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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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Bedroom Tax Undermining Homelessness Efforts This Festive Season

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

REPORTS COMES AT END OF WESTMINSTER’S “YEAR OF SHAME”

Local MP Eilidh Whiteford has condemned Westminster’s “year of shame” on the bedroom tax, and once again pledged that the hated tax would be scrapped in an independent Scotland.

In total over 82,000 households are estimated in Scotland to be affected by the tax, including 63,500 households with a disabled adult, and 15,000 households with children.

The Scottish Affairs Committee has belatedly begun to wake up to the damage the Bedroom Tax is having on vulnerable people in Scotland, with its report published this month calling for the tax to be scrapped. The committee was warned that the bedroom tax risked "fundamentally undermining" Scotland's progressive commitment to reducing homelessness and ensuring everyone has the right to a permanent home.

Policy manager at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations David Ogilvie said the Scottish Parliament could be justifiably proud of the country’s homelessness commitment, but said: "The ability to achieve its own targets is being fundamentally undermined by this (bedroom tax) policy." He added that homeless people could be left in temporary accommodation for far longer periods of time as people affected by the bedroom tax are moved into the few smaller properties available.

However, these criticisms come too late – given that 47 Labour MPs failed to turn up to Labour’s own debate to scrap the tax, in a vote which was lost by 26 votes. Among them were 10 Scottish Labour MPs – including Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar, who had previously demanded Nicola Sturgeon sign a bill to scrap the tax.

More than 30 Lib Dem MPs voted to uphold the government's hated Bedroom Tax - despite their own party members having condemned the policy at their party conference.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“There are many hundreds of households in the North-east alone who are suffering financial difficulties as a result of the Bedroom Tax with many of those affected being low earners, single women tenants and the disabled. The SNP has repeatedly opposed the Bedroom Tax at Westminster, including in the ridiculous situation where a Labour opposition debate was lost by only 26 votes and a staggering 47 Labour MPs failed to turn up, including 10 from Scotland!

“The people who are being faced with problems as a result of the Bedroom Tax are the very people who need support to bring up children, to supplement a low wage or who simply cannot work due to significant ill health or disability. In a caring society this is unacceptable.

"The Bedroom Tax is inherently unfair. Locally, it is clearly shown by local authorities that they do not have any significant number of houses for people to downsize to, which makes the aim of policy impossible, even if that aim was right in the first place.

“One of the most significant gains of independence is that Scotland will have full control over its welfare system. That means only with a Yes vote will we finally be able to get rid of the unjust bedroom tax and have a welfare state that reflects the views and votes of the people of Scotland."

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UK Government Must End Discrimination Against Off-Grid Energy Customers

Monday, 30 December 2013

In the final week of parliament before Christmas the SNP has again raised the issue of discrimination against ‘off-grid’ energy customers.

Local MP Eilidh Whiteford says this is of significant importance for energy consumers in the North-east with thousands reliant on ‘off-grid’ energy such as tanker delivered oil and gas.

The Scottish National Party have called on the Westminster Government to end the discrimination against Off Gas Grid consumers in the operation of the Energy Company Obligation schemes. These schemes oblige energy companies to support customers to become more energy efficient by funding energy efficiency improvements worth around 1.3 billion pounds each year. However off-grid customers, who are off-grid generally through no choice of their own, are not always eligible.

Commenting after the SNP raised the issue in Scottish Questions Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“Rural consumers, which include thousands in the North-east, are so often forgotten in arguments over energy prices. The Energy Company Obligation is supposed to be technology neutral, but the major energy companies will not include LPG or Home Fuel Oil boilers within their schemes. This is surely discriminatory.”

In his response Scotland Office Minister David Mundell said that his department were considering a Ministerial Round Table to discuss off gas grid issues, but Dr Whiteford says this is not enough:

“There is already a ministerial round table with the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Department of Work and Pensions and others. The SNP has attended their meetings and raised this issue, amongst others, but no action has been taken by government.

“The situation is getting worse since as part of their amendments to the ECO the Westminster government are reducing the obligation to help hard to heat homes, the very homes in rural areas which tend also to be off the gas grid.

“The time for talking is over, the UK government need to take urgent action and insist that the major energy companies truly make the ECO schemes technology neutral and allow consideration of replacement LPG and Home Fuel Oil boilers.”

