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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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LOCAL MP ADDRESSES BANFF ACADEMY SENIOR PRIZEGIVING

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford gave the address and presented the prizes at this year’s senior prizegiving at her old school, Banff Academy.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“I was genuinely delighted to be invited back to the school, and very pleased to be able to be here for the senior prize giving. In my day it wasn’t quite so grand or formal an occasion, but I think it’s only right that the parents, teachers and friends come together to commend the efforts and achievements of Banff Academy pupils who have excelled over the last year.”

Addressing the pupils at the prizegiving ceremony, the MP said:

“The most important thing I can say this evening is to congratulate those of you who have been awarded prizes on your academic achievements, and your efforts on behalf of the wider community.”

Dr Whiteford went on to discuss the disincentive that tuition fees presents to aspiring students:

“I’m sure that quite a number of you here tonight have hopes and plans to go to university or college after the summer, or in years to come. In recent weeks, I don’t think I’ve spoken to any young people aspiring to university, or indeed their parents, who have not expressed concerns about the £9,000 a year tuition fees that will now apply at most of the top universities south of the border.

“I really cannot think of a greater disincentive to education, a greater barrier to opportunity for all according to ability, or a more short-sighted measure. I’m very proud that the Scottish Government has resisted immense pressure to go down a similar route for the Scottish universities, and that Scottish domiciled students studying in Scotland will still be able to enjoy a free education at our world class universities, based on ability to learn, not ability to pay.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the individual benefits that derive from a university education, and less about the benefits to society as a whole. It’s undoubtedly true that graduates tend to earn higher salaries, and are more able to choose careers that they find meaningful and fulfilling. But we also need to remember that those on better wages contribute far more in tax revenues, as you would expect in any progressive tax system; we also need to remember that many graduates do essential, highly skilled jobs that are not particularly lucrative. In my view we need to ask ourselves if we want to live in a low skill, low wage economy, or a high skill, high wage economy.

“If we see higher education only as a cost to the country, rather than an investment in our young people and the future of our country, in my view we’re in danger of becoming like the man the Irish poet and dramatist Oscar Wilde described as knowing “the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

“Or to put it another way, “Education is the wellspring of our health, wealth and happiness” Those were the opening words of a report that crossed my desk recently, and I don’t think I could have put it better. And nor could I think of a more appropriate way to conclude my remarks tonight.

“Congratulations to you all - and I wish Banff Academy, its students and teachers, every continued success.”

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Local MP Welcomes Growth of Fraserburgh Business

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Local MP Eilidh Whiteford this week visited Mewstead (Fraserburgh) LLP to mark the ongoing success of the Fraserburgh-based business. Owners George Tait, Challenge Fishing Company Limited and Zander West, Daystar BF350 Limited welcomed Dr Whiteford to one of their Pelagic trawlers in Fraserburgh Harbour, along with Alan Smith and Mark Gall from the company’s banker, The Royal Bank of Scotland.

Challenge Fishing Company and Daystar BF350 Limited are members of Mewstead (Fraserburgh) LLP, which was created in 2001 between three well known local fishing families. The partnership has gone from strength to strength and in 2010, the LLP took up the opportunity to buy out one of the retiring members, with RBS providing support to assist in the acquisition.

George has subsequently explored other opportunities to diversify his business interests and most recently opened up the Dunes Golf Driving Range and restaurant adjacent to Fraserburgh Golf Club. The new range has created excellent facilities and has resulted in the creation of new local jobs. The new development was supported by RBS.

Eilidh Whiteford MP was delighted to visit the MFV Ocean Quest following discussions with local RBS management about support for small and medium enterprises in the area and said,

“Small and medium sized businesses are vital to creating and sustaining jobs in our area and I was delighted to visit George and Zander and see for myself how well the business is doing. Their ambition and vision are to be applauded and although these remain tough times for many businesses, George and Zander’s success highlights how important it is for businesses and banks to work closely and the important role they will both play in the economic recovery.”

George Tait said:

“This is an extremely exciting time for our business and we’re delighted that Eilidh Whiteford has taken the time to come and see us. We’ve got a fantastic workforce and this will go a long way to help us grow and achieve long term success for the business. We also very much appreciate the support RBS has provided in helping us to move the business forward.”

