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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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BROCH SNP COUNCILLOR IN APPROACH TO HOTEL CHAINS OVER SALTOUN ARMS

Sunday, 27 December 2009

TOPPING SAYS 'COME TO FRASERBURGH'

Fraserburgh's SNP councillor Brian Topping has taken the unprecedented step of writing to around a dozen of Europe's top hotel chains with the message 'Come to Fraserburgh'.

The councillor – himself a former executive chef in one of the town's hotels - has made his approach after learning that the former Saltoun Arms Hotel in the town had failed to sell at auction in Edinburgh. Councillor Topping has also spoken out against town centre hotels being turned into 'houses of multiple occupation' or HMOs.

Commenting on his approach to the hotel chains, Brian said:

"I for one am not going to sit back and just hope that something happens. The Broch has lost a lot of town centre businesses in recent times but there are still a lot of very good local enterprises out there. The town centre has had a bit of a boost with Iceland opening up recently but we need more. I am also disappointed as someone who worked at the Station Hotel for many years that it is not now operating as a hotel.

"People who know me know that I take every opportunity I can to promote Fraserburgh and I will continue to do that.

"I have therefore written to around a dozen of Europe's top hotel chains alerting them to the fact that the Saltoun Arms is available, is on the market, and we'd love to see one of them come to Fraserburgh and take it over.

"I have no idea whether I'll even get a response or whether we're still too far into the UK's recession for hotels to be even thinking about new acquisitions but I certainly know that if you don't try then you definitely won't succeed. The Broch has the people who can fill the jobs which would be created if one of these hotel chains does decide to come here."

In his letter, Councillor Topping states:

"I am writing to you as the Aberdeenshire councillor for the town of Fraserburgh to draw to your attention the availability of the Saltoun Arms Hotel which I believe could represent an exciting opportunity for your hotel company.

"The town of Fraserburgh is a vibrant fishing port and is one of the pre-eminent shellfish and white fish ports in the EU. In recent years, major tourist attractions such as Scotland's National Lighthouse Museum and the award-winning Fraserburgh Heritage Centre have opened up. The town also boasts a superb 18-hole golf course and has several miles of magnificent sandy beaches which can lay claim to some of the best conditions for windsurfers in the country.

"However, Fraserburgh desperately lacks hotel accommodation and the associated function capabilities which a town of this size (population over 12,000) with its large rural hinterland should have."

Councillor Topping then goes on to offer the services of Aberdeenshire Council's Economic Development Department to those who are interested.

The move has been welcomed by SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford, who said:

"This is typical of Brian's 'can-do' approach to things and he is very much to be congratulated for his initiative.

"It is absolutely vital that Fraserburgh does not lose out by not having enough hotel accommodation. As Brian points out in his letter to the hotel chains, the Broch has a lot to offer visitors which those of us who live locally don't always recognise.

"But there's also the wider message that this send out about the town if we allow town centre hotels to be lost forever. Brian therefore has my full support in what he is trying to achieve and I hope he is successful in his aims."

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WHITEFORD & SALMOND HIT OUT AT SPIRALLING FUEL COSTS

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford and local MP Alex Salmond have called on the UK Government to reconsider its fuel duty escalator planned for April 2010 as the petrol prices soar across Scotland. They also highlighted the higher petrol prices which motorists are subjected to in rural Banff & Buchan.

According to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), average petrol prices across the UK rose by 2.9p to 108.3p a litre in November – but in parts of rural Scotland, the price has risen to as much as 115p per litre. In many areas of the North-east prices are again nudging 110p per litre and above for petrol and diesel.

SNP MPs have long campaigned for an overhaul of the current fuel taxation system, which discriminates against rural Scotland in particular with fuel being a necessity and not a luxury.

The SNP's Westminster Group of MPs have put forward solid alternative fuel taxation proposals. Their proposals for a Fuel Duty Regulator would offset increased VAT paid on fuel as oil prices rise by reducing fuel tax. The overall result being the same amount of taxation income for the Treasury but cheaper pump prices.

Commenting, SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford said:

“The soaring prices we are seeing at the pumps now are just a glimpse of what is to come next year. In addition to rising inflation, 2010 will see increased VAT and the UK Government’s absurd fuel duty escalator which will push prices through the roof.

“Treasury Ministers in London fail to understand that in rural areas the operation of a car is a necessity rather than a choice. They must reconsider their disastrous fuel duty escalator."