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Westminster Marriage Tax Break Short-Changing Vunerable Women

Friday, 27 December 2013


PLEDGE TO INTRODUCE FAIRER MODEL IN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND

The Scottish National Party has criticised the UK Government’s plans for marriage tax breaks which would see men make up 85% of those benefitting from the £700 million pot of cash - and leave bereaved and abused women out in the cold.

An analysis has found that only 15% of the people benefitting directly from the £200 a year bonus announced in Westminster’s Autumn Statement earlier this month would be women. Under the policy, which comes into force in 2015, the lower-earning partner will be able to transfer up to £1,000 of their unused tax allowance to the other, but the scheme will overwhelmingly benefit men as they are more likely to be the higher earner.

Commenting, SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

“Quite simply, the UK government marriage tax break is short-changing women.

“The policy reinforces other measures that discourage ‘dual earning’ couples, by making those who benefit lose if their partner takes a job for more than a few hours a week. The Women’s Budget Group has recognised that it will dissuade women from going back to work because the husband could lose their allowance if his wife gets a part-time or low-paid job that takes them over the earnings threshold.

“A woman who loses her husband through bereavement or is forced to leave the family home because of domestic violence also loses out.

“UK government benefit cuts already mean that many women are struggling financially, and the £700 million price tag could be better spent elsewhere.

“Even the Institute of Fiscal Studies has recognised that the Westminster policy is symbolic and would be of little benefit.

“Westminster’s tax-breaks which only benefit the traditional nuclear family shows how out of touch the UK Government is.

“As outlined in Scotland’s Future, with independence an SNP government would scrap marriage tax breaks – our priority is to help families with children by greatly expanding childcare provision.”

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Concern Over Soaring Cost of Stamps as Privatisation Threatens Greater Price Rises

Monday, 23 December 2013


CALL FOR FREEZE IN STAMP PRICES

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford is backing calls for Royal Mail to deliver a freeze on the price of stamps.

Stamps have increased in price closely in line with inflation over the past 30 years but rocketed in 2012. With Royal Mail now privatised the fear is that the price of stamps will continue to soar.

Now, as Santa Claus finalises his ‘naughty and nice’ lists, the SNP’s Postal Affairs spokesperson Mike Weir has called for Royal Mail to freeze the price of a stamp and give assurances that the sell-off will not lead to further price hikes.

Westminster’s approach to the Royal Mail contrasts with that of the Isle of Man, where the post office remains in public hands and it is cheaper to send a letter from the island to anywhere on the UK mainland than it is to send one between Scotland and England.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“Our postal services are far too important to simply be sold off on the cheap in the way Westminster has done.

“What we now need from the privatised service is an assurance that the price of a letter will not increase before Scotland becomes independent.

“It is cheaper to send a letter through the Isle of Man’s publicly owned postal service to the mainland than it is to send one from Scotland to England – and the fear must be that privatisation will only make this worse.

"It is clear that the only way for Scotland to have the postal service it wants and deserves is with a Yes vote next year.

"The SNP have pledged to act to maintain a universal six-day a week postal service in an independent Scotland and bring the Royal Mail back into public ownership where it belongs.”

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Westminster Holds 'Hunger Debate'

Wednesday, 18 December 2013


23,000 SCOTS –INCLUDING 7,000 CHILDREN– RECEIVING EMERGENCY FOOD AID

The UK Parliament will today (Wednesday) debate the rise of hunger and use of food banks in the UK, following a successful online campaign.

The petition on change.org which reached over 140 000 signatures, calls for parliament to debate the causes of UK hunger- ‘and to ask why, in modern Britain, food bank use is escalating so rapidly.’

The number of people relying on food banks to survive in the UK has tripled over the last year, with more than 23,000 Scots – including 7000 children – receiving emergency aid from a Trussell Trust food bank. Child Poverty Action Group have said the recent Autumn Statement ‘creates a new income rationing system for children, working families and disabled people through a national cap on their basic support’ and ‘once again it’s the poorest who are being asked to pay down the lion’s share of deficit reduction.’

Commenting ahead of the debate, Scottish National Party Westminster spokesperson for Work and Pensions Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

“The UK government needs to wake up to this crisis.

