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CORONAVIRUS

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

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

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

Contact us at msp@stewartstevenson.scot or phone 01779 470444.

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

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

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


2 March 2021

Stevenson Welcomes New Heating Payment to Help People with Bills

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a new home heating support fund launched to help people struggling with their energy bills as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The £4million Scottish Government scheme – which will be administered by national advice service Advice Direct Scotland – is designed to prevent households falling into fuel poverty.

The Home Heating Support Fund is open until March 31 and applications can only be made on behalf of individuals by referral partners.

This includes local authorities and third sector organisations, with payments then made directly to energy suppliers on behalf of their customers.

Eligibility is based on households which have been faced with rationing their energy usage, meaning those who are deliberately limiting their energy use so that they can afford to spend money on other goods or services.

In 2019, an estimated 24.6 percent of all households were in fuel poverty - around 613,000 households – and the pandemic has increased financial hardship for many.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I welcome this funding which will help families who have had additional financial costs due to the increased bills from being at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This fund will help to assist in helping support households from the impact of fuel poverty which is a reality for many families just now.

“It is important the Scottish Government is able to support people by tackling inequality and ensuring people are not left making choices between different household costs.”

Commenting, Chief Executive of Advice Direct Scotland Andrew Bartlett said:

“No household should suffer in fuel poverty or have to ration fuel to get by.

“The Covid pandemic has increased financial hardship and many Scots have been left struggling as a result of increased energy costs while working from home or home-schooling.

“We are working hard to administer this new fund from the Scottish Government to ensure that fewer Scots are struggling with their energy bills.

“As well as working closely with partner organisations, our own expert debt advisers can also directly help individuals who have financial worries.”

More information on the Home Heating Support Fund is available here: https://homeheatingadvice.scot/

Stevenson Backs Scot Gov Calls on Green Ports

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed a call by the Scottish Government to ensure green ports have access to the same level of set-up of funding as freeports in England.

Trade Minister Ivan McKee has written to the UK Government calling for two green ports to be focused on fair and sustainable economic development to be established in Scotland.

The green port model will adapt the UK government’s freeport proposals, offering a package of tax and customs reliefs.

Earlier this year, proposals were put forward by the Scottish Government to establish green ports which would be more sustainable and require operators and businesses to pay the real living wage, adopt the Scottish Business Pledge and commit to supporting sustainable and inclusive growth in local communities.

Operators and beneficiaries will be required to commit to adopting Fair Work First criteria and contribute to Scotland’s just transition to net zero.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I welcome the Scottish Government’s call to the UK Government regarding green ports having access to the same level of seed funding which is being offered to freeports in England.

“It is clear there is support from businesses for green ports and it is important the UK Government supports the development of these ports right across the country and I look forward to the UK Government’s response on this issue.

“The Scottish Government’s proposals to take the freeport model and apply this country’s priorities from a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is one I wholeheartedly support.

“By diverging from the wider UK proposals, we can use a different freeport model to meet out net zero ambition and a wellbeing economy which upholds the highest standards of environmental protections and fair work practices.”

25 February 2021

Stevenson Backs Calls for Clear Timetable on Alcohol Duty

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed calls for a clear timetable to be set out on alcohol duty.

The issue has been raised repeatedly with the UK Government following a devastating financial year for the industry – due to high US tariffs as a result of Brexit.

It comes after the issue was raised again to the UK government in Westminster by Mr Stevenson’s colleague Brendan O’Hara MP, chair of Westminster’s APPG on Scotch whisky.

The UK’s Scotch whisky export has been reduced by a staggering 22.6% in 2020 – with losses exceeding £500million.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The whisky industry employs 11,000 people in Scotland - with over 7,000 of those from rural areas. This clearly highlights the importance of the industry to Scotland.

“The financial loss that our whisky exports has faced is eye-watering and simply not sustainable. It is of vital importance that the UK government take action immediately.

“Sadly, this is just the latest in a long line of issues that has been created as a result of Brexit. The Tories dragged Scotland out of a major trading bloc - against our will - making our position weaker. It would seem the UK government is wilfully ignoring the fact that industries like the Scottish whisky industry are on their knees.

“Boris Johnson assured us that he would find a solution to this crisis – his government even claimed that it was their ‘top priority’. By failing to act, they have reaffirmed their position that Scotland and its industries aren’t a priority.

“If the Tories are serious about protecting our whisky industry, they must deliver a clear timetable of completion of the review on alcohol duty.”

24 February 2021

North-East MSPs Urge Food and Drink Sector to Apply for Funding

North-East MSPs are urging food and drink projects to apply for a new Scottish Government fund launched to celebrate locally sourced produce food and drink.

It comes after the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership was launched to help the sector with its recovery from COVID as well as to prepare for Brexit.

It is supported by £5million from Scottish Government and in the following year an additional £50 million will be provided.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have both welcomed the funding.

Grants of up to £5000 are available to applicants and the deadline to apply is the March 15th.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“Our world-class food and drink sector has faced an extremely challenging year, so this funding - which will contribute to its recovery from Covid-19 - comes at an important time.

“Between Brexit and COVID-19, there are very few food and drink businesses which haven’t been seriously affected - but it’s vital our food and drink industry keeps growing and bringing benefits to Scotland and the north-east.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This money will play an important role in promoting food and drink in local communities and delivering benefits to Scotland’s local food and drink sector over the long-term.