Banff & Buchan MP Alex Salmond added:

“At present, taxes account for just over 70% of every pound spent at the pumps. The price of fuel influences the cost of every commodity and service brought to the area.

“Instead of pushing prices up with further tax hikes, the UK Government should be cancelling their fuel duty escalator and looking at measures which will stabilise fuel prices such as the SNP’s fuel duty regulator.”

“An oil rich nation such as Scotland should be reaping the benefits from our natural resources – not watching as North Sea revenues flow into a black hole in Treasury coffers while the Scottish budget is slashed.

“Westminster is holding Scotland back. We need the full fiscal powers of a normal, independent nation so we can set fair taxes that do not penalise rural motorists."

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GREEN LIGHT FOR ABERDEEN BYPASS WELCOMED

Monday, 21 December 2009

DECISION IS EARLY CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOR NORTH-EAST

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford and local MSP Stewart Stevenson have welcomed the much anticipated Scottish Government announcement approving the precise plans for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR).

The planned road has been in discussion for many years, but today’s (Monday) announcement represents its final hurdle and work is expected to commence in the New Year.

Welcoming the announcement as a boost for the North-east economy, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“This decision will be warmly welcomed by people in Banff & Buchan who currently face serious congestion problems on a regular basis. When completed, the AWPR will provide a real economic boost to the entire region as journey times come down.

“This is a real good news story for the North-east and is a further sign of the SNP Government’s continued commitment to investing in the region. This has been a project that has long been needed, but I am delighted that we have now reached this point and that work will be going ahead.”

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson added:

“This is the best possible early Christmas present for residents and businesses in Banff & Buchan.

“The road haulage industry will also breathe a sigh of relief as the road will remove one of the major bottlenecks for lorries heading North and South of Aberdeen, greatly reducing transport times and cost.

“It will also be a big boost for the local construction industry as this project will secure jobs over the coming years and ensure developments for the future.

“This proves that all the doomsayers who said it would never be built are wrong, the SNP are investing in the North-east, something which others consistently failed to do.”

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LOCAL GROUPS BENEFIT FROM SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT BLITZ ON CROOKS

Friday, 18 December 2009

'CASHBACK FOR COMMUNITIES' RECEIVES FUNDS SEIZED AS PROCEEDS OF CRIME

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has announced that million pounds of crooks' money will be distributed between more than 230 youth projects right across Scotland.

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford and local MSP Stewart Stevenson have hailed this significant boost to a number of local youth projects in the North-east. The successful applicants for a share of Round Three CashBack for Communities YouthLink Scotland funding - money seized from organised crime gangs but returned to communities to encourage healthy activities – include several within Banff & Buchan.

Aberdeenshire is also punching above its weight in the funding stakes with the amount Aberdeenshire is receiving being above it's pro-rata level of 5.5% of all funding announced, compared to a pro-rata population of 4.7%.

Welcoming the announcement from the Justice Secretary, Eilidh Whiteford said:

"It is particularly pleasing that so many local groups are benefiting from this scheme at a time when funding is in short supply. Pressure on the lottery from the London Olympics and the economic downturn means it is becoming more difficult for organisations to access funding.

"I'm therefore delighted that this Scottish Government scheme which aims to deprive criminals of their assets is helping our communities in this way."

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson added:

"CashBack for Communities is a programme of diversionary activities for young people to increase the opportunities they have to develop their interests and skills in an enjoyable, fulfilling and supported way.

"Using funds recovered from the proceeds of crime, the Scottish Government has committed to investing over £13 million in a range of CashBack projects for young people."

Note:

Among the local groups to benefit from the Cashback for Communities scheme are:

£2,515.00 Mintlaw Youth group - Central Buchan Youth Forum
To train the young people to run the café and achieve certificates in Emergency first aid, elementary food hygiene and confidence to cook

£480.00 St Fergus School Sailing Club
Sailing lessons

£10,000.00 Grampian Police Rock Challenge
A performing arts initiative that delivers messages relating to alcohol, anti social behaviour and substance use and misuse

£4324.00 Banff Area Youth Forum
Continuation of youth work service to young people aged 16+

£3596.00 Peterhead Action Group
To deliver summer activiites

£10,000.00 Brighter Horizons
Increase opening hours of drop in. Car driving initiative. Get up and go. Summer programme. Young mum's group. Train youth volunteers - youth work training. Streetwork. Football sessions. Decorate 2 rooms in the facility