Mark Gall, Regional Director for RBS said:

“George brings incredible experience and expertise to this business and our support recognises his outstanding commitment and professionalism, and reflects our focus on financing the investment ambitions of Scottish business. These are undoubtedly more challenging economic times for the business community but George and his team represent all that is good about the entrepreneurial spirit which exists in Scotland.”

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MP’s ENQUIRY REVEALS SHOCKING COUNCIL FIRE SAFETY BREACH

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Enquiries made by Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford following a recent fire in an Aberchirder sheltered housing complex have revealed a shocking lack of basic safety procedures and contingency plans on the part of Aberdeenshire Council.

As Aberdeenshire Council prepares to force through cuts in warden cover in sheltered homes across the North-east, the local MP questioned what effect such cuts would have in the event of an emergency, and cited the recent fire in Walker Court, Aberchirder as an example. In his response to Dr Whiteford, Grampian Fire & Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer, David Dalziel, revealed:

“It became apparent to crews that there were no duty carers or wardens in attendance but, through local knowledge by the officer in charge, he was able to contact an assistant warden to get her to attend.

“There is no record of any consultation by Aberdeenshire Council with Grampian Fire & Rescue Services in respect of warden cover at Walker Court . Neither local crews nor our Control Room staff were aware of changes to warden arrangements.

“Given the change in circumstances, however, we have now arranged to conduct a test of the evacuation procedures and carer/warden response.”


The Chief Fire Officer went on to state:

“I have asked my Head of Community safety to contact the relevant head of service within Aberdeenshire Council (and our two other constituent councils) to ensure that there are robust fire safety procedures in place in Walker Court and similar establishments throughout the North east.”

The Banff & Buchan MP has recently met with representatives from a number of sheltered housing complexes in her constituency, and has been greatly concerned by their fears that warden cover was to be cut, with proposals that many of the smaller units would have to share wardens. She remarked:

“My SNP colleagues on Aberdeenshire Council proposed a fully-costed amendment to the budget which would have preserved much more frontline services, including sheltered housing warden cover, but that was rejected.

“I was already very disturbed to hear of the cuts to warden cover which the Liberal Democrat/Conservative administration in Aberdeenshire Council was proposing. Now I find that they have not even seen fit to ensure the safety of my constituents under existing arrangements.

“I therefore have no confidence in their ability to provide the standard of safety procedures required by such frail and elderly residents in the aftermath of the reductions in warden cover which they seem so determined to impose.

“Clearly, they have not fully thought through the implications of their proposals and I would urge them to reconsider their position on this as a matter of urgency. It is not acceptable that such vulnerable people should be left feeling so worried and uncertain of the Council’s plans for them.”

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WHITEFORD URGES UK FISHERIES MINISTER TO KEEP UP FIGHT IN MACKEREL ROW

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford urged UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon not to back down over the threat of a ‘mackerel war’ after raising the crisis in the House of Commons.

The SNP MP made the plea to the Minister after raising the issue during DEFRA Questions. Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“Action is needed. This matter is of critical importance to the North-east fishing industry.

“2500 jobs, many of them in the North-east, are dependant on the mackerel sector. I have been in close contact with industry representatives and will continue to press the case for them at the highest level in Westminster, while I know my colleague Richard Lochhead will do likewise from a Scottish Government perspective.

“The UK Government, as the EU Member State, must redouble its efforts to ensure a just and fair outcome for our pelagic sector in the face of outrageous and irresponsible behaviour by the Faroese.”


Note: Extract from Hansard follows:

4. Dr Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): What assessment he has made of the outcome of the recent coastal states discussions in Oslo on mackerel fishing quota; and if he will make a statement. [47196]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Richard Benyon): The meeting of coastal states in Oslo from 9 to 11 March ended without agreement on the management of the north Atlantic mackerel stock for 2011. This is very disappointing as it puts the future sustainability of this extremely important stock at risk. The positions of the parties involved remain wide apart but we will continue to work with industry, other EU member states and the Commission to find the best possible outcome to this difficult situation.