“I’d encourage all eligible groups and businesses in Aberdeenshire to apply before the deadline on 15th March.”

23 February 2021

Stevenson Backs Social Security Survey

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the findings of a new survey which show that more than four in five clients feel Scotland’s social security agency treats them with dignity, fairness and respect.

More than 3,000 people took part in Social Security Scotland’s client survey – with 90% of people rating their overall experience as ‘very good’ or ‘good’.

Some of the feedback included clients describing their experience as “compassionate”, “1st class” and an “accessible and professional service.”
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The results of this survey clearly show those using the service provided by Social Security Scotland feel respected and that they are being treated with compassion.

“The system has been built on the lived-experience of those who need it following engagement with communities.

“We have already seen the impact of game-changing policies to tackle poverty and support some of the most vulnerable families, including the Scottish Child Payment, the Best Start Grant and the Job Start Payment.

“This is in stark contrast to Tory welfare cuts which are driving more and more people into poverty with a system based on a punitive, mean-spirited and often callous approach.”

11 February 2021

Bombshell Evidence as Fishing Chiefs Slam Tory Brexit Deal

Tory Brexit Deal "Falls Very Far Short"
of UK Government Commitment

Scottish fishing chiefs have slammed the Brexit deal negotiated by Boris Johnson, describing it as an “extremely disappointing” deal which “falls far short of what the UK government had committed” to the industry.

Giving evidence to Holyrood’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee, Elspeth Macdonald, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said Boris Johnson’s claims on a visit to Scotland in January that there would be a 25% increase in overall quota was “misleading” and “for some of these species, we will have less fishing opportunity than we had previously” and will “leave us worse off.”

Asked whether the fishing industry feels “betrayed” by the UK government, she said “we feel very badly let down. We feel that the government made repeated commitments and promises to the industry, and these were not met."

Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish Seafood Association, Jimmy Buchan warned that "we've ended up with the worst of the worst of the worst" and said the UK government's compensation scheme doesn't go far enough.
Stewart Stevenson MSP at Peterhead Fish Market in Better Times
Stewart Stevenson MSP, a member of the committee, said:

“This was a significant intervention from fishing chiefs, who have every right to be livid about the broken promises, utter incompetence and outright lies coming from the very heart of Boris Johnson's government.

"Since the EU referendum, the Tories have made exaggerated promises that they knew they couldn’t keep, and shown complete contempt towards our vital fishing industry.

“It's clear that the Tory Brexiteers never had any intention of keeping their word to fishermen - they've betrayed a vital part of our economy, and an industry which is crucial to the livelihoods of communities and families across the country.

“For over 40 years, Westminster has treated Scotland’s fishing industry as an irrelevance and a pawn to be traded away, and that doesn’t look likely to change any time soon.

“The Tories simply can’t be trusted when it comes to standing up for our interests. The only way to escape the Tory Brexit disaster, protect Scotland's interests is to become an independent country."

SNP Council Tax Freeze Offers Financial relief for Local Householders

Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has said the SNP Government’s Council Tax freeze will provide financial relief to thousands of local households during tough times.

Last month, Scotland’s Finance Secretary Kate Forbes MSP announced a £90 million fund to compensate local authorities who choose to scrap planned rises in Council Tax.

Mr Stevenson has welcomed today’s decision by Aberdeenshire councillors not to raise the Council Tax level this year.

Under the draft budget plans, a majority of taxpayers will also continue to pay less income tax than they would in the rest of the UK.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“We all know the financial impact that this global pandemic has had locally.

“So it’s great news that this SNP Government has sought to provide relief to households by supporting local authorities to freeze the Council Tax for the coming year.

“In these tough times, the SNP Government has proven that where Scotland has the powers, we will take a different approach to give people in Scotland the fairest deal in the UK.”

10 February 2021

Stevenson Welcomes Council Commitment to Replace Bridge of Fortrie

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed confirmation he has received from Aberdeenshire Council that it intends to replace the Bridge of Fortrie.

The structure is one of the six bridges in the King Edward area damaged by flooding in late September 2019. Bridge of Fortrie carries the C9S Road from Mains of Fisherie westward to join the A947 at Keilhill.

Bridge of Fortrie has been prioritised for replacement as it has been assessed that it makes the most effective contribution to re-establishing connectivity within the local community.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This confirmation is good news indeed and will be welcomed by local residents in the area.

“Subject to any further restrictions owing to the current pandemic, I understand from council officials that it is envisaged construction of the new crossing will be completed by the end of this summer.

“The replacement will cost around £100,000 and I look forward to further progress being made with work towards replacing the other bridges which were lost in 2019.”

2 February 2021

Stevenson Hits Out at UK Gov Over Whisky Tariff Cost

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has hit out at the UK Government for its “failure to act” on Scotch whisky tariffs imposed by the US.

The US introduced crippling tariffs on the sector more than a year ago, costing the industry £176million in the first part of 2020, according to figures previously release by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe).

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has now estimated that losses from exports have reached £500million.

In December it was reported that UK Government Tory ministers were planning to extend an olive branch to the new Biden administration in Washington in an attempt to have the tariffs lifted.

