consistently put forward constructive proposals and suggestions which could have saved millions but have not been acted upon.

“A good idea is a good idea, no matter who puts it forward and working constructively with other parties and independents was a hallmark of the SNP’s time in control in Aberdeenshire Council. Moray’s Tories and Independents could do well to follow that example and not just dismiss suggestions because they don’t fit with their right-wing dogma.”

Footnote on copyright for photo of Mr Ross
This photograph is licensed under the Open Government Licence 3.0.

16 November 2017

Scotland Leading the Way on Active Travel

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf today confirmed that Scotland is leading the way on Active Travel – with government spending set to be more than twice as high per head as in England and around three times more than in Wales.

The Scottish Government recently committed to doubling the Active Travel budget from £40 million to £80 million from 2018/19. Plans to appoint an Active Nation Commissioner and develop new long-distance cycling and walking routes, as well as connect the A9 to the National Cycle Network through 21 miles of new cycleways, were also announced.

The A Nation With Ambition strategy also included plans to encourage the use of electric bikes “to ensure as many people as possible can benefit from active travel.”

A recent study published by the International Journal of Workplace Health Management revealed that commuters who cycled to work were less stressed than their counterparts who arrived by car.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“With growing evidence of the health benefits of active travel, I am delighted that the Scottish Government is leading the way in its commitment to Active Travel, leading the way in the UK.

“I am confident that the Scottish Government’s support will help encourage more people to get on their bikes and ensure that our infrastructure caters to those that choose to walk, cycle or run, especially as cycle and walking tourism grows in popularity in Scotland.

“While it is not always practical to ditch the car, I for one will continue to promote active transport to travel shorter distances, not least to improve our health, tackle congestion and reduce our carbon footprint.”

15 November 2017

MSP Welcomes UK Supreme Court Ruling on Alcohol

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the UK Supreme Court ruling allowing Scotland to set a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland.

It comes after a challenge against the move by the Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) was rejected.

The legislation was approved by the Scottish Parliament five years ago but has been tied up in challenges since then.

But the Supreme Court approved the legislation and said it did not breach European Union law.

It means there will be a 50p-per-unit minimum put in place in a bid to tackle the country’s relationship with alcohol.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am delighted that after five years of wrangling, the Supreme Court has made the decision to allow this legislation to move forward.

“Improving Scotland’s relationship with alcohol is an important step and this is an important step towards that.

“I agree with the First Minister, this is indeed a bold and necessary move to improve public health.

“It is disappointing the SWA chose to campaign against this decision for so long but I am hopeful now that this judgement has been passed they will put their full support behind the measure.”

Stevenson Welcomes EU Erasmus+ Funding for Banff School

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a funding award for Banff Primary School which has played a part in Scotland receiving its largest ever allocation of EU Erasmus+ funding – up nearly €5million since last year.

New figures from the British Council Scotland and Ecorys, the agency delivering the European Union scheme, show that a total of €21million is being shared by 159 Scottish organisations working in a range of sectors such as schools, colleges and universities.

Banff Primary School was successful in applying for €10,825 for language development.

Stewart Stevenson is encouraging local organisations to engage with Erasmus+ and apply for funding. He said:

“I congratulate Banff Primary School and everyone involved in this successful funding bid. This is a significant sum which will help provide substantial assistance with the development of the pupils’ language skills.”

Director of the British Council Scotland Jackie Killeen said:

“Enabling people and organisations in communities all over Scotland to learn from and share with their international counterparts is at the very heart of what we do.

“These new figures for Erasmus+ demonstrate the huge appetite across Scotland’s education and youth training sectors for international exchange, collaboration and partnership.”

14 November 2017

NHS Grampian Meets Four Hour A&E Waiting Times Target

Latest A&E waiting time statistics have shown that NHS Grampian met its four hour waiting time target during the first week of November – with 91.5% being seen, admitted or discharged within four hours.

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

“Scotland has had the best performing A&E departments in the UK for two and a half years now – which is a testament to the hard work of our NHS staff.

“It is extremely encouraging that Emergency Departments in NHS Grampian have met the four hour waiting times target, with the latest figures showing that 95.1% of patients are being seen within four hours.