“Danny Alexander and Alistair Carmichael have been happy to have themselves photographed smiling at the opening of local food banks, so at least now they will have to come and explain to Parliament why their policies are causing a surge in their use.

“The figures produced by the Trussell Trust, which runs 400 food banks across the UK, are alarming. The Trust have said a third of those being helped were children, and the problem was so severe that some people using food banks have started to hand back items that need cooking, as they cannot afford to use the energy. The Red Cross have also been helping with food aid in the UK - for the first time since the Second World War.

“Child Poverty Action Group have recognised that the cumulative effect of the UK government’s spending decisions are highly regressive, and are hitting the poorest, hardest.

“Meanwhile Westminster has been shunning responsibility. Conservative minister Lord Freud provoked outrage in July when he questioned whether there were "causal connections" between the rise of food banks and government austerity policies. In September Education Secretary Michael Gove was accused of being "out of touch" when he appeared to suggest that families using food banks were responsible for their own predicament.

“New Scottish Secretary of State Alistair Carmichael couldn’t even tell the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee last week why so many children were being pushed into poverty as a result of his coalition’s cuts.

"While the UK government continues down this road, making the poor poorer, and the anti-independence No campaign tries to tell the people of Scotland that this is as good as it gets, more than ever it is clear that only a Yes vote next September can make Scotland a fairer country to live, work and raise a family."

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'Farming for YES' Takes to the Road in Turriff and New Deer

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Farmers and those involved in the agriculture industry got the opportunity to have their questions on what Independence will mean for the sector at special ‘Question Time’ events held in Turriff and New Deer.

 (l to r): Eilidh Whiteford MP;
meeting chairman and local farmer Cameron Ewen;
Alyn Smith MEP
Euro-MP Alyn Smith, a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development Committee and local MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford, who is also the SNP’s Agriculture spokesperson at Westminster held the special meetings to explain how Independence will mean a better deal for Scotland’s farmers and answer questions.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“I was delighted with both events and we had a range of questions from those attending on subjects from the CAP, to support for new entrants, to the Aberdeen bypass.

“I was particularly pleased to welcome Alyn Smith back to Buchan. Alyn is widely-acknowledged as Scottish farming’s voice in Europe and has been recognised for his work with the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Scottish Agriculture’ award from a national farming magazine.

“Scotland’s farmers know more than most how the UK’s failures to take the correct policy decisions for Scottish farming, and their failure to prioritise Scottish farming in the European Union, have undermined Scottish agriculture. Independence means the most important decisions about rural Scotland will be taken by the people who care most about Scotland, that is by the people who live here.”

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YES Vote Needed to Ensure Women are Paid Fairly - Whiteford

Monday, 16 December 2013

Commenting on reports indicating the gender pay gap has widened this year, local MP and SNP Work & Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford has said that the Scottish Government needs independence to take steps to ensure women are paid fairly.

An Office for National Statistics report found the gender pay gap had widened this year from 9.5 per cent to 10 per cent for full-time workers. The gap is much wider for part-time workers, which rose from 19.6 to 19.7 per cent.

Two thirds of people earning the minimum wage or less are women, and women are much more likely to work part-time. The Scottish Government has pledged that with independence, it will establish a Fair Work Commission which will establish a minimum wage in line with inflation, in addition to free childcare which will enable more women to work.

Commenting, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“It is shocking that the gender pay gap has widened this year, and more women are earning less than they deserve.

“The minimum wage has failed to rise in real terms for the 70,000 people in Scotland who receive it for almost a decade. Had the policy pledged been in place for the last five years it would have seen the lowest paid people in Scotland benefit to the tune of £675- the majority of them being women.

“Women also struggle to return to work after having children due to the cost of childcare. The Scottish Government’s plan to provide thirty hours of childcare per week in term time for all three and four-year-olds, as well as vulnerable two-year-olds, will help women who want to work go back to work. This will help close the gender pay gap and increase tax revenues- which in turn will be used by the Scottish Government to pay for the childcare. This policy isn't affordable if we remain part of the union.

“Without the benefits of independence, there is little the Scottish Government can do to mitigate the problem and more women continue to be underpaid. Women also struggle more to balance family budgets and keep up with the rising cost of living as they have been hardest hit by the UK government’s cuts to public sector workers pay and benefits. Women have the most to gain from independence.”