The Department of International Trade had said lifting the tariffs would be it’s ‘top priority’ but more than a year later the issue has continued to rumble on.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The losses to Scotch Whisky exports are eye-watering and are simply unsustainable for this vitally important industry.

"For more than a year the Tories assured us that finding a solution to this crisis was their top priority.

“Their strategy of pandering to the disgraced Trump administration, however, entirely failed to deliver any resolution to this deeply damaging dispute, proving that Tories promises to Scotch Whisky industry ring just as hollow

as the promises they made to Scotland’s fishing and agriculture sectors.

“Scotch whisky plays a crucial role in the success of our global food and drinks sector and our economy but has been dealt a triple whammy with the economic impacts of the tariffs, Brexit and the pandemic.

“If the Tory government is serious about protecting our vital industries then it will take every step it can to oppose and end these punitive US-imposed tariffs."

Stevenson Welcomes Funding to Help Tourism Sector

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a significant cash-boost to help support Moray’s tourism sector.

The project, by destination management organisation Visit Moray and Speyside (VMS), will deliver a series of initiatives aimed at inspiring, enabling and delivering destination recovery.

Now VMS has secured £350,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to encourage collaboration among businesses, communities, public and third sector partners.

The funding will create two new full-time equivalent jobs in VMS and the group will provide support, advice and signposting to communities looking to improve conditions for visitors.

VMS said it will also use the funding to help tourism businesses to make sure they have the skills and knowledge to rebuild their operations, access new markets and embed resilience in their approach.

There will be specific engagement with food and drink producers to work with operators in showcasing Moray’s natural larder to a worldwide audience.

The HIE funding is from £3m approved by the agency in September 2020 to support strategically important tourism destination management organisations (DMOs) over the next three years, as part of wider support for the tourism sector’s recovery.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This funding is very welcome to help support the vital work of VMS.

“Tourism is central to the economy across my constituency and has been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

1 February 2021

Stevenson Welcomes Awareness on Changes to Organ and Tissue Donation

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed a campaign launching this month to make households aware of changes to the law around organ and tissue donation in Scotland.

The move means that from March 26th the law around organ and tissue donation will change to an opt out system.

This means that most adults who die in circumstances where they are able to donate will be considered as having agreed to be a donor unless they record a decision not to – what’s known as ‘opt out’.

People will still have a choice. If you don’t want to be a donor you can choose to opt out on the NHS Organ Donor Register at any time, before or after the law changes.

If you support donation, you can still choose to actively record your decision to be a donor on the NHS Organ Donor Register. You can also choose which organs or tissue you would want to donate on the register.

The leaflet contains detailed information about law change and it clearly explains the choices people have. Everyone aged 16 or over in the household should read it in order to understand why it’s important to make their donation decision, record it and share it with family and friends.

The new law will add to the package of measures already in place which have led to significant increases in donation and transplantation over the last decade.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I welcome this campaign to highlight, once again, the changes which will take place regarding organ and tissue donation.

“It is important everyone is aware of how the law is changing to help save and improve more of the lives of those on the waiting list.

“Only 1% of people die in circumstances where they might become an organ donor. This means every opportunity for donation is very precious.

“We want everyone in the north-east to understand what this change means for them and to have the right information so that they can make their choice and I would urge all members of the household aged 16 or over to take the time to read the leaflet.

“Donation remains a personal decision and we’re encouraging people to make the choice that’s right for them – whether that’s to be a donor or not.”

28 January 2021

North-East MSPs Welcome Budget and Call for Cross-Party Support

North-east MSPs have welcomed the Scottish Government’s ambitious draft budget – which includes £16billion for health and social care services.

Now, Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson, have called on opposition MSPs to support the budget which was announced by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes.

Ms Forbes announced it would focus on three guiding principles - a national mission for new, good, and green jobs; promotion of lifelong health and wellbeing and driving equality and helping our young people to grasp achieve their potential.

Record funding of more than £16billion will be invested in the NHS and social care sector, £3.5billion will go towards social security and welfare payments, and investment of £2.7billion will be made in education and skills – with total investment increasing by £3.8billion.

MSPs will vote on the draft budget proposals next month.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“This budget has been delivered in exceptional circumstances as we continue to battle a global pandemic and face the harmful impacts of a Tory Brexit we didn’t vote for.

“The green recovery as we come out of lockdown restrictions and return to a new normal will be imperative in helping support Scotland’s economy.

“I’m glad this commitment to investing in jobs and education, resourcing public services for the challenges ahead - with record funding for our health and social care sector - and supporting households at a time of real uncertainty will continue."

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I sincerely hope that MSPs from all political parties will back this Budget, which will support the north-east’s recovery from this Covid-19 crisis and help us build a fairer, stronger, greener country.

“Since the start of this crisis, the Scottish Government has responded quickly and decisively to tackle the continued threats of the virus, while doing all it can to secure social and economic recovery.”

27 January 2021

Tax Grant Won't Impact Universal Credit, UK Gov Confirms

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have welcomed confirmation a grant offered to support taxi and private hire drivers will not impact Universal Credit payments.

It comes after the Scottish Government announced a £57million funding package to help support the sector following the impact on business as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Concern had been raised, that drivers who were receiving universal credit, would have their income assessed based on receipt of the grant.

