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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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WHITEFORD FEARS LOSS OF HMRC EXPERIENCE DUE TO KEITH HOUSE CLOSURE

Friday, 29 January 2010

PETERHEAD STAFF AVERAGE NEARLY 20 YEARS' EXPERIENCE EACH 

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford has expressed fears that the closure of Keith House by HM Revenue & Customs could see a loss of staff experience in handling public enquiries and the Share Fishermen's Scheme.

Parliamentary Answers obtained by the SNP show that the average length of service of staff members at Keith House is 19½ years.

In addition, in response to a Parliamentary Question from Banff & Buchan MP Alex Salmond, the London Treasury has revealed that the tax take from the Share Fishermen's Scheme in 2008 in Scotland was almost double that for the remainder of the UK. As Europe's principal white fish port, it can be assumed that a large proportion of that came through Keith House.

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

"The decision taken by the London Government to close Keith House is deplorable and these figures obtained by my colleague Alex Salmond MP in response to his Parliamentary Questions highlight precisely how short-sighted a move this is.

"With the average length of service of Keith House staff being 19½ years, I have a real concern that much of this experience will be lost due to the closure as staff choose either not to be relocated or find work elsewhere.

"The London Treasury's tax take from the Share Fishermen's Scheme is, as one would expect given its relative importance to the Scottish economy, much more in Scotland than it is for the whole of the rest of the UK. It's fair to assume that much of that will come through Keith House based as it is in Europe's premier fishing constituency. This is no way to treat a loyal, experienced workforce who have specialist expertise in this field.

"In addition, the National Audit Office have just issued a damning report which shows that HM Revenue & Customs failed to answer as many as 44 million phone calls last year – 43% of the 103 million calls received - despite employing the equivalent of 10,500 full-time staff at a cost of £233m.

"The National Audit Office said the performance of 31 customer "contact centres" during 2008/09 was "unacceptable".

"If HMRC are already struggling to cope, then what kind of impact will the closure of 130 offices and loss of 1,700 staff have on already beleaguered services. For the Treasury to push ahead with these job losses is utter madness, and the public and businesses will suffer.

“If anything it seems HMRC should be increasing their staff and services to cope with their workload. We are in the teeth of recession, and it is no time for the London Government to be adding to the dole queue.

“As well as being a bitter blow to the HMRC workforce, these cuts will hit businesses and the public just when they need accessible and well-resourced services most.

“UK Ministers must get a grip with HMRC and think again over these outrageous and ill-timed job losses.”

Notes:

Details of the National Audit Office findings about HMRC can be found here:
http://www.nao.org.uk/

Copies of Parliamentary Questions tabled at Westminster by local MP Alex Salmond and colleagues follow:

Share Fisherman's Scheme: Duty

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much duty has been collected at each location from the Share Fishermen's Scheme in each of the last five years. [311962]

Mr. Timms: Payments received under the Share Fisherman's Scheme in the last five years are provided in the following table.


England, Wales and Northern Ireland (EWNI) Scotland (SCO)

2005  EWNI £1,510,180  SCO £4,636,486

2006  EWNI £1,594,124  SCO £4,804,904

2007  EWNI £1,924,492  SCO £4,540,353

2008  EWNI £2,088,202  SCO £4,057,633

2009  EWNI £1,854,100  SCO £3,051,789


http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmhansrd/cm100120/text/100120w0017.htm#10012097000629

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much in (a) direct and (b) indirect taxes was (i) collected and (ii) administered by the HM Revenue and Customs office in Peterhead in each year since 2006. [311959]

Mr. Timms: The information requested is available only at disproportionate cost due to the work required to extract it from HM Revenue and Customs' systems.

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many staff were based at the office of HM Revenue and Customs and its predecessor organisations in Peterhead in each year since 2006. [311960]

Mr. Timms: The number of staff based in HM Revenue and Customs office in Peterhead for each year since 2006 is shown in the following table:

As at 1 April: Headcount FTE(1)

2006 23 (20.20)
2007 20 (17.59)
2008 18 (15.40)
2009 10 (8.40)

(1) FTE relates to full time equivalent.