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Whiteford Seeks Commitment from UK Fisheries Minister on Days at Sea

The annual fisheries debate in the House of Commons has highlighted some of the issues for Scottish Fishing communities. Banff & Buchan MP and SNP Westminster fisheries spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford questioned the Minister seeking a commitment he will not allow days at sea to be reduced further.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“Once again the big issue will be cod quotas and the flaws in the Cod Recovery Plan (CRP). We know that cod stocks are moving in the right direction, and in fact cod mortality is now at its lowest level since 1963, when assessments started. Fishermen and scientists alike are telling us that cod is more abundant than it has been for 50 years. However, the CRP threatens to derail the progress made in recent years.

“Last year, common sense prevailed and there was recognition that rigid adherence to the plan would be counter-productive. The same applies this year. If the proposed 9% quota cut goes ahead, it will inevitably lead to an increase in discards, which is exactly what we are trying to prevent. In my view, we need to continue following the science—and the science indicates that a small increase in the allowable catch for North sea cod will enable the stock to keep growing and keep our long-term outcome of a sustainable fishery on track. I hope the Westminster Government will promote that objective in the forthcoming talks, and I seek their assurance on that.

“I also sought a commitment from the Minister that he will not let days at sea be reduced any further, and that he will support an effort to freeze this at 2012-13 levels. Automatic reductions in days at sea will not give the fleet enough time to catch its quota, and that can only increase risk to our fishermen.

“A great deal rides on the forthcoming negotiations. As everyone else looks forward to winding down for Christmas, December is a particularly tense and anxious time of year for fishing communities and everyone who works in the fishing industry.”

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SNP MPs Look Ahead to Fish Quota Talks Next Week

Friday, 13 December 2013


FISHING DEBATE AT WESTMINSTER HIGHLIGHTS PROBLEMS FOR INDUSTRY

This week’s debate in the House of Commons on the Fishing industry, and the key Fishing quota talks due to take place in Brussels next week, have highlighted some of the issues for Scottish Fishing communities. Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, SNP Fisheries spokesperson who questioned the Westminster Fisheries Minister for an update in reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and forthcoming talks commented:

“Once again the big issue will be cod quotas and the flaws in the cod recovery plan (CRP). We know that cod stocks are moving in the right direction, and in fact cod mortality is now at its lowest level since 1963, when assessments started. Fishermen and scientists alike are telling us that cod is more abundant than it has been for 50 years. However, the CRP threatens to derail the progress made in recent years. Last year, common sense prevailed and there was recognition that rigid adherence to the plan would be counter-productive. The same applies this year. If the proposed 9% quota cut goes ahead, it will inevitably lead to an increase in discards, which is exactly what we are trying to prevent. In my view, we need to continue following the science—and the science indicates that a small increase in the allowable catch for North sea cod will enable the stock to keep growing and keep our long-term outcome of a sustainable fishery on track. I hope the Westminster Government will promote that objective in the forthcoming talks, and I seek their assurance on that.

“I also seek a commitment from the Minister that he will not let days at sea be reduced any further, and that he will support an effort to freeze this at 2012-13 levels. Automatic reductions in days at sea will not give the fleet enough time to catch its quota, and that can only increase risk to our fishermen.

“A great deal rides on the forthcoming negotiations. As everyone else looks forward to winding down for Christmas, December is a particularly tense and anxious time of year for fishing communities and everyone who works in the fishing industry."

Angus MacNeil MP has also raised the issue of the dumping of Spurdog in large quantities this Autumn . Mr MacNeil SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar said:

"It is unfortunate that a situation has arisen where huge numbers of migratory Spurdog - that are not targeted in the fishery or wanted in the fishermen’s nets - end up being caught inadvertently and that as they have no quota to land them, they are dumped.

“This is because of an understandable concern of protecting the species but has led to unforeseen outcomes, with fish being wasted and in other areas fish being targeted to answer the world demand for those same species. I welcome that the owners of quota will be published in a register next week as promised by the Westminster Fisheries minister, as there is a strong belief in the fishing industry that people who own fishing quota should be active in the industry and not other diverse unrelated enterprises.”

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MP Praises Turriff Posties

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has praised postal workers after visiting the Royal Mail’s Delivery Centre in Turriff.