Now the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed: “Covid-19 related grants which are intended to cover the loss of business income and to aid business recovery, will be disregarded for Universal Credit purposes for 12 months.”

The DWP also confirmed this would include the Scottish Government grant for taxi and private hire drivers.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“I am pleased to have confirmation from the UK Government that taxi and private hire drivers will not have their Universal Credit impacted by any grant they receive.

“Many businesses have had their lives changed in the past year with the impact of Covid-19 and it is only right that we provide any financial support we can to help them.

“I hope this gives reassurance to drivers who are eligible for the Scottish Government grant that they can now do so.

“The substantial increase in support for them announced earlier this month is the recognition they deserve in what has been a tough time for the industry due to the lockdown restrictions.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Despite the restrictions, many fixed costs have still remained for drivers, such as general maintenance, licence plate fees, rental fees and insurance payments and the increase in funding will cover these expensive costs.

“This confirmation is a welcome step forward as we continue to work hard to reduce the number of people infected with coronavirus.”

25 January 2021

Stevenson Backs Proposals for Green Ports

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed proposals from the Scottish Government for green ports.

The proposals put forward would establish green ports which would be more sustainable and require operators and businesses to pay the real living wage, adopt the Scottish Business Pledge and commit to supporting sustainable and inclusive growth in local communities.

They would also contribute to Scotland’s just transition to net zero.

Freeports are specially designated economic zones where normal tax and customs rules do not apply and all forms of port are included under the status – ferry ports, airports, and rail ports.

In such ports, goods can be imported, manufactured, and exported again without facing standard tariffs or requiring normal customs checks.

Plans for freeports come after the UK Government committed to having one in each devolved nation with companies who operate them having the benefit of paying a lower tax rate of VAT tax as well as relief when it comes to purchasing land.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The Scottish Government’s proposals to take the freeport model and apply this country’s priorities from a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is one I wholeheartedly support.

“By diverging from the wider UK proposals, we can use a different freeport model to meet out net zero ambition and a wellbeing economy which upholds the highest standards of environmental protections and fair work practices.

“It is clear from businesses and communities the Scottish Government has listened to, that there is a new appetite for ways to support our economy.”

21 January 2021

Stevenson Welcomes New Brexit Advice Service for Consumers

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a new online advice service launched to help consumers with free, impartial and practical advice following Brexit.

The brexitadvice.scot website from Advice Direct Scotland includes information on household expenditure, transport and travel, banking, and roaming charges.

Examples include the additional documentation needed if driving abroad, limits on alcohol that can be brought back to the UK, and steps to take if travelling with a pet.

The site is operated by the charity Advice Direct Scotland, which runs Scotland’s national advice service.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This website is for anyone to use to find out how Brexit will impact different aspects of their lives from transport to banking to roaming charges.

“I would urge anyone to use this website to double-check any queries they are not sure of so they are aware of crucial changes to how we do business with Europe.

“There will be many changes as a result of Brexit and this website will help consumers to understand practical changes, in an impartial manner.”

Andrew Bartlett, Chief Executive of Advice Direct Scotland, said:

“While people are advised against all but essential travel at the moment, the UK’s departure from the EU will have a lasting impact on holidaymakers and consumers when life returns to normality – as well as those who buy goods from the EU.”

North-East MSPs Call for Tories to U-Turn on Universal Credit Cut

North-east MSPs have urged their Tory MSP counterparts to back a U-turn on UK Government plans to cut Universal Credit amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes after new figures revealed that Boris Johnson’s plan to remove the £20 per week uplift in April would hit more than 14,000 people in Aberdeenshire.

Latest statistics show that in November 2020 there were 14,189 people claiming Universal Credit in Aberdeenshire in November. If all these people remain on Universal Credit until April, then they will be affected by the removal of the £20 uplift.

The Scottish Government has repeatedly called on the Westminster Tory government to maintain the £20 boost to Universal Credit and extend it to legacy benefits - yet all six Scottish Tory MPs abstained on a vote which would have ensured that.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have called on north-east Tories not to vote in support of the £20 removal.

Anti-poverty think-tank the Resolution Foundation estimates that the cut to Universal Credit by £20 a week could see the incomes of low-income families fall by more than four per cent (4%) and plunge a further 820,000 children into poverty across the UK.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said: 
 
Picture predates COVID
and social distancing
“By reducing social security payments by £1000 a year, in the middle of an economic crisis, the Tories could push people here in Aberdeenshire further into hardship and poverty.

"There must be an immediate U-turn on this, to avoid worsening poverty and inequality across the country during the Covid-19 crisis - and I would urge local MSPs to support this.

"Although the Scottish Government has led the way in tackling poverty, with new benefits like the Scottish Child Payment and a social security system based on dignity and respect, this progress is being severely undermined by Tory cuts.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It is crucial that the £20 uplift to Universal Credit is made permanent and extended to legacy benefits, as part of a wider package to boost incomes after a decade of damaging Tory austerity cuts.

"Scotland shouldn't have to wait for Westminster to act to protect the incomes of the most vulnerable in our society. The only way to secure a strong, fair and equal recovery is for Scotland to become an independent country - with the full powers needed to build a fairer society."