£2356.00 Aberdeenshire Council (1)
For stage 3 of Youth Scotland's involvement training, young trainers will put on 6 training events open to all young people

£3614.00 Aberdeenshire Council (2)
To put on 3 conferences within Aberdeenshire

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NORTH-EAST SHORTBREAD IN BRUSSELS SHOWCASE

Thursday, 10 December 2009

St Andrew's Day Theme in European Parliament

Scottish National Party President and Euro-MP Ian Hudghton sponsored part of the annual St Andrew's Day celebration at the European Parliament in Brussels, by commissioning a consignment of shortbread from Banffshire bakers, Donalds of Portsoy.

As part of his extensive annual summer tour, the MEP had visited the bakery in September to tour the facility and arrange a special delivery to the European Parliament. The shortbread took pride of place in the Parliament Lobby, where eager diners appreciated the Scottish delicacy as part of events to mark St Andrew’s Day.


Speaking from Brussels, Ian Hudghton MEP said:

“I am always on the lookout for ways to promote Scottish produce and business to a wider audience, and the shortbread from Donalds Bakers proved a big hit at the European Parliament’s St Andrew’s Day celebrations.

“With 27 EU member states represented here, and frequent visitors from around the world coming to the EU Parliament, this is an excellent venue in which to raise awareness of all things Scottish before a global audience.”

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford, who was in Brussels for agriculture and fisheries meetings, said:

“People from all over the EU have been enjoying Donald's shortbread. It disappeared in minutes. It's a great advert for Scottish artisan produce.”

Banff & Buchan MP and First Minister Alex Salmond also dropped by and sampled some of the shortbread whilst in Brussels on Scottish Government business.

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SALMOND & WHITEFORD WELCOME POST BANK CONSULTATION

"MODEL MUST FOCUS ON NEEDS OF COMMUNITIES"

Banff & Buchan MP Alex Salmond has welcomed the UK Government’s consultation on developing Post Bank services and is urging people from across the constituency to make their views known.

The local MP has been a long-time supporter of the Post Office and has opposed closures and the loss of services such as TV Licensing from the network.

Mr Salmond believes the creation of a ‘Post Bank’ will allow many more people on lower incomes to open a bank account and get a mortgage or loan, making it easier for first-time buyers to qualify for its mortgages. It could also see the Post Office offering more financial services to small businesses.

It also holds out the prospect of allowing those on state benefits to set up direct debits – something which will allow them to take advantage of cheaper energy deals instead of relying on expensive pre-pay meters.

However, the MP has warned that the focus of the consultation must be on the needs of communities – not the needs of banks.

Commenting, Alex Salmond said:

“I think this could be a very valuable initiative. Sadly, the Post Office closure programme has decimated the number of Post Offices across the country. In many of these communities the "traditional" banks have also long since gone.

“Here in Banff & Buchan there is huge support for our Post Offices which has been demonstrated by strong responses to previous consultations and campaigns to protect services.

“We now need to look to the future and see how new services can be introduced at the remaining post offices to build on the network for the future and also to provide much needed financial services.”

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford added:

"Post Offices are not just a business but also provide an invaluable social role, especially in rural communities. They are a focal point for people with information on local events and services, as well as being a meeting point. All of this is additional to the core over-the-counter services but the combination of these things is what makes our Post Office network so critcial.

"In many communities, small businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to get finance from the large banks, despite the fact that they are now largely owned by the taxpayer. It is also clear that the large banks really do not always wish to engage with small savers and borrowers - their deals are all targeted at those who can deposit large sums every month.

"The Post Bank concept gives the opportunity to create a bank that will concentrate on small savers and small businesses, providing essential services in our communities."

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WELCOME FOR BINGO DUTY DECREASE, BUT TOO LATE FOR MACDUFF

Commenting on the Chancellor’s pre-budget report commitment to cut bingo duty from 22 per cent to 20 per cent, SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford expressed regret that the Treasury has not listened to calls to bring Bingo taxation into line with taxation of other gaming activities.

SNP MPs have long campaigned for an end to the unfair taxation scheme which has put great strain on business and played a contributing role in the closure of 31 clubs in 2008/09.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made a step in the right direction, but it’s unfortunately too late for clubs such as Macduff. It does not go far enough towards bringing bingo taxation into line with other gaming activities.