Dr Whiteford: I hope the Minister shares my outrage at the 150,000 tonnes of mackerel that the Faroese have subsequently unilaterally awarded themselves as a quota for mackerel for next year, and I know he shares my concerns about the jobs that will be affected by that, both in my constituency and in other pelagic areas. As a matter of urgency, will he meet the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association and other key UK stakeholders to discuss this matter further?

Richard Benyon: I recently met stakeholders and raised the matter this week—yesterday, in fact—with Commissioner Damanaki, when I gave support to her strong call for measures to be taken against the Faroese and neighbouring states that cause so much damage to a sustainable stock. The problems that the hon. Lady’s constituents and others around our coast face are very much our priorities, and we will continue to support strong measures to deal with them.

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TORY CRISIS LOAN CUTS HIT 350,000 VULNERABLE SCOTS

SNP CONDEMN TORIES' CRUEL CRISIS CUTS

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP has hit out at the Tories’ ‘cruel cuts’ after Parliamentary Questions revealed how UK Government cuts to the level and availability of Social Fund Crisis Loans would impact on hundreds of thousands of disabled, pensioner and loan parent households.

The Parliamentary Questions – detailed below – also revealed that 347,270 people in Scotland took out the crisis loan over the last year. The UK Government announced that it will no longer pay Crisis Loans for items such as cookers and beds and the rate paid for living expenses will be cut from 75 per cent down to 60 per cent of benefit rate.

Commenting Dr Whiteford said:

“Cutting crisis loans must be the Tories cruellest cut yet. It will impact on the most vulnerable households, removing safety net support from people just when they need a helping hand.

“The UK Government admit that, over the last year alone, these loans have gone to hundreds of thousands of disabled, pensioner and loan parent households. By their nature crisis loans are a last resort, and so cutting their availability will cause real hardship and drive people towards loan sharks and high interest lenders.

“The fact that so many people have had to take out these loans should underline the difficulties that households are facing, but instead of trying to help the Tory Government are making things much more painful.

“These are loans that people pay back, so these cuts are not about saving money.

"With further powers over the economy and over the welfare system that supports our most vulnerable people we could put a stop to the Tories dismal decade of cuts, invest in growing our economy and support our most vulnerable properly so that together we can make Scotland better.”


Notes:

1. Details of awards by client groups:

Dr Whiteford: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many social fund crisis loans were made to (a) individuals registered as disabled, (b) individuals over the pension age and (c) lone parent households in the last 12 months. [45527]

Steve Webb: The available information is provided as follows:

Client group -- Number of initial awards March 2010 to February 2011 in Great Britain

Disabled -- 443,410
Lone parents -- 287,580
Others -- 233,990
Pensioners -- 17,320
Unemployed -- 1,706,450

All initial awards -- 2,688,750

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110316/text/110316w0003.htm#1103171003075

2. Details of the number of people to receive crisis loans, by region, can be found here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110316/text/110316w0003.htm#1103171003069

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LOCAL MP CONGRATULATES PETERHEAD SEA CADETS

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has congratulated Peterhead Sea Cadets on their recent success. The MP attended the recent awards ceremony where cadets were presented with their awards by a senior naval officer.

The Peterhead Sea Cadet Unit was presented with the Stephenson and Thomas Grey Memorial Trophies by the Flag Officer Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland and Flag Officer Reserves, Rear Admiral Martin Alabaster, in recognition of their outstanding work and performance at local, regional and national events during 2010.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“I’m delighted for the young people involved in Peterhead Sea Cadets and send them my congratulations on their achievement. This was a very big occasion for them to receive their awards from such a senior naval officer.

“I understand that the Peterhead Unit is one of the largest units in Scotland and this success is a testament not only to the cadets but to their Officer-in-Charge, John Bowman, and the rest of the team.”

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SCOTLAND OFFICE COMPLACENT AND UNCARING OVER CRISIS LOAN CUTS

Thursday, 10 March 2011

SNP Work and Pension spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP has branded the Scotland Office as ‘complacent and uncaring’ over cuts to the level and availability of Social Fund Crisis Loans, warning that the decision would force people on low incomes towards high cost or illegal lending.