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer from which HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) offices the Shares Fishermen's Scheme will be administered following the closure of Keith House, Peterhead; and what steps will be taken by HMRC to retain the expertise of its staff in respect of the fishing industry following the closure. [311961]

Mr. Timms: The Share Fisherman Scheme will be administered from the HM Revenue and Customs' (HMRC's) office in Aberdeen where other work specific to the fishing industry is already carried out. HMRC's expectation is that staff in Keith House, Peterhead currently administering the scheme will relocate with their work if they are able to do so, enabling them to use their existing skills and expertise. Individual options will be explored for those who cannot relocate and the work will be continued from Aberdeen by staff with fishing industry experience.

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what consultation HM Revenue and Customs undertook with the fishing industry over the closure of Keith House, Peterhead. [311963]

Mr. Timms: HM Revenue and Customs' (HMRC) local business managers in Peterhead invited the Scottish Fishermen's Federation to comment on the proposed closure of Keith House as part of its Regional Review Programme.

Stewart Hosie (Dundee East): To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average length of service is of staff employed by HM Revenue and Customs and its predecessor organisations at each of its locations in Scotland. [311966]

Mr. Timms: The information requested is provided in the following table:

Town Office name Average length of service (years)

Aberdeen Ruby House 24.5
Ayr Russell House 25.8
Bathgate Pyramids Business Park 4.0
Buckie Moray House 22.4
Coatbridge 2 Muiryhall Street 25.2
Cumbernauld St. Mungos Road 14.8
Dumbarton 15 Meadowbank Street 25.1
Dumfries Government Buildings 25.1
Dundee Caledonian House 23.4
Dunfermline Merchiston House 28.2
Dunoon Auchencraig 18.7
East Kilbride Hawbank Stores 19.6
Plaza Tower 8.4
Queensway House 18.0
Edinburgh 44 York Place 23.9
Argyle House 14.6
Clarendon House Edinburgh 24.4
Elgin House 22.3
Erskine House 14.0
Grayfield House 17.1
Meldrum House 23.1
Saughton House 21.0
Elgin Phoenix House 25.9
Falkirk Grahame House 20.7
Galashiels New Reiver House 27.7
Glasgow Blythswood House 21.7
Cotton House 21.4
Portcullis House Glasgow 13.9
Glenrothes Saltire House 17.8
Grangemouth Custom House 25.7
Greenock 99 Dalrymple Street 28.6
Custom House Greenock 21.8
Hamilton 1 Barrack Street 26.1
Hawick Crown Building Hawick 21.2
Inverness Longman House 32.9
River House 24.2
Irvine Marress House 26.6
Kirkcaldy 26 Victoria Road 27.0
Lerwick Charlotte House 41.3
Livingston Almondvale 20.6
Barbara Ritchie House 4.9
Pentland House 20.0
Motherwell 43 Civic Square 26.3
Oban Mathieson House 44.4
Paisley Vigilant House 22.5
Gilmour House 27.8
Terminal Building Glasgow Airport 33.7
Perth 1 to 3 Water Vennel 22.2
Peterhead Keith House 19.5
Rothesay 9 King Street 26.7
Stirling Spittal Street 26.0
Ullapool 24 West Argyll Street 31.6
Wick Government Buildings 24.3

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmhansrd/cm100121/text/100121w0019.htm#10012131001381

Stewart Hosie (Dundee East): To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer with which estate partners HM Revenue and Customs holds contracts relating to accommodation and facilities management for its offices in Scotland. [311968]

Mr. Timms: HM Revenue and Customs' (HMRC) main estate partner is Mapeley with whom it holds the Strategic Transfer of the Estate to the Private Sector (STEPS) contract relating to accommodation and facilities management for offices in Scotland and throughout the UK. HMRC also has estate contracts with London and Regional Properties for two offices in Scotland, one in Edinburgh and one in Glasgow.

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LOCAL MP & SNP CANDIDATE TO VISIT HATTON BAKERY

Banff & Buchan MP Alex Salmond and SNP Westminster candidate Eilidh Whiteford will visit Murdoch Allan & Sons, Station Road, Hatton on Monday 1 February at 11.00am.
Managing Director Paul Allan will greet the visitors and brief them on latest product development before touring the factory and meeting staff. Peterhead South & Cruden councillor Stephen Smith will also be in attendance.

United Biscuits announced plans to close their factory in Hatton in September 2001. Following a campaign led by the local MP, the factory was saved from closure and taken over by Buchan firm Murdoch Allan & Sons, safeguarding over 100 years of bakery tradition and jobs in the village.