Eilidh was shown round the office by local Delivery Office Manager, Murdo Watson, and was introduced to the postmen and women who are working hard sorting and delivering cards and parcels in the Turriff area in the run-up to Christmas.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“It was great to meet the dedicated, hard-working Royal Mail postmen and women at Turriff delivery office and to see first-hand just how much effort they put into delivering for people at this time of year.

“Postmen and women do such an important job at this time of year. I would like to thank them for their efforts and wish them all the best over the busy festive period.

“At Christmas, more than any time of year, it becomes apparent just how critical the Royal Mail is. We rely on our local posties to receive and send our cards and presents. In a rural area like Banff and Buchan, those same posties are a veritable lifeline.

“I will continue to speak out in favour of a publically owned, universal delivery service.”

Murdo Watson, Royal Mail Delivery Office Manager at Turriff, said:

“Christmas is the busiest time of year for Royal Mail. Our people pull out all the stops throughout the year to ensure mail is delivered quickly, but even more so over the busy festive period. We are grateful that Eilidh came along to see the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

“Our people do a fantastic job at this time of year to ensure that friends and families stay in touch through their Christmas greetings and gifts. We’d like to remind our customers to post early so that friends and family have longer to enjoy their Christmas greetings!”

The recommended last posting dates for mail are:
  • Friday 20 December for 1st Class items
  • Wednesday 18 December for 2nd Class items
  • Monday 23 December for Special Delivery items
The remaining recommended International posting dates for 2013 are:
  • Monday 9 December for airmail to Cyprus and Eastern Europe
  • Tuesday 10 December for airmail to Canada, France, Greece, Poland
  • Friday 13 December for airmail to USA
  • Saturday 14 December for airmail items to Western Europe (excluding France, Greece, Poland)

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Street Pastors Launch Welcomed by Local MP

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Banff & Buchan SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed the launch at the weekend of the Peterhead ‘Street Pastors’.

The MP attended the launch of the new service on Saturday night where the 15 volunteers had their Commissioning Service and will be a regular sight in and around Peterhead. Street Pastors were pioneered in London in 2003 and have gone from strength to strength with around 250 teams across the United Kingdom.

The Street Pastors in Peterhead intend to work every Saturday night from 10.00pm to 4.00am and describe themselves as “a caring heart, a listening ear and a helping hand”.

After their Commissioning Service on Saturday, the Street Pastors took to the pavements of Peterhead and were positively received.

Commenting, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“This initiative is backed by Police Scotland, the Buchan Community Safety Group and the Peterhead councillors and has been demonstrated where it operates elsewhere to contribute effectively to the safety of those using our town centres on Saturday nights.

“I congratulate organiser Frances Scott and her team on getting to this stage. Their enthusiasm for this new project was clearly evident to all who attended Saturday night’s launch and I wish them every success as they move forward with this initiative.”

Sergeant Claire Smith of the Buchan Community Policing Team said:

"It is great to have the Street Pastors joining us in Peterhead. I know they are a great success in Aberdeen, where they started in 2007.

“As police officers we are aware that sometimes the law enforcement approach is not always the best. A support approach can assist greatly with the long term aim to remove the causation factors of anti-social behaviour and incidents of disorder, which can be seen more than often outside and sometimes in licensed premises during a weekend."

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Scotland's Future on Agenda for Fyvie Farmers

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Alex Salmond joined 30 farmers from his constituency last night (Monday 2 December) as a special guest at this month’s Fyvie Farmers’ Discussion Group.

Mr Salmond was invited to speak at the Vale Hotel meeting about his life in politics and the opportunities for Scotland’s farming sector in voting for independence next September. A question and answer session followed, with much interest surrounding the recently published White Paper: Scotland’s Future. The group also had particular questions about the challenges and opportunities facing the farming industry of the North East.

Mr Salmond commented:

“I was delighted to be invited to speak to the Fyvie Farmers last night at the Vale Hotel.

“The group – who meet regularly for discussions on a range of subjects – made me feel very welcome indeed. There were some great questions on farming issues, such as CAP funding, and the opportunities for Scottish farming and our country more widely following a vote for independence.”