20 January 2021

Stevenson Welcomes Bill to Protect Retail Workers from Abuse

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed a Member’s Bill which will create a new statutory offence against assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker.

The Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill will also provide further legal protections when the worker is carrying out their statutory duties such as age-restricted sales.

The bill, which was put forward by Daniel Johnson MSP, has received unanimous support.

It comes after concern was raised during the Coronavirus pandemic regarding an increase in abuse against retail staff trying to ensure customers maintained social distancing and wore masks while shopping.

The legislation regarding age-restricted sales will also cover those working in bars, restaurants and hotels, and those delivering items bought online who may have to ask for proof of age when items are delivered.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This Bill will help protect retail workers who deserve to go to work each day without the threat or verbal or physical abuse as they carry out their job.

“During the pandemic, retail workers have been key workers, helping to support all of us as we stay have stayed at home.

“I am pleased the Scottish Parliament has backed this Member’s Bill to protect all retail staff – violence, threats and abuse should never just be part of anyone’s job.”

Banff Priest Delivers 'Time for Reflection' in Scottish Parliament

Banff Priest, Father Piotr Rytel, of the town's Our Lady of Mount Carmel RC Church, delivered the sermon at the Scottish Parliament's weekly 'Time for Reflection' slot yesterday (Tuesday).

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson, who nominated Father Piotr to the Presiding Officer of the Parliament, commented:

“Over the years, I have been pleased to nominate many local ministers, pastors, priests and others to deliver ‘Time for Reflection’ and their contributions have always been both thoughtful and thought-provoking. I was therefore delighted to have another nomination accepted from my constituency for this important part of the Parliament’s week.”

Father Piotr’s sermon is reprinted below:
Father Piotr Rytel (Parish Priest, Our Lady of Mount Carmel RC Church, Banff):

“Presiding Officer and members of the Scottish Parliament, thank you for the opportunity to address you today. I thank Stewart Stevenson MSP for the nomination to speak. It is an honour to be here.

“My pilgrimage in the journey of my Catholic faith in Scotland began in 2013, when the Right Rev Hugh Gilbert OSB, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Aberdeen, was searching for a suitable candidate to help the growing number of Poles in the north of Scotland who were seeking pastoral support. I was appointed as a parish assistant at St Mary’s Catholic church in Inverness. My mission then, and now as a parish priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic church in Banff, not only focused on Polish chaplaincy but extended to English-speaking members of the church.

“As you know, with current difficulties growing from Brexit and Covid-19, we have to focus even more on the needs of every single individual living in Scotland, and to give them all the support that they need. As a priest, that involves touching on social care and welfare, as well as on individuals and their personal development.

“Not every eastern European is coming to Scotland to work in food processing or to do other such work. There are many ambitious people who need support in fulfilling their dreams and aspirations in their chosen country of Scotland. They want to use their talents so that they are fulfilled, both for their own benefit and to make this country better and more prosperous. We are the new Scots, too. In Galatians chapter 3 verse 28, St Paul wrote:

"'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' 

“In the light of those words, there are no natives and foreigners. Everyone who wants to live and grow in this country is equal.

“We recognise the current need to develop diversity and inclusion. Incomers to this country want to fulfil their dreams, and we need to make sure that their freedom to profess their faith and to maintain their native languages and national identities is cherished and encouraged.

“I ask of you, please, that the Scottish Parliament continues to do what is so very much appreciated by people of faith, wherever they are from, and that you continue to support and respect everyone who wants to call Scotland their home.”

19 January 2021

Stevenson Welcomes PoppyScotland Manifesto

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a report from Poppyscotland ahead of this year’s Scottish elections.

The organisation, which supports the Armed Forces community in Scotland, has outlined a number of recommendations to parliamentarians in its manifesto.

This includes the creation of a Veterans’ Patients Satisfaction Survey and the establishment of a Veterans’ Housing Action Group with powers to review challenging cases.

Due to current lockdown restrictions, an online event was held for MSPs to attend virtually.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I was delighted to attend the event launching Poppyscotland’s manifesto ahead of the Scottish elections later this year.

“The work the organisation does on behalf of the Armed Forces community in the north-east and right across Scotland is important and necessary.

“The men and women who serve in our armed forces at this very moment are helping to support the role out of the vaccination process helping to protect those most in need.

“We must listen to the voices of those who have served – and continue to serve – and support them as much as we can.”

Baroness Ruth Davidson Posted Missing in Action as Fishing Industry Suffers

Davidson Rolls Back on Joint Promise with Gove
to 'Safeguard Fishermen'

The SNP has slammed Baroness Ruth Davidson for her silence and rolling back on promises she made to the fishing industry as it suffers as result of Brexit.

Since Scotland was dragged out of the EU against its will the fishing industry has suffered from mountains of red tape and problems at the border, but Baroness Davidson has been silent on the issue.

That is despite making promises in 2018 in a joint letter with arch Brexiteer Michael Gove that she would ‘ensure that British fishermen's interests are properly safeguarded.’

Fisheries across Scotland have said that Brexit has decimated the industry as they struggle to sell their catch to the lucrative EU market, but Baroness Davidson has not said a word in favour of fishermen, putting her cushy seat in the unelected House of Lords ahead of their businesses.