The factory is just one of a number in Banff & Buchan which faced closure in the 1990s and early 2000s which were saved from closure thanks to the efforts of Alex Salmond MP, other notable examples being Buchan Meat Producers in Turriff (now Woodhead Brothers), and a fish factory employing over 600 people in Fraserburgh.

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SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE WITH SHEEP EID SCHEME WELCOMED BY WHITEFORD

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed the announcement from Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead of Scottish Government support for the sheep sector for the implementation of electronic tagging.

The UK Government and the previous Liberal/Labour Scottish Executive agreed to the EU's Sheep ID plans back in 2003. Since that time, SNP Euro-MPs and, since 2007, the new SNP Scottish Government have been working to minimise the effect of the regulations on the industry and keep costs and administration to as low a level as possible.

NFU Scotland President Jim McLaren has described the measures on offer from the Scottish Government as "a tremendous package".

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

"Electronic tagging of sheep has been controversial, not least because it has been introduced as a result of the London Government taking its eye off the ball in Europe and signing up to something that no competent Scottish administration would have allowed, had Scotland had its own voice in Europe.

"However, Richard Lochhead and his SNP Euro-MP colleagues have fought tooth and nail at every opportunity to ensure that the administrative and cost burdens of this scheme are as limited as they can be. I saw sheep going through the electronic tag reader which is already in place at Thainstone Mart last week and it was underlined to me by ANM Group General manager John Gregor in my discussions with him that minimising the cost and the bureaucracy is key not only to the success of the scheme but also to the future of the sheep sector.

"Richard Lochhead has come forward with a set of proposals which do exactly that and I am pleased that NFU Scotland has voiced their support for the support package on offer from the SNP Government."

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson added:

"Electronic tagging of sheep has been a major issue at my meetings with NFU branches and individual farmers for some time now.

"It's still immensely disappointing that successive Unionist administrations signed up for this with little or no thought as to the consequences for Scotland. However, I know that Richard Lochhead will continue to fight for concessions from Europe on the one hand, while making every effort to minimise the impact on the sheep industry of this measure which Scotland never sought and didn't want."

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WHITEFORD CONDEMNS ‘IRRESPONSIBLE’ BBC PROGRAMME

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford has condemned the BBC for screening a programme titled “Britain’s Really Disgusting Food: Fish” which presented a highly misleading and biased view of the fishing industry, when the reality is that Scottish fishermen, backed by the SNP Government, have been leading European efforts to conserve North Sea and west coast fish stocks.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

"The programme completely ignores the efforts of the Scottish fishing industry to ensure the sustainability of our fisheries. The Scottish fleet has been at the forefront of pioneering conservation measures, and we are seeing positive results.

“It's totally irresponsible of the BBC to peddle such one-sided nonsense as telling people not to eat haddock, when it is healthy, nutritious food from well-managed stocks."

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WARNING OVER TORY PLAN TO CUT CASH FOR DESERVING PROJECTS

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

SCOTTISH GOOD CAUSES AT RISK OF LOTTERY LOSS

The SNP has warned that hundreds of good causes and worthy projects across Scotland could lose out on millions of pounds of funding if the Tories get into power.

The Conservatives have vowed to get rid of all non-voluntary and community sector (non-VCS) Big Lottery Fund awards if they form the next London Government – with Tory frontbench spokesperson, Jeremy Hunt MP, explicitly stating: “one of the first things a Conservative Government will do will be to restore the Lottery to its original four good causes. The Big Lottery Fund will – explicitly –only fund projects in the voluntary and community sectors.”

In an answer to a Parliamentary Question from the SNP, the London Government revealed that in the last 4 years £312 million has been awarded to statutory bodies across the UK by the Big Lottery Fund. In Scotland hundreds of non-VCS organisations, the vast majority of them schools, benefited from over £4 million of lottery cash last year alone.

The money has been used to help initiatives across Scotland from sensory gardens for severely disabled children to training for those suffering from autism to educational support for pre-school children.

In Banff & Buchan, local examples of awards included £9000 granted to Whitehills Harbour Commissioners' project to enhance the harbour; over £4000 to Longside School for a long-jump pit and primary decathlon set, down to £495 for Kininmonth School's netball project as part of the 2014 Communities programme for the Commonwealth Games.