Monday night’s meeting begins a week of engagement between SNP elected members and North East rural communities. Farmers and those involved or interested in agricultural industries will have the opportunity to put their questions on farming and independence to MEP Alyn Smith and Banff and Buchan MP, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, at events later this week.

The “Question Time” discussions will be held on Friday 6 December in Buckley’s at Deveron Country House Turriff at 7pm and at 10am on Saturday 7 December in the Public Hall, New Deer. Alyn Smith is a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and Dr Whiteford is the SNP’s agriculture spokesperson at Westminster.

Commenting in advance of the Q&A events, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“I’m very pleased to welcome Alyn Smith to Buchan. Alyn is widely-acknowledged as Scottish farming’s voice in Europe and has been recognised for his work with the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Scottish Agriculture’ award from a national farming magazine.

“It’s also a very timely event having just recently met with the NFUS both locally and in Westminster on the issue of CAP convergence payments for Scottish farmers which the UK Government has shamefully appropriated and spread around the entire UK instead of passing it on to the Scottish industry, which was the intended purpose of the money.”

Alyn Smith MEP added:

“I’m delighted to be coming to Buchan so soon after the launch of the Independence White Paper to help explain how Scotland having control of its own affairs will benefit Scottish farming and I look forward to meeting with local farmers.”

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Local MP Meets with NFUS

Monday, 2 December 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford met with regional officials from the NFUS at Thainstone to discuss current issues. The meeting was part of a series of regular dialogue between elected representatives and NFUS members.

Speaking after the meeting at Thainstone, Eilidh said:

“This was a constructive meeting at which a wide range of issues of concern to local NFUS members were raised.

“I was keen to get feedback from NFUS members following my debate in the House of Commons last Tuesday on the CAP convergence uplift, and I urged them to continue to press the UK Government for a fair settlement.

"By 2019 Scotland will have the lowest per hectare rates of Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 funding anywhere in the EU, which is a rotten deal by any standards - the convergence uplift is supposed to mitigate Scotland's low payment rate, and it's vital it's used for its intended purpose.

"Members also raised key issues relating to the inter-linked challenges facing the livestock and processing sectors, and it's clear to me that addressing these will require the kind of strategic investment that rural development funding is designed to deliver. That's why it's so disappointing that Scotland is being so badly short-changed compared our neighbours and competitors in other parts of the UK and EU."

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Scotland Short-Changed On CAP For Too Long

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

SNP Westminster spokesperson for agriculture, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP has argued Scotland has been short-changed on EU Common Agricultural Policy payments for too long in a Westminster debate today.

 Last week’s “Scottish Farmer” called it
an ‘act of grand larceny’
.
Dr Whiteford said that the CAP convergence uplift of £223 million has only come to the UK because of Scotland's historically low level of payments per hectare, and it should be used as intended.

Commenting after the debate, Dr Whiteford said:

“The convergence mechanism is designed to create a more level playing field for farmers across Europe. Although England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive more than 90% of the EU average payment per hectare, Scotland is well below the threshold - so far below, in fact, that it brings the whole UK average down. That’s why the EU has awarded the UK a convergence uplift of £223 million pounds – money calculated on the basis of our low per hectare payments, and earmarked for Scottish agriculture.

“The UK Government's failure to deliver the convergence uplift means that each and every Member State in the EU, without exception, will be receiving a higher per hectare rate than Scotland under both Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 by 2019. Scotland has been left languishing at the bottom of the international table.

"If Scotland had been negotiating on our own behalf as a normal Member State, we would have benefited from the average EU rate, which would have boosted our agricultural sector by £1 billion Euros over the next six years. With the kind of rural development funding other comparable EU countries receive, we could make transformational step changes to Scotland's rural economy, creating jobs and improving amenities. Instead we have the lowest rural development funding allocation per hectare in the whole EU.

"It is clearer than ever that a Yes vote next year offers the best solution for Scotland’s farming and rural communities."

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New Scottish Secretary Totally Failing to Fight for Scotland's Farmers

Monday, 25 November 2013


LETTER SHOWS CARMICHAEL OUT OF TOUCH WITH SCOTTISH FARMING

In advance of tomorrow’s debate in Westminster Hall on the Common Agricultural Policy convergence uplift, secured by SNP Agriculture spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, the Westminster government has sent a letter to Scottish MPs defending the decision to deprive Scotland’s farmers of what had been agreed would be their due to the amount of 230 million Euros. The letter to all Scottish MPs came from the new Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael.