“The Scottish Government has put record investment and increased levels of staffing into hospitals, including an extra £14 million for health boards this year to improve unscheduled care and £5 million to support winter resilience – which will be vital as we head towards colder weather over the next few months.

“We will always value the vital work done by our NHS staff – and we should always celebrate their success and continue to support their efforts in NHS Grampian.”

10 November 2017

MSP to Meet with Transport Minister over Toll of Birness

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has written to the Transport Minister calling for a meeting to investigate making improvements to a North-East road.

The move comes after MSPs and Councillors were given a briefing on infrastructure proposals earlier this month.

Calls have long been made for an overhaul to the congested road junction in the future.

Any improvements would take place at the Toll of Birness where the A90 Ellon to Peterhead road meets the A952 to Fraserburgh.

The junction is predominantly used by commuters travelling from Fraserburgh and Mintlaw to Ellon, Aberdeen and beyond.

Nestrans has been investigating how the routes in the area could be improved which includes a multimillion pound investment at the junction.

Mr Stevenson plans to meet with Transport Minister Humza Yousaf to discuss taking plans forward.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“I have written to the Transport Minister to request a meeting following the briefing myself and colleagues were given by Nestrans earlier this month.

“The Toll of Birness has long been an area of congestion for commuters and improvements are long overdue.

“Ensuring we continue to improve roads in the North-East of Scotland will only build on the near completion of the AWPR in making are roads more accessible and safer.”

MSP Pays Tribute to Campaigner after Seatbelts Bill Passed

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has paid tribute to a constituent who worked tirelessly to improve school bus safety.

It comes after the Scottish Parliament passed the final stage of the Seatbelts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill at Holyrood.

The Bill had been brought forward by Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin.

For years, Gardenstown resident Ron Beaty worked hard to campaign on school bus safety after his granddaughter was knocked over by a vehicle after getting off a school bus.

Mr Beaty, who sadly passed away before the Bill reached its final stage yesterday, had been a staunch advocate of safety on school transport following the incident.

He worked closely alongside Mr Stevenson on the issue for many years.

Mr Stevenson said he was a “ferocious champion of improving safety” in the school transport system.

The Bill will make it compulsory for all dedicated school transport to be fitted with seatbelts.

Councils across Scotland provide dedicated school transport to pupils who live over certain distances from school in line with their statutory responsibilities and this is often in the form of buses or coaches.

There are currently already 24 local authorities in Scotland which stipulate seat belts must be worn including Aberdeenshire Council.

The completion of Stage three of the Bill intends to make this good practice universal as a matter of law.

It will afford more pupils the well-established safety benefit which seat belts can bring in the event of a road accident.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am delighted the Bill to ensure seatbelts are on all dedicated home to school transport has been passed.

“I would like to pay tribute to Ron. While he wasn’t here to witness it, I have no doubt that his efforts for many years made an invaluable contribution.

“Ron is an example to us all and I am sure his family are very proud.

“I would also like to commend my colleague Gillian Martin MSP and the civil servants who worked very hard over the past 18 months on this Bill.”

8 November 2017

Local MSP Welcomes Portessie Post Office Announcement

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed confirmation from the Post Office that a service will be reintroduced to Portessie with effect from Tuesday 28 November.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“The Network Operations Manager has written to me confirming that a Post Office outreach service will commence in Portessie Public Hall weekly on a Tuesday afternoon with effect from 28 November.

“Customers will be able to access the same range of services as previously but will now also be able to pay for their Road Tax, which I’m sure will be a welcome facility.

“While the new service will only operate on Tuesday afternoons between 1.00pm and 3.00pm, I am pleased that this important local service has been restored to Portessie. If it proves successful and there is a demand, I’m sure that the Post Office will be willing to listen to the community should it wish to see the service level expanded.”

2 November 2017

Summer 2018 Opening Target as ALDI Start Work in Peterhead

Peterhead’s SNP councillors Anne Allan and Stephen Smith, and local MSP Stewart Stevenson, have welcomed the long-awaited start to work at the Kirkburn site by Aldi.

Concerns from local residents over the apparent lack of any visible progress in developing the former Kirkburn Mills site in Peterhead prompted local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson to contact Aldi Stores earlier this year.