Commenting on the shock plans, SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford said:

“David Cameron’s plans would strike at the heart of the important work these organisations are doing for people in Scotland.

“What the Conservatives are trying to package nicely as “restoring funding” will actually mean funding cuts for these good causes. These organisations will effectively be cut off from the cash on which they rely. What is especially distasteful is that these projects are initiatives like sensory gardens for severely disabled children or training for those suffering from autism or educational support for pre-school children.

“A lottery grant has proved to be the winning ticket for many deserving projects, allowing them to flourish and expand. Almost all of this money went to schools through Awards for All. Are the Tories really saying school children shouldn’t benefit from lottery funding?

“The great irony is that the Tories claim they want a lottery independent of the government but one of the first things they plan to do if they get into Downing Street is dictate to the Big Lottery fund what they can and can’t support.

“These findings will be a dramatic warning for voters of the price Scotland will pay if the Tories get into power, and this will be a key election issue on the doorsteps.”

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SNP CANDIDATE MEETS ABERDEEN & NORTHERN MARTS GENERAL MANAGER

WHITEFORD VISITS THAINSTONE

Thainstone is the 'beating heart of the North-east farming industry'. That was the view of SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford after touring the Thainstone Centre, home of Aberdeen & Northern Marts on Friday with General Manager John Gregor who briefed her on current livestock issues.

During her visit, the SNP candidate also met with local farmers, Thainstone Centre retailers and financial services staff. Commenting after her visit, Eilidh Whiteford said:

"I'm very grateful to General manager John Gregor for taking time out on a busy Friday to give me a tour of the facility and update me on current issues.

"The Thainstone Centre is celebrating its 20th anniversary at the moment and it is a truly magnificent facility which serves the industry well – it truly is the beating heart of the North-east farming industry.

"It was good to visit on such a busy day and see at first hand the sort of prices which the store cattle and sheep were making.

"But as John told me, Thainstone serves as so much more than just a mart and has interests far beyond farming. With the Exchange building hosting events such as Taste of Grampian, conferences and other events, Thainstone really does have a lot to offer and not only underpins the agriculture industry but is a valuable resource for the entire community."

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PERMANENT STATUS FOR COMMUNITY WARDENS AFTER COUNCIL BACKING

Friday, 15 January 2010

The Community Warden Scheme is to become permanent after Aberdeenshire Council gave its backing to extending the scheme. The council's Policy and Resources Committee met yesterday (Thursday) and agreed to endorse the scheme.

Peterhead SNP councillor and member of the Policy and Resources Committee Cllr Stephen Smith told the meeting that the Community Wardens were a valuable asset to the town and the work they did was greatly appreciated. The Committee also heard that there have been significant improvements in a range of indicators relating to anti-social behaviour showing the effectiveness of the wardens.

News that the wardens scheme was to be made permanent was welcomed by SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford.

Speaking during the committee meeting, which was held in Woodhill House, Cllr Stephen Smith said:

"I'm delighted by this decision. I know from the local Community Councils, local organisations and constituents that the Community Wardens provide an effective service and have shown to deliver results.

"It has been an uncertain time for them as the scheme was only temporary and has been extended a couple of times but this decision now means that it will become permanent. Not only that, but the expertise developed by the wardens will now be available to other communities outside Peterhead on a needs basis.

"I was please also to receive a commitment from officials that the wardens will be brought up to full strength with the currently vacant post being filled."

SNP candidate Eilidh Whiteford added:

"This is very good news indeed. I know that Stephen has been a vocal supporter of the Community Warden scheme at several meetings of the council in the run-up to this decision so I'm very pleased that Peterhead and other communities in Buchan are now set to benefit from the scheme becoming permanent."

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SNP CANDIDATE URGES REFUSAL ON INCINERATOR PLANS

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford has urged councillors from across Aberdeenshire to vote against controversial plans for an incinerator on the outskirts of Peterhead.

Councillors will vote on the plans at a meeting of Aberdeenshire Council to be held on Thursday in Woodhill House, Aberdeen.  Last month saw the Buchan Area Committee of the council split almost down the middle when it narrowly backed the proposal by 6 votes to 5.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

"This is not the right development for this site. I hope that when councillors from across Aberdeenshire weigh up their decision, they will listen to the Council's own planning officials who have recommended that it be refused.