It comes as Scottish fishermen lined the streets of Whitehall with their lorries to protest the injustices that have been thrust upon their industry.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“At a time when the Scottish fishing industry is looking for help and support from Scottish political leaders, the silence from Ruth Davidson has been deafening as she looks to protect her ermine cloak and place in the House of Lords come May.

“The fishing industry have been the victims of a litany of broken Tory promises and Ruth Davidson is the perfect demonstration of that having made promises alongside Michael Gove to properly safeguard the industry, but the opposite has happened with Brexit putting many firms on the brink of collapse.

“In a time of crisis, Ruth Davidson has been nowhere to be seen, but the SNP will continue to stand up for Scotland’s fishermen and mitigate the worst effects of Brexit.

“The Tories sold out Scotland’s fishing industry on the way into Europe and now they’ve sold them out again on the way out, as we always warned they would.

"The only way to protect Scotland’s fisheries is to become an independent country at the top table of the European Union.”

18 January 2021

Stevenson Calls for Extension to Additional Universal Credit Cash

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has called for the Tories to axe plans to cut universal credit by £20 a week.

A report from the Resolution Foundation has estimated Tory plans to reduce universal credit by £20 will see the incomes of many families fall by more than four percent and drive up real poverty from 21% to 23% by 2024/25.

The move would also push a further 820,000 children into poverty.

Mr Stevenson has now called on the Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross to ensure both he and his colleagues vote against the plans to reduce universal credit by £20.

It comes as the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) labour market survey, published in December, revealed redundancies hit a record high of 370,000, while the UK unemployment rate rose to 4.9 percent - with over

819,000 fewer people in employment in November than February.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The Tory plan to cut Universal Credit for millions of families is cruel, indefensible and comes at the worst possible time - in the middle of an economic crisis and global pandemic.

“Many families in the north-east will be financially worse off as a result of these plans with many children facing being forced into poverty as a result.

"Douglas Ross must order his six Scottish Tory MPs to vote with the SNP for a permanent increase to Universal Credit and legacy benefits - and back our calls for the devolution of financial, welfare and employment powers to protect families in Scotland.

"While the SNP government has led the way in tackling poverty, with new benefits like the Scottish Child Payment, Westminster has taken money away from families and increased poverty with a decade of Tory cuts.

"Scotland shouldn't have to wait for Westminster to act. The only way to secure a strong, fair and equal recovery is for Scotland to become an independent country - with the full powers needed to build a fairer society."

North-East MSPs Welcome Funding for Taxi Drivers

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have welcomed funding from the Scottish Government to help support taxi and private hire drivers.

The move was announced by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and will mean eligible drivers can claim a £1,500 grant to cover fixed costs, boosting the support available to them.

A total fund of £57million has been made available which is three times more than the allocated funding in December.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“I am delighted the Scottish Government has increased the funding available to taxi and private hire drivers. Many of these drivers in the north-east have gone above and beyond the call of duty by providing transport for key workers and taking people safely to hospital appointments.

“This substantial increase in support for them is the recognition they deserve in what has been a tough time for the industry due to the lockdown restrictions.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Despite the restrictions, many fixed costs have still remained for drivers, such as general maintenance, licence plate fees, rental fees and insurance payments and the increase in funding will cover these expensive costs. “I would urge the local council to contact firms quickly to ensure they can receive the money in their account as soon as possible.”

15 January 2021

Stevenson Warns Tories Must Deliver Compensation for Fishing Industry

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has said the Tory government must deliver a multi-billion pound package of Brexit compensation after Scottish fishermen wrote a damning letter to Boris Johnson.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) warned the Prime Minister his deal was "not what you promised the fishing industry" following two weeks of "mounting financial losses" since the hard

Tory Brexit was imposed on Scotland on 31st December.

And they warned the deal struck by the UK Government had left many in the seafood industry fearing their businesses would “not survive” as a result.

The letter warns "this industry now finds itself in the worst of both worlds" as a result of the Brexit deal, which it says is "manifestly unbalanced and against the interests of the UK fishing industry".

It accuses the Tory government of spinning lines they know aren't true with the reality that "your deal has failed the industry" and "your deal actually leaves the Scottish industry in a worse position on more than half of the key stocks".

In the letter, SFF Chief Executive Elspeth Macdonald demands details of a compensation scheme "as a matter of urgency, and of course this must be new money, and not taken from the £100 million that you have already announced for investment and innovation" - warning "there is huge disappointment and a great deal of anger about your failure to deliver on promises made repeatedly to this industry".

Despite Boris Johnson making a commitment to Parliament's Liaison Committee that fishing communities would get compensation Downing Street, and Tory Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary George Eustice, have since appeared to U-turn on this commitment.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

"This is an utterly devastating verdict on Brexit from Scotland’s fishing industry – the only sector the Tories have ever claimed could benefit from leaving the EU.

“Scotland's fishing industry- here in the north-east and across the country - is right to be angry about all the Tory lies and broken promises on Brexit, and the devastating reality of Boris Johnson's deal, which is costing fishing communities millions of pounds in lost revenue, mounting costs, red tape and barriers to trade.

"The Prime Minister must urgently deliver a multi-billion pound package of Brexit compensation for Scotland - to mitigate the damage his Tory deal has done to our economy.

“This must include major compensation for fishing businesses and communities who have been hit hard.