ALDI secured planning permission to build a store on the site but, to date, this prominent piece of land on the approach to Peterhead Town Centre remains undeveloped.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am very pleased that work has now started on the site. It’s very clear that the local community not only wish to see the site developed, but also actively want to have Aldi in Peterhead so today’s news is extremely welcome.

“I look forward to further progress and the creation of jobs as we approach the summer 2018 target opening date.”

Peterhead North & Rattray SNP councillor Anne Allan said:

“I’m grateful to Stewart Stevenson for keeping the pressure on Aldi. With the council having granted planning consent, I think everyone in the town is keen to see progress made and the site developed.”

Peterhead South & Cruden councillor Stephen Smith added:

“This is good news indeed and will finally deal with the eyesore that has been left for too long.

“Local residents should be able to see both Aldi contractors and Scottish Power working on the substation, the fencing and hoarding should be going up over the next few weeks along with the arrival of the site cabins. The appointed demolitions company will then set up to begin working on the tenements as soon as all equipment is on site.”

30 October 2017

MSP Welcomes Community Theatre Group Cash Boost

A community theatre group has received a four-figure sum National Lottery Awards for All Scotland grant from Creative Scotland.

The Buckie Community Theatre group will be awarded a total of £6,070 and plan to use the cash injection to transform the upper levels of its building into a practice hall, costume storage facility and sewing room.

The refurbishment will provide a space for community groups and will allow the charity to provide training and support to young people interested in costume production and design.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am delighted the Buckie Community Theatre Group have secured this funding to assist them in their ambitions.

“I am sure many people benefit from the use of it and this will offer additional benefit to the group and wider community.

“Congratulations to the Buckie Community Theatre group for their hard work in securing the funding.”

A National Lottery Awards for All spokesperson said:

“This funding will help a range of arts, sports and community groups from across Scotland to bring their projects ideas to life. If you, and your local community group, would like to join them in celebrating a National Lottery award, you can find out how to apply by visiting”

27 October 2017

Douglas Ross Continues to Hold Constituents in Contempt

"Not Good Enough" to Just Turn Down World Cup Role

Douglas Ross must go further than just not refereeing while parliament is sitting and fulfil the promises made to his constituents that his “footballing and refereeing hobby won’t impact on [his] parliamentary duties”, the SNP has said today.

© See footnote
Mr Ross faced criticism from across the political spectrum for failing to appear at a crucial debate on Universal Credit last week, choosing instead to help referee a Champions League fixture in Barcelona. He has now confirmed that he won’t accept refereeing appointments while parliament is sitting – but still intends to referee fixtures at the weekend.

The SNP has now called on Douglas Ross to honour his pre-election commitment and properly fulfil his duties as the constituency member of parliament for Moray.

Mr Ross will be running the line at the Hearts v Rangers match at Murrayfield tomorrow – likely requiring two days in Edinburgh when he should be in his constituency.

Since his election Mr Ross has courted further controversy after launching an attack on the Gypsy/Traveller community in his constituency.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“This is an overdue but welcome first step, but it is still just not good enough from Douglas Ross.

“He continues to flout his pre-election pledge that his refereeing won’t impact on his parliamentary duties – he seems to be forgetting that his parliamentary duties don’t end when he leaves Westminster.

“He may well be hoping for sympathy that he doesn’t get a trip to the World Cup next year – but that step alone is not good enough, and he is mistaken if he thinks this puts the issue to bed.

“Mr Ross should be concentrating on his first job of representing his constituents not his second job of running the line. And yet again we see that tomorrow he is avoiding his constituency in order to officiate at Hearts v Rangers – it’s simply not sustainable for him to continue to short-change the people who elected him.

“Not only is his second job becoming untenable, but his first job is too – as he continues to break a promise made to his constituents. Just when will he be out and about in his constituency hearing about the big issues facing people there – like the universal credit rollout?

“It’s time for Douglas Ross to actually honour his pre-election commitment that his very well paid hobby won’t get in the way of his duties as an MP – otherwise it will be perfectly clear that his constituents have been conned.”

Footnote on copyright for photo of Mr Ross
©, 2017
This photograph is licensed under the Open Government Licence 3.0.