"One of my chief concerns is that an incinerator on this site will deter other business investment from the area, and undermine the Council's current efforts to encourage clean, green renewable energy-related industries to set up here as part of the new Energetica corridor.

"My other major concern is that those proposing this development have singularly failed to allay the fears of people living locally that it will have a detrimental effect on their quality of life. In these circumstances, the people of Peterhead should not have this development forced upon them."

68 councillors are eligible to vote on Thursday, including the 11 members of the Buchan Area Committee who have already expressed their view at their own Committee Meeting.

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SALMOND AND WHITEFORD SLAM PETERHEAD HMRC DECISION

Responding to the news that the Peterhead HMRC Office at Keith House is to close in the coming financial year (2010/11) and that staff will have to take a decision on whether or not to accept redundancy by 8 February, Banff & Buchan MP Alex Salmond said:

“Keith House is a centre of excellence in handling the tax affairs of the fishing industry. Once these specialist staff either move on or take redundancy, their expertise will be lost to the industry and to HMRC forever.

“This is a ludicrous and short-sighted decision. I’m sorry that the compelling business case presented by the HMRC staff and the appeals of local politicians has fallen on deaf ears in the Treasury.

“It seems that everyone can see the logic of retaining these specialist staff in Peterhead except for senior HMRC management and the Ministers themselves.”

SNP Westminster Candidate for Banff and Buchan, Eilidh Whiteford, added:

“While it’s not a surprise that HMRC has announced that it intends to go ahead with the closure, it’s no less disappointing for that. My thoughts are with the workers who are affected and their families.

“The staff in the Peterhead office have provided an efficient and effective service to the whole community for many years, and it beggars belief that the knowledge and relationships they have built up in the fishing industry can be discarded so lightly by HMRC.

“The proposed part-time replacement ‘face to face’ service will be an extremely poor substitute for the accessibility and expertise of the tax staff in Keith House.”

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WHITEFORD & STEVENSON WELCOME PRESCRIPTION CHARGE CUT TO £3

TAX ON ILL HEALTH ON WAY OUT WITH SNP

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed the publication by the Scottish Government of regulations which will see prescription charges cut from £4 to £3 from April 1st this year. As of next year it is planned to abolish the charge completely.

The planned legislation will also see the cost of a four-month Pre-Payment Certificate (PPC) reduced from £13 to £10 and a twelve-month PPC from £38 to £28.

Commenting the SNP's Eilidh Whiteford said:

"In these tough economic times reducing prescription charges will particularly help many people who need medicines but find it difficult to afford them.

"The SNP is bringing down the cost of prescription drugs and we will see this tax on ill health abolished next year.

"The early evidence of last year's reduction show that it is those with long term conditions who have to live with the cost of medicines who have benefited most from these cuts."

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson also welcomed the news saying:

"Prescription charges are a tax on ill health and are unacceptable in a modern society. The take up of prescriptions has increased as charges have fallen which clearly shows that people in Banff & Buchan and elsewhere were suffering because of cost.

”If prescription charges remain a barrier to people treating ill health then the burden is shifted back to GPs and hospital treatment that is why free prescriptions are right and effective.

"There are many people on modest means who need long term treatment who suffer because of the tax on ill health that prescription charges represent and I am delighted that the SNP Scottish Government is successfully phasing them out."

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WHITEFORD WELCOMES LOCHHEAD PLEDGE ON SHEEP TAGGING RULES

Saturday, 9 January 2010

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed the statement from Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead that there is no need for immediate action on new sheep tagging rules.

Although the European regulations on Electronic Identification (EID) came into force on January 1, they apply to lambs born after December 31 and even then only when they reach 9 months old or leave the farm of birth.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

"In the face of Europe's decision to introduce sheep EID, we have fought tirelessly to secure concessions even though we always faced an uphill struggle after the UK Government with the support of the previous Scottish administration signed up to them a few years ago. The important concessions we have since secured will reduce the impact of the regulation and cut farmers costs' by around 50 per cent.

"In the meantime it is important that farmers realise that electronic tagging is only required for lambs born after December 31. That gives farmers a few months to prepare and we will be issuing detailed implementation guidance in the New Year. The recent consultation on their implementation was very helpful but there remains a few issues to be ironed out and I have been discussing with the industry in recent weeks how best to take these forward.