“Communities in the north-east and across Scotland will never forgive the Tories for the damage they are doing to our country with their extreme Brexit obsession. The litany of false claims have now been utterly exposed and mean that many people in Scotland will never trust the Tories again.

“Scotland's fishing community has been treated appallingly by the Tories. It tells you everything you need to know that the Tory fisheries minister was too busy organising a nativity trail to read the Brexit deal - and Jacob Rees-Mogg has spent the week making jokes and literally laughing about the plight of Scotland's fishing industry."

14 January 2021

North-East MSPs Welcome Funding for Schools and Families

North-east MSPs have welcomed a new package of £45million to help local authorities to provide support to schools and families as they deal with the challenges of remote learning during lockdown.

The funding was announced by Education Secretary John Swinney and councils can use the funding for purposes including recruitment of extra staff, additional digital devices or to provide additional family support.

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

The cash-boost is on top of £160 million already committed for education recovery since the start of the pandemic.

Private and third sector day care of children settings will also receive almost £4 million in temporary financial support.

Photo predates COVID
and social distancing
Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“I welcome this further tranche of funding to help support the many families across the north-east having to home school and work all in the same house.

“We know how important additional resources are to support children remote learning as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I would like to say a big thank you to all the dedicated, hard-working teachers who are having to educate children in challenging circumstances.

“And to parents who’ve face additional pressures of working from home as well helping their children to learn and care for their wellbeing.

“Funding for childcare for vulnerable children and key worker families can help to protect children at risk and allow frontline staff to help protect us all as we continue to work from home and protect one another against the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This new funding will be vital in helping to support teachers and home learning right across my constituency and indeed the country.

“Remote learning can be very difficult and funding to allow more support and to ease the burden placed on all those contributing to children’s learning is a very necessary step.”

12 January 2021

'Hammer Blow' as Scottish Seafood Exporters Losing 'Up to £1 million a day'

Tory Brexit Sell-Out Causing Chaos for Scottish Businesses

The SNP has renewed calls for the UK government to compensate businesses in Scotland suffering the effects of the Tory Brexit sell-out – after industry leaders warned that post-Brexit delays are costing Scottish seafood exporters over £1million per day.

James Withers, head of Scotland Food & Drink, told PoliticsHome that Scottish seafood exporters to the EU “could be losing upwards of one million pounds in sales a day” as a result of Brexit disruption and delays.

David Leiper, managing director of Peterhead company Seafood Ecosse, said the situation facing exporters was “a disgrace” and questioned: “Why should private companies take the pain for government incompetence?”

Alastair Roberts, who owns three fishing boats in Greenock, told LBC yesterday that Brexit “has ended up a lot worse than expected” and warned that “buyers in France, Spain, Italy […] will go elsewhere” for their seafood as a result of Brexit delays.

It has also been reported that some fish prices fell by as much as 80% at Peterhead market yesterday due to new paperwork demands and export blockages.
SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The fact that the UK government only completed the Brexit deal days before the end of the transition period - which they repeatedly refused to extend - has simply made it impossible for businesses to properly prepare.

“Scotland has been dragged out of the EU against our will and now huge damage is being done to one of our most valuable food exports, with our seafood sector being hammered to the tune of £1 million a day.

“The Tories must now answer for their betrayal of our fishing and seafood sectors, apologise to the Scottish businesses bearing the brunt of Boris Johnson's sell-out deal, and pay compensation to those who face the devastating double-whammy of Brexit during a global pandemic.

“The SNP repeatedly warned that there would be no Brexit advantage to the fish processing industry, and the Tory promise of a ‘sea of opportunity’ for the Scottish fishing industry has now been exposed as completely hollow.

"Scotland has been ignored by Westminster throughout this whole Brexit process. The only way to protect our interests, regain the benefits of EU membership and secure our place in Europe is to become an independent country."

Stevenson Slams Tories Broken Promises to North-East Farmers

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has slammed Westminster for breaking its promises to north-east farmers just weeks after the end of the Brexit transition period.

It comes after the UK Tory government announced plans to consult on the introduction of gene-editing.

Commercial planting of GM crops is currently banned in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland following decisions in 2015 – but without EU protection, the Tories are now threatening to overrule the devolved administrations and drive down Scotland’s high-quality food standards.

Despite the ban, the Tory Power Grab Bill allows ministers to override Scottish Ministers in certain areas, including in farming and food standards.

The proposal to introduce pesticide neonicotinoid is a promise which has been explicitly broken after Michael Gove promised not to U-turn on it. The pesticide is used for sugar beet but is harmful to bees.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:
“The harsh realities of the Tories’ Power Grab Bill are coming home to roost now, with Boris Johnson’s government threatening to impose GM crops on Scotland – despite a ban.

“Our local food and drink sector is world-renowned for being of the highest quality, so these plans to introduce GM crops will come as a devastating blow to the industry that is already struggling to deal with the impact of Brexit.

“Thanks to the Tories, the UK’s global reputation may well be damaged beyond repair, but we want to maintain Scotland’s clean, green reputation when it comes to food and drink standards.

“If the Tories won’t listen to the warnings from Scottish farmers right here in the north-east, and across Scotland, then it is clear the only way to protect Scotland’s interests is as an independent, European nation.”