25 October 2017

MSP Calls on Gove to Ensure Payments are Made to Scottish Farmers

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has called on the UK Government to ensure convergence uplift money is paid to Scottish farmers.

The MSP has written to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, for clarification on the issue.

It comes as it was revealed farmers and crofters are owed £160million in convergence uplift money which was granted to the UK by the EU in 2014 because of low area payments in Scotland.

Mr Stevenson has asked Mr Gove to confirm when and if he has spoken to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Connectivity Fergus Ewing after he had advised he would speak to him on the matter.

In his letter to Mr Gove, he said:

“I note that at a meeting of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee last month you were asked whether Defra would commit to passing on the convergence uplift money, which was granted to the UK by the EU in 2014 because of low area payments in Scotland.

“Scotland’s farmers and crofters are owed £160 million – there is no getting away from that and this money must not be tied to Brexit considerations – it is owed now and needs to be repaid now.

“However, it is also vital that the issue of low hectare payments in Scotland is sorted, or our farmers and crofters will continue to be short-changed in any post-Brexit funding settlement.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This money rightly belongs to Scottish farmers and it should be returned to them immediately.

“They have been left with an unfair playing field and the amount farmers receive throughout the UK are not comparable levels of payments for their hard work.

“I have written to Mr Gove to make sure this money is not tied to Brexit negotiations.”

24 October 2017

North-East Tory MPs Urged To Support Region After New Brexit Figures

North-East Tory MPs have been criticised of “pandering to Westminster” after new figures revealed the huge losses in funding faced by local authorities from Brexit.

It comes after a damning report by the London School of Economics showed the risks of Scotland crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Now Conservative MPs have been urged to do more to support the region which has already been hit by the oil and gas downturn in recent years.

Both Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have called for assurances from the recently elected politicians they will support the North-East.

Aberdeenshire would lose 3% in value of its goods and services under a soft Brexit scenario (equivalent to £1.9billion) or 4.5% (£1.6billion) with a hard Brexit no-deal.

Meanwhile Aberdeen would be the worst hit region, losing 4.5% in value of its goods and services under a soft Brexit scenario (equivalent to £2.4billion) or 7% (£3.8billion) with a hard Brexit no-deal.

And the report concludes that over a five-year period Scotland will lose out on more than £17billion with a soft Brexit situation, but by a devastating £29.4 billion if no provisions are made to halt a hard Brexit outcome.

Both MSPs are also calling on the UK Government to publish its own analysis into the impact of Brexit on Scotland.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“There has never been any doubt the costs of Brexit are going to be very, very high for Scotland and the North-East in particular.

“Tory MPs like Ross Thomson and Colin Clark have repeatedly said how beneficial Brexit will be for our local economy. Both of these MPs are always claiming the North-East is underfunded. It’s time for them to stand up and explain to their constituents how they will protect funding losses as a result of Brexit.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The Tories are playing fast and loose with our economy and we are heading for the EU exit door with no deal secured on the single market.

“Maintaining Scotland’s single market membership is absolutely vital for the country as whole and the North-East in particular.

“There is no alternative to what the single market can offer in terms of protecting jobs, living standards and local businesses.

“It is time our Tory MPs stand up for the North-East and stop pandering to Westminster.”

Scottish Fishing Sector Warning Over Damaging Power Grab

Scotland’s fishermen have voiced their opposition to a Westminster power grab on responsibilities currently devolved to the Scottish Parliament, in a submission to Holyrood’s Finance and Constitution Committee.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), a vocal campaigner for a leave vote in the EU referendum, has added its backing to the Scottish Government’s calls for the EU Withdrawal Bill to be amended to protect Scotland’s interests.

In written evidence provided ahead of tomorrow’s committee meeting, the SFF noted “that the Bill’s approach to repatriating powers from the EU requires amendment if it is to respect the devolution settlement and deliver appropriate fisheries management”, raising further specific concerns about the impact of Holyrood’s powers being curtailed by Westminster.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“It is now abundantly clear that Scotland stands united against Westminster using Brexit as an excuse for a Holyrood power grab.

“Even those who campaigned in favour of leaving the EU see the UK government’s withdrawal bill for what it currently is – a threat to our Scottish Parliament, and the founding principles of devolution which people voted for 20 years ago.