"However, I wish to make it clear that in taking decisions over which derogations should be used and how we implement sheep EID in Scotland, my guiding principles will be simplicity and practicality. Most of all, I want to avoid introducing any regime that ends up causing problems and has to be fixed in a year or two because we took the wrong decisions now. I will of course being paying close attention to the potential costs under each scenario for our valuable sheep sector."

Banff & Buchan candidate Eilidh Whiteford added:

"As well as securing concessions in Europe on critical control points and phased implementation, the Scottish Government has also taken a number of other steps to reduce the impact of the new rules and ensure successful implementation.

"These include support of up to £1000 per farm for the purchase of electronic reading equipment; a £3 million research pilot to find the best solutions for implementing the rules in Scotland; and a database to help producers meet their legal obligations and provide valuable feedback.

"Of course, we would not be in this position now if Scotland had had it's own voice at the top table in Europe when all of this was signed away and agreed to years ago by the London Government aided by their Lib-Lab colleagues in the old Scottish Executive.

"This underlines the need for strong Scottish representation in Europe and is why rural Scotland continues to back the SNP, as confirmed again by last year's Euro-elections."

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SNP CALL FOR COLD WEATHER AND WINTER FUEL PAYMENT INCREASE

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford has backed demands by leading charities today (Saturday) for the UK Government to increase cold weather fuel payments to pensioners and vulnerable households. Dr Whiteford also revealed that the SNP is set to raise the issue in the UK Parliament next week.

Age Concern and Help the Aged have warned that existing UK Government support will not be enough to prevent a soaring death rate among older people.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“This has not just been a cold snap, but a sustained period of freezing weather which seems set to continue and the UK Government must take immediate action to help vulnerable households.

“Cold weather and winter fuel payments have not kept pace with the soaring increases in domestic energy bills over recent years and UK Ministers must take action to help vulnerable households – many of which were already in fuel poverty.

“Clearly a combination of the extreme weather, increasing bills and the real difficulties people face because of the recession make the situation much worse than in previous years.

“Not only is the UK Government failing to deal with fuel poverty, but some policies, such as the levy on domestic heating oil or liquid petroleum gas users in rural areas will make matters worse – these energy customers do not have access to the social tariffs available to gas customers, for example.

“It is incredible that a country with Scotland's energy resources should be put in such a position by the incompetence of the London Administration. Westminster needs a wake up call on fuel poverty and the SNP will be leading demands in parliament next week for an increase in help for vulnerable households.”

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WHITEFORD ENCOURAGES LOCAL RESIDENTS TO BE “GOOD WINTER NEIGHBOURS”

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford today urged people across Banff & Buchan to respond to the current cold weather by looking out for vulnerable people in their communities.
The SNP candidate said:

“With conditions forecast to remain arctic for some time to come, the Council and emergency services will be at full stretch trying to keep major routes open and attend to the most pressing emergencies.

“If you are able to, it would be an ideal time to check on elderly or vulnerable neighbours, make sure they have heat and that pre-payment meters are topped up. If you are in an area where there has been heavy snowfall, you may be able to help clear paths.

“I would urge people to consider what they could do to be a good winter neighbour while current conditions persist.

“It’s also important to remember the Scottish Government’s Energy Assistance Package is available and can be accessed by calling the Energy Saving Trust on 0800 512 012 or visiting http://www.energyassistancepackage.com/.”

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson added:

“The weather we have seen in the North-east is incredibly exceptional and with the conditions set to continue for some time yet it could be worst period of winter weather since records began.

"There is clearly frustration from people at the condition of roads and pavements and I am sure given the severity of the weather, the Council will wish to see if any lessons can be learnt to be prepared for any repeat in future years. In the meantime, I fully support Eilidh’s call for local residents to be good neighbours when it comes to clearing pavements or offering to pick up items at the shops for elderly and infirm. I also pay tribute to the many unsung heroes who are doing their best to keep roads and vital routes clear.

"That being said it is very important to recognise the hard work being put in by council workers, who have been working many long hours over the holiday period and continue to do so."

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BUCHAN GROUPS SET TO BENEFIT FROM MARY SALMOND TRUST

Local groups in Maud, Cuminestown and Turriff are set to benefit from awards from the Mary Salmond Trust.