Dr Whiteford raised concerns at Scottish Questions over the announcement that the Tory Government will no longer pay Crisis Loans for items such as cookers and beds and the rate paid for living expenses will be cut from 75 per cent down to 60 per cent of benefit rate.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“It seems that the Tories have gone back to being the nasty party with this complacent and uncaring dismissal of the impact that cutting crisis loans will have on the poorest households.

“By their nature crisis loans are a last resort, and it is appalling that the Tory Government are cutting this safety net. The only winners from this will be loan sharks and high interest lenders.

“The fact that so many people have had to take out these loans should underline the difficulties that households are facing, but instead of trying to help the UK Government are making things much more painful.

“These are loans that people pay back, so these cuts are not about saving money. What they will do is force people who are in crisis to take out high interest loans or to go to loan sharks.

"With further powers over the economy and over the welfare system that supports our most vulnerable people we could put a stop to the Tories dismal decade of cuts, invest in growing our economy and support our most vulnerable properly so that together we can make Scotland better.”


Note:

A transcript of Dr Whiteford’s exchange with the Scotland Office Minister is detailed below:

Dr Whiteford: The Minister will be aware that proposals to reform the Social Fund Crisis Loan are going to cut the level and availability of loans available to people to buy essential items like beds and cookers. Does the Minister agree with me that this is going to push vulnerable people on low incomes towards high cost lending and into the arms of loan sharks, exacerbating problems that we already have in Scotland?

David Mundell (Minister of State): I certainly don’t agree Mr Speaker, with the Hon Lady’s analysis and once again from SNP benches I am extremely surprised to find elements of the Social Fund are being devolved to Scottish Parliament is not being welcomed.

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SAVE SEARCH AND RESCUE SERVICES URGES FISHING MP

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has appealed to the UK Government to stop the closure of Search and Rescue (SAR) services from RAF Lossiemouth after a parliamentary question revealed the role played by the helicopter cover in operations involving fishing boats.

Dr Whiteford’s constituency, which neighbours Moray, is home to a large part of the UK’s pelagic fleet - with Peterhead being Europe's premier white fish port, and Fraserburgh, Europe's biggest shellfish port. A Parliamentary Question – detailed below – has revealed the number of times search and rescue helicopters have been called out to rescue troubled fishing vessels.

The SNP MP is now calling for the UK Government to consider the impact that the closure of the UK Air Rescue Coordination Centre and Search and Rescue Squadron 202 at RAF Lossiemouth would have on the fishing and offshore oil and gas industry, as well as mountain rescue.

A decision on SAR privatisation had been expected before Christmas, but has been indefinitely delayed after the preferred bidder said it had become aware of a possible issue with its bid. The UK Government has also announced plans to cut Coastguard stations from 18 to 8 with only one in Scotland.

Commenting Dr Whiteford said:

“The UK Government will put lives at risk on sea and land by closing the search and rescue services which currently serve the fishing and offshore oil and gas industry.

“The Search and Rescue helicopters and their military crews from Lossiemouth have played a key role is the rescue and location of fishing boats over many years, indeed they have been called out five time in the last year. The loss of this cover would be extremely troubling.

“The UK Government must consider the impact that the closure of the Rescue Coordination Centre and Search and Rescue Squadron 202 at RAF Lossiemouth would have on the fishing and offshore oil and gas industry. Lossiemouth is the obvious and best strategic location for this cover.

“It would be extreme stupidity to withdraw military aircrews and privatise search and rescue cover from Lossiemouth, given the massive capability gap already created by the decision to axe the Nimrod fleet at RAF Kinloss.

“The military training and excellence of our RAF and Royal Navy helicopter crews have helped to save so many lives and maintain the highest rescue standards, and these skills and services must not be lost.

“Given a decision on privatisation has already been delayed because of problems with the preferred bidder, the UK government must step back from making a reckless decision that will put lives at risk.”

Notes:

Dr Whiteford: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many times search and rescue helicopters based at RAF Lossiemouth have been involved in operations involving fishing vessels in each of the last five years.