“The SNP’s amendments to the bill – backed by the Labour Welsh government – are put forward in good faith to protect Scotland’s interests and the powers vested at Holyrood since devolution.

“This latest call from Scotland’s fisheries sector underlines just how important it is that Scotland retains these powers.”

23 October 2017

MSP Welcomes Fibre Broadband Roll-Out

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the roll-out of more fibre broadband in the North-East.

It comes after the Scottish Government revealed the move had been made possible as part of the £428million cash injection from the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband roll-out.

More than 800,000 premises across the country can now receive fibre broadband through the programme.

The technology is now live across Aberdeenshire including Eden, Tillyfourie and Mosshead.

Most of the latest local premises to be included in the roll-out were previously served by ‘exchange only’ lines.

Each week the programme, one of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe, reaches more remote and rural areas, passing another 34,000 households and businesses in the last six months.

Across the country around 4,100 new fibre street cabinets are now live and more than 8,700km of cable has been laid by engineers from Openreach, Scotland’s digital network business.

Commenting, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“Bringing fibre broadband to rural areas across the North-East is a lifeline for residents and particularly businesses too.

“The Scottish Government is on target to reach 95% fibre coverage by the end of the year, with the programme progressing further and still extending coverage.

“It is clear there are still places waiting to benefit from superfast broadband and these will become the focus as work is done towards the ambitious target of 100%.”

The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme underpins the Scottish Government’s aim for Scotland to become a world class digital nation by 2020.

Local people can check the Digital Scotland website to find out if they can get a fibre-based service.

18 October 2017

Stevenson Welcomes Scot Gov Announcement on Nitrate Vulnerable Zones

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement from the Scottish Government that it will look sympathetically at cases where poor weather has stopped many farmers from spreading their slurry in time to comply with Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) regulations.

Most of the Banffshire & Buchan Coast Constituency is included in the NVZ area.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I’m aware that the weather experienced in recent weeks and months has proved problematic for farmers which has meant that slurry tanks may not have been emptied in time to comply with the closed period owing to a range of pressures.

“As we enter the period where no slurry spreading is permitted in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones, I am pleased that the Minister has listened to industry concerns and has instructed officials to respond to genuine cases of difficulty with as much flexibility as possible.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said:

“While a blanket derogation from the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (Scotland) provisions cannot be applied due to EC regulatory requirements, relevant RPID area offices will liaise with affected farmers on a case by case basis to help them explore all practical options, which might be available to address current difficulties.

“RPID will look sympathetically, with as much flexibility as the regulations allow, at the scope for any mitigation of the risk of penalties being applied. Affected farmers are strongly encouraged to make urgent contact with their area office to discuss the best way to proceed that helps address their difficulties, minimises the impact on the environment and the risk of penalties applying.”

Part-Time Tory Skipping Welfare Debate to Referee in Barcelona

Champions League Refereeing Again Priority for Douglas Ross

Part-time Tory MP Douglas Ross is once again skipping his parliamentary duties in order to run the line in a glamour Champions League match – leaving his constituents without a voice during a key debate on social security.

Douglas Ross is a consistent absentee from his MP day job – skipping important debates and committee meetings at Holyrood last year in order to take on lucrative refereeing work in the Champions League. His move from Holyrood to Westminster has not changed his attitude, with his work as an MP playing second fiddle to his assistant refereeing job.

Wednesday sees Westminster host a key debate on the roll-out of Universal Credit – yet Douglas Ross won’t be there to vote on this vital issue. The Moray foodbank has criticised Mr Ross for missing the debate, saying they recently briefed the MP on the impact of Universal Credit on his constituents. Mr Ross recently hit the headlines for launching an attack on the vulnerable Gypsy/Traveller community in Moray.

Stewart Stevenson MSP

"Part-time Tory MP Douglas Ross just never learns his lesson.

“He is yet again leaving his constituents without a voice in Parliament because he'd rather rub shoulders with famous footballers.

"This isn't the first time that he's failed to turn up for important meetings, and his constituents will be wondering why he shows no interest in discussing Universal Credit - which is driving up rent arrears and leaving families penniless.