11 January 2021

North-East MSPs Welcome Top-Up Grants for Businesses

North-east MSPs have welcomed a significant top-up grant to help support hospitality, retail and leisure businesses across the region.

In addition to the grant businesses receive through the Strategic Business Framework Fund, eligible businesses will also now get a one-off grant dependent on size.

Photo taken pre-COVID
and social distancing
Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin and Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson have welcomed the move.

It means larger hospitality businesses will receive £25,000 on top of the four-weekly £3,000 while smaller hospitality businesses will receive £6,000 on top of four-weekly payments of £2,000.

Meanwhile, larger retail and leisure businesses will receive an additional £9,000 on top of their four-weekly payment and smaller retail and leisure businesses will be eligible for £6,000 on top of their four-weekly payment.

In most cases, eligible businesses that have already applied for the 4-weekly payment from the Strategic Framework Business Fund will get an automatic top-up.

For the majority, this top-up will be combined with the next tranche of payment for the Strategic Framework Business Fund due to go to businesses on 25 January.

Businesses that haven’t yet applied for either of these funds should submit an application as soon as possible through their local authority website. Applications are now open.

Commenting, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“These grants are vital for businesses and I very much welcome this announcement by the Finance Secretary.

“I would urge businesses from across retail, hospitality and leisure to apply for funding to help them during this challenging time.

“This essential support will help to close the gaps in UK-wide support for these sectors impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I would encourage all businesses to apply through their local authority.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Since the start of the pandemic the Scottish Government support for businesses and the wider economy has reached almost £3billion.

“This funding will be available from this month and will help to double or triple in some cases, the support being provided. I echo the sentiments of the Finance Secretary and hope this support will help businesses during this time.”

Stevenson Welcomes Clmate Funding for North-East Schooli

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed funding for a north-east school to help tackle climate change.

Fraserburgh Academy has been awarded £8,612 toward food group equipment from the Community Climate Asset Fund.
Organisations across Scotland have been given funding allocations as part of the green recovery strategy set out by the Scottish Government.

The fast-tracked funding aims to help tackle climate change deliver Scotland’s green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I am delighted for Fraserburgh Academy who will greatly benefit from this award.

“Now more than ever, our work towards a Just Transition and our net zero targets is vital,,as we continue through this incredibly challenging time for us all.

“I look forward to seeing the work carried out by Fraserburgh Academy in due course.”

8 January 2021

Stevenson Urges North-East Families to Apply for New Payment

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has urged north-east families to apply for a new payment which will open next month.

The Scottish Child Payment has already received 56,000 applications from across Scotland after families were given early access due to expected demand.

Those who applied prior to the 15th of February will have their payments calculated from then.

Parents have been encouraged to make their applications now to avoid losing out on money.

The new benefit will give eligible families on tax credits or certain benefits an extra £40 every four weeks for children under six.

Scotland is the only part of the UK where this additional payment for families with young children will be available.

The Scottish Fiscal Commission has forecast that the payment could support up to 194,000 children this financial year.
Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It is clear many families have already put in their applications early and I would encourage those living in the north-east who would be eligible to also do so.

“The Scottish Child Payment is the most ambitious anti-poverty measure currently being undertaken in the UK but there are many more families who are entitled to this support and it is important they are able to get every penny that is due.

“We know how many families will have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the impact it has had on the economy.

“The form takes only 10 minutes to complete and the extra financial support could help ease financial pressure as a result of the national lockdown and following the Christmas period.”

4 January 2021

North-East MSPs Urge Everyone to Stick to Lockdown Rules Amid New Restrictions

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson and Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin are urging everyone in the north-east to adhere strictly to the new Covid restrictions announced today.

During an emergency recall of the Scottish Parliament, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that, from tomorrow and for the duration of January, there will be a legal requirement for everyone in Level 4 areas to stay at home except for essential purposes. This is similar to the lockdown of March last year.

Commenting on the new restrictions, Gillian Martin MSP said:

“I know how difficult this further lockdown will be for everyone - but it is absolutely necessary to bring this killer virus under control.

“If the country does not act now then we risk the NHS being overwhelmed and even more people will die because of this virus.

“This is not a theoretical risk – it is the desperate reality Scotland faces now and over the coming weeks.

“That means everyone must play their part in a national fightback. And that means sticking to both the letter and the spirit of the new rules. Do not look for loopholes.

“So please stay at home and don’t go out unless it is entirely necessary. And do not travel beyond Aberdeenshire if you are going out to exercise.

“If your usual exercise spot is busy, don’t add to the crowd. Try somewhere else close by where you are not giving the virus more opportunities to spread.”

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“We know there is renewed hope with the rollout beginning of a second vaccine – and they will be delivered to the population as fast as possible - but they can’t protect us all yet.

“So we must not let our guard down. Instead, we must re-double our vigilance and stick even more tightly to these toughened new rules.

“I know these sacrifices are very difficult but they will not be in place for a moment longer than absolutely necessary. But, unfortunately, they are currently more vital than ever.

“I know everyone in the north-east will play their part in this national effort and together we will get through this.

“So, please, stick to the rules: Stay Home. Save lives. Protect the NHS.”


NOTE: Photo taken before pandemic - stay at home and social distancing rules now apply.

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