Nick Harvey: The information requested is shown in the following table:

RAF Lossiemouth call-outs to fishing vessels

2005 1
2006 12
2007 10
2008 1
2009 3
2010 5

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SCOTLAND OFFICE COMPLACENT AND UNCARING OVER CRISIS LOAN CUTS

TORIES BACK TO BEING THE NASTY PARTY

SNP Work and Pension spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP has branded the Scotland Office as ‘complacent and uncaring’ over cuts to the level and availability of Social Fund Crisis Loans, warning that the decision would force people on low incomes towards high cost or illegal lending.

Dr Whiteford raised concerns at Scottish Question today (Wednesday) over the announcement that the Tory Government will no longer pay Crisis Loans for items such as cookers and beds; the rate paid for living expenses will be cut from 75 per cent down to 60 per cent of benefit rate; and the UK government will implement a cap of three Crisis Loan awards for general living expenses in a rolling twelve month period. In the last 12 months alone, over 17,000 people received ten or more Crisis Loans.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“It seems that the Tories have gone back to being the nasty party with this complacent and uncaring dismissal of the impact that cutting crisis loans will have on the poorest households.

“By their nature crisis loans are a last resort, and it is appalling that the Tory Government are cutting this safety net. The only winners from this will be loan sharks and high interest lenders.

“The fact that so many people have had to take out these loans should underline the difficulties that households are facing, but instead of trying to help the UK Government are making things much more painful.

“These are loans that people pay back, so these cuts are not about saving money. What they will do is force people who are in crisis to take out high interest loans or to go to loan sharks.

"With further powers over the economy and over the welfare system that supports our most vulnerable people we could put a stop to the Tories dismal decade of cuts, invest in growing our economy and support our most vulnerable properly so that together we can make Scotland better.”

Read more...

UK GOVERNMENT EXPOSED OVER WOMEN’S DAY HYPOCRISY

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Revelations, on the 100th anniversary UN International Women’s Day, that the UK Government is trying to water down an international agreement to protect women against domestic and sexual violence have been condemned by the SNP.

Reports that UK officials have frustrated members of the Council of Europe with a last-minute intervention arguing that violence against women is not a violation of human rights, and that the UK Government wants the suggestion removed from the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence and replaced with a weaker phrase. In addition, it is also understood that the UK want to change the document, which has taken almost two years to negotiate, so that it only applies during peace time and not during armed conflict.

SNP International Development spokesperson, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, who is taking part in the International Women’s Day march in Westminster today, said:

“These revelations are all the more shameful emerging on International Women’s Day and expose shocking hypocrisy on the part of the UK Government.

“On the day that the Home Office publish an action plan to end violence against women and girls, behind the scenes they are trying to water down an international agreement to protect women. It is disgraceful double standards.

“What a contrast between the UK Government and the SNP Scottish Government that is taking action improve and support women across all parts of Scottish life and to help Scottish organisations support women in developing countries.”

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SNP WARN OVER TORY CUT TO CRISIS LOANS

Thursday, 3 March 2011

RULE CHANGE WILL PUNISH POOREST

SNP Work and Pension spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP has expressed concern at an announcement by the UK Government, that it is to cut the level and availability of Social Fund Crisis Loans, warning that the decision would force people on low incomes towards high cost or illegal lending.

In a Written Statement published today (Thursday), the UK Government announced that it will no longer pay Crisis Loans for items such as cookers and beds; the rate paid for living expenses will be cut from
75 per cent down to 60 per cent of benefit rate; and the government will implement a cap of three Crisis Loan awards for general living expenses in a rolling twelve month period. In the last 12 months alone, over 17,000 people received ten or more Crisis Loans.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“By their nature crisis loans are a last resort, and it is appalling that the Tory Government are cutting this safety net for the very poorest people in our society. The only winners from this will be loan sharks and high interest lenders.

“The fact that so many people have had to take out these loans should underline the difficulties that households are facing, but instead of trying to help the UK Government are making things much more painful.

“These are loans that people pay back, so these cuts don’t really save money. This is a cruel cut that will force people who are in crisis to take out high interest loans or to go to loan sharks.”

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