"It's time for two-job Ross to call time on his highly lucrative refereeing career."

13 October 2017

MSP Writes Again to Chancellor Calling for Axe to Police and Fire VAT

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for him to scrap the tax on Scotland’s emergency services.

It comes after Mr Stevenson wrote a letter earlier this year to Philip Hammond regarding the issue.

And in response to the correspondence received from the Chancellor, he said he had been “extremely disappointed” by the letter and called for “serious consideration” to be given to put an end to the annual VAT bill.

According to recent reports, Scotland is facing a £21.2million black hole in its £1.1million budget, which has raised concern over potential cuts to vehicles, equipment and buildings.

Both the fire and police services became liable for the tax after they were merged from multiple regional into single organisations a few years ago.

It is expected any potential changes could be announced by the Chancellor at the Budget on November 22nd.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“All governments across the UK are currently looking to make savings which will provide extra cash and help protect vital public services. The reform of police and fire services delivered more than three years ago was done to prevent duplication of certain functions.

“For the UK Government to impose VAT charges of around £33million and £10million respectively serves to disadvantage these services.

“The Chancellor must put an end to it when he announces the budget next month.”

12 October 2017

MSP Encourages North-East Communities to Apply to £6m Rural Tourism Fund

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is calling on local groups in the North-East to apply to the Scottish Government’s new Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

The Scottish Government announced the new £6m fund in response to the tourism boom across rural Scotland, and the money will be invested over the course of two years (2018/19 and 2019/20) to help ensure the services and facilities tourists and communities need are provided.

The new fund will support a wide range of improvement projects – such as parking, camping facilities, recycling points and footpath access, in areas such as the North Coast 500 route as well as at Historic Environment Scotland sites.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“The tourist industry is vital to the Banffshire and Buchan Coast economy, which attracts visitors from all over the world each year.

“The new £6m Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund will help cater to the very welcome increasing tourist numbers in the North-East and help alleviate pressure on transport, services and facilities.

“This support for infrastructure will enable even more people to enjoy this most beautiful country in the world and is an example of the SNP Scottish Government listening to and responding to the needs of rural Scotland.

“Local groups in Banffshire and Buchan that would like to bid for this funding can get in touch with me if they need any advice.”

3 October 2017

MSP Warns of Missed Opportunity on CCS

An MSP has claimed the UK Government has missed out on a huge opportunity to take a lead on Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) after oil major Shell struck a deal in Norway.

In 2015, more than £1billion of investment was pulled which could have been used to fund a CCS project at Peterhead Power Station.

Shell has already completed an initial feasibility study when the money was axed.
Copyright © 2017 Statoil ASA
Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said the announcement of a deal between Statoil, Shell and Total E&P Norge meant the Norwegian Continental Shelf would be able to benefit from the technology sooner.

A partnership agreement to mature the development is part of the Norwegian authorities’ efforts to develop full-scale carbon capture and storage in the region.

The move comes after Gassnova awarded Statoil the contract for the first phase of the project in June.

Norske Shell and Total E&P Norge are now entering as equal partners while Statoil will lead the project.

All the partners will contribute staff, experience, and financial support.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I welcome Norway’s plans to move to a low-carbon economy, but this is also a clear indication of what the UK Government missed out on.

“Two years on from funding being axed we are no clearer as to what the future holds for Peterhead Power Station.

“Hundreds of jobs and financial investment remain untapped. Recent efforts by the Scottish Government are very welcome to investigate the feasibility of CCS at St Fergus.

“But it appears that once again, a huge opportunity for our energy sector remains untapped.”

MSP Welcomes Plans for Medical Practice

A medical practice which serves two North-East communities could be handed to new management.

The move would affect the An Caorann Medical Practice which has more than 5,000 patients between Aberchirder and Portsoy.

NHS Grampian is looking for an independent practice to take over the health care facilities.

Commenting on the plans, Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson, said:

“After a long period of uncertainty for patients, this proposal could provide them with regular GP provision once again.

“We must ensure this is done in a timely manner so that the service, which has been struggling recently due to staffing issues, can return to its full capacity once more.

“I know the staff at the practice have really appreciated the support shown by patients during what has been a challenging time.”

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