“Bingo actually has a serious social role to play because research has shown that provides a great many people who are elderly and live alone with a social focus. And apart from being good fun it also keeps the mind active.

“Other gambling activities are taxed at 15 per cent and the bingo industry should not be singled out for harsh treatment. It’s good news that Labour is starting to see the error of its ways and beginning to back bingo.”

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WHITEFORD TO DRAW CROSSROADS CHRISTMAS RAFFLE

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford will be making the draw for the Crossroads Caring for Carers Christmas Raffle on Thursday 10 December at 19 Seaforth Street, Fraserburgh at 12.00pm.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

"Crossroads in Fraserburgh does a tremendous job providing short breaks for people looking after frail, sick or disabled relatives at home. Christmas is supposed to be a happy time of year, but it can also be very stressful, especially for those who are already stretched by caring responsibilities.

"Most of us will find ourselves caring for an elderly or sick family member or friend at some point in our lives. It's vital that those caring at home get the help and support they need, and also get some time to themselves, to relax or catch up with other day-to-day activities. The services offered by Crossroads Fraserburgh offer invaluable support to those in the Broch and the surrounding area looking after loved ones at home.

"I'm delighted to have been asked to draw the Crossroads Christmas Raffle, and very happy to support this very worthy local cause."

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WHITEFORD WELCOMES EURO-MP's COMMITMENT TO TABLE AMENDMENTS IN BRUSSELS

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Public Hearings on reform of the Common Fisheries Policy taking place in Brussels this week were an opportunity for Members of the European Parliament and experts that included industry representatives to voice opinions and concerns on the European Commission's current White Paper on CFP Reform.
SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford accompanied Euro-MP Ian Hudghton who has resolved to table amendments in the European Parliament to reflect the concerns of the Scottish fishing industry.

Ian Hudghton MEP, who spoke during the sessions, said:

"I am encouraged that nearly all the experts who contributed to the public hearing stressed the need for some form of decentralisation, and stressed the fact that the CFP has been an unmitigated failure up until now.

"Scottish fishing leaders made impassioned contributions at the hearings, voicing the distinct needs of our whitefish, nephrops and pelagic sectors, and the need for policies that promote economic and social sustainability alongside conservation.

"I will be tabling amendments in the European Parliament that reflect the concerns of the Scottish fleets, and seek to return genuine control of fisheries management to Europe's fishing nations."

Eilidh Whiteford, who also attended the Public Hearings, commented:

"It's clear that fishing industry representatives from several parts of Europe share the Scottish Government's vision of a more regionalised approach to fisheries management. We heard repeatedly from experts, and those who represent fishing communities that urgent action is needed on the CFP, and that a 'one size fits all' approach simply does not work.

"Scottish fishermen are leading the rest of Europe in sustainable fishing practices, but we need to ensure that fishing is also economically viable, sustaining jobs and livelihoods in our coastal communities."

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FARMERS SHOULD NOT BE EXPECTED TO CARRY DISPROPORTIONATE BURDEN OF RESPONSIBILITY ON CLIMATE CHANGE – WHITEFORD


SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford and Euro-MP Ian Hudghton were in Brussels today for a meeting at the European Parliament on climate change and food policy.
Commenting afterwards, Ian Hudghton MEP said:

“Scottish farmers are already doing a lot to tackle climate change, and farming livestock in sustainable ways. Europe already has the highest standards of animal husbandry and welfare in the world, and Scotch beef and lamb are renowned for their high quality.

"Sizable areas of land where sheep and cattle are grazed are simply not suitable for arable cultivation. Such grazing land is also a 'carbon sink'; grazing animals is a sustainable way to manage it. That needs to be acknowledged when the environmental impact is being assessed.”

Eilidh Whiteford, SNP Westminster Candidate for Banff & Buchan, who also attended the session, said:

“Everyone has a part to play in reducing damaging carbon emissions and we must not expect Scottish farmers, who are custodians of our rural environment and already making huge strides in tackling climate change, to carry a disproportionate level of responsibility.

“All of us can make a difference by using less, reusing more, recycling where possible, and being conscientious in how we use energy and other resources. Those who enjoy prime quality Scottish meat as part of a balanced diet should continue to tuck in with a clear conscience."

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