The latest funding rounds which concluded in December saw Maud-based Buchan Dial-a-Bus subsidiary DAB plus cic gain £500 towards the cost of bringing drivers up to DSA test standards in the voluntary sector, while Cuminestown Youth Active Football gained £500 to assist with the purchase of 2 team kits for 10s and 12s teams and rain jackets. 2nd Turriff Boys’ Brigade also benefited with £500 towards travel costs. Across the North-east, a total of 11 groups received funding this time, sharing almost £5000.

Welcoming the awards, SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford said:

“As the UK recession bites, voluntary groups find it more and more difficult to raise funds by conventional means so new sources of funding such as this are always welcome.

“I’m delighted for the groups concerned and I’m sure that these awards will assist them in their activities. Among the things the Trust seeks do is support, promote and develop children and young people’s health, welfare, training, education, civic responsibility and volunteering for the public benefit, which I think are excellent qualities we should be encouraging in our young people.

“I would encourage any group which thinks it may qualify for assistance to get in touch with the Trust.”

The next meeting of Trustees will be held on 17 March 2010 with the closing date for receipt of Applications being 15 March.

Since the Trust was established in the summer of 2007 over £32,000 has been awarded to successful applicants.

Application forms and guidelines can be obtained from Roddy McColl Chairman of the Trust at 11 Burns Road Aberdeen AB15 4NT Tel 01224 313473 email roddy@mccollassociates.com or by accessing them online at http://www.marysalmondtrust.com/

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TURRIFF COUNCILLOR OFFICIALLY OPENS NEW BUSINESS VENTURE IN TOWN

Monday, 4 January 2010

Turriff councillor Sandy Duncan today (Monday) performed the opening ceremony at the latest new business to open up in the town.


Skin Deep Beauty Salon, operated by local woman Debbie Thomson, opened for business today at 1A Hatton Road. Also present at the opening to wish Debbie good luck in her new venture was SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford.

Speaking in Turriff today, Eilidh Whiteford said:

"I congratulate Debbie, and wish her every success in her new premises. It's great to see a young woman taking on the challenge of starting her own business.

"This is exactly the kind of enterprise that we need as we emerge from the current recession. This has been a tough a year for many businesses, but the SNP Government's abolition of business rates for small businesses has helped many local firms weather the storm."

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SNP CANDIDATE WRITES TO BBC OVER MISLEADING WEBSITE

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford hit out today at misleading information being provided by the BBC's Democracy Live web site.

Following complaints from constituents, Dr Whiteford conducted a series of tests of the new facility which is designed to assist the public in identifying who their parliamentary representatives are.

Speaking today she said,

"When I put my own Macduff post code I discovered that the BBC suggested that I was represented by the list MSPs for the Highlands and by the MP and the MSP for Gordon. The majority of representatives shown were wrong and all the North-east regional MSPs were omitted.

"Using various post codes across Scotland, I was unable to find one without error.

"In the run up to the Westminster election, it is important that people wishing to quiz their current representatives are provided with accurate information. I have written to the BBC asking them to withdraw this facility until its many errors are corrected."

Notes:

The facility may be accessed at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/scotland_politics/default.stm (top right of page)

Post codes checked and found in error -

AB44 1XS (Macduff) - 9 Parliamentarians incorrectly included, 7 Parliamentarians incorrectly omitted
IV3 5QA (Inverness) - 1 Parliamentarian incorrectly included
AB12 3AR (Aberdeen) - 1 Parliamentarian incorrectly included
EH7 5QZ (Edinburgh) - 5 Parliamentarians incorrectly included
EH49 7EW (Linlithgow) - 10 Parliamentarians incorrectly included, 7 Parliamentarians incorrectly omitted
G5 8TA (Glasgow) - 3 Parliamentarians incorrectly included
KY1 1SA (Kirkcaldy) - 1 Parliamentarian incorrectly included
DD2 2HB (Dundee) - 4 Parliamentarians incorrectly included
PA23 8AY (Dunoon) - 1 Parliamentarian incorrectly included
PH2 0ER (Perth) - 3 Parliamentarians incorrectly included
DG1 2RR (Dumfries) - 1 Parliamentarian incorrectly included
ZE1 0PE (Lerwick) - 1 Parliamentarian incorrectly included
EH42 1YG (Dunbar) - 1 Parliamentarian incorrectly included
FK1 5QU (Falkirk) - 2 Parliamentarians incorrectly included

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