Dr Whiteford commented :

"This letter shows that just a few weeks into his job Mr Carmichael has become Westminster’s man in Scotland rather than representing Scotland’s interests. When he says in his letter it is his view that this is a ‘fair and positive package‘ for Scotland’s farming communities, it simply beggars belief. He is only echoing what his Tory counterpart at DEFRA told me last week when he said in answer to a question from me that Scotland is ‘getting more than its fair share’ - which astonished the farming community.

“Instead of standing up Scottish farming, Alistair Carmichael is standing up for Owen Paterson - his priorities are all wrong.

“There has been cross-party consensus in the Scottish Parliament that the convergence uplift must come to Scotland, yet UK Ministers have shown again today they are simply not listening, and worse Mr Carmichael is happy to follow his Tory leaders. My debate tomorrow gives them an opportunity to reconsider their head in the sand approach, listen to their own colleagues in Scotland, and put the convergence plans into action now, rather than wait until 2016.

“When I met Scottish farmers leaders last week in Westminster they expressed deep concern about the way the UK Government is short changing Scottish farmers over CAP support, and Mr Carmichael’s letter will only add to that concern. The UK only qualified for the convergence uplift because Scotland has fallen so far behind the rest of the UK and Europe in terms of area payments per hectare. The UK has received an uplift of 230 million Euros in its CAP funding allocation because of the historically low rates of support per hectare paid in Scotland compared to farmers in other parts of the UK. However rather than use the uplift for its intended purpose, the UK government has divided the extra funding across the UK, depriving Scottish farmers of what is due to them.

“Thanks to the Tory-Liberal coalition, Scotland now languishes at the bottom of the European table in both direct payments and Rural Development Funding, and the convergence uplift is intended to create a more level playing field for Scotland’s farmers. Once again Westminster cannot be trusted.

"Mr Carmichael’s letter makes it clearer than ever that a Yes vote next year offers the best solution for Scotland’s farming and rural communities."

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MP Renews Plea for Help for "Off-Grid" Pensioners

Friday, 22 November 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has firmly backed moves by SNP colleague Mike Weir MP to help off-grid pensioner households facing steep energy bills over the winter.

Mr Weir had previously brought forward the Winter Fuel Allowance Payments (Off-Grid Claimants) Bill, which would provide for the early payment of Winter Fuel Allowance to pensioners whose homes are not connected to the mains grid and whose principal source of fuel is home fuel oil, liquid petroleum gas or propane gas.

Bringing forward payment of Winter Fuel Allowance would allow vulnerable consumers to fill up their tanks prior to the onset of winter and at a time when prices tend to be lower.

Despite the first Bill failing to progress through the Commons, Mr Weir has now reintroduced the Bill and will present it in the Commons on Wednesday in another attempt to garner support.

Dr Whiteford said that she is keen to support the Bill, which will directly benefit rural households in Banff & Buchan.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“Recent rises in energy prices have demonstrated the need for action to prevent the vulnerable falling into fuel poverty.

“Those who are off the mains grid face some of the most difficult challenges heating their homes. Without benefiting from social tariffs available to those in urban areas, or the ability to switch energy suppliers easily, off-grid rural pensioners are doubly disadvantaged.

“Bringing Winter Fuel Payments forward will allow rural pensioners to plan for the winter, and buy fuel earlier in the year when the wholesale costs are generally lower. It’s a small change to the way the payments are made, but it will bring huge benefits for those who live in rural areas and are facing a cold, expensive winter.

“I hope that Mike Weir’s Bill can attract cross-party consensus. This will not solve the problem of high fuel costs, but it will be a huge benefit to many of those most directly affected.”

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SNP Fighting at Westminster for Scotland's Future

Thursday, 21 November 2013


DR EILIDH WHITEFORD SECURES DEBATE ON CAP UPLIFT NEXT WEEK

SNP Agriculture spokesperson at Westminster Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP has secured time for a debate next week on the Common Agricultural Policy convergence uplift. The UK has received an uplift of 230 million Euros in its CAP funding allocation because of the historically low rates of support per hectare paid in Scotland compared to farmers in other parts of the UK. However rather than use the uplift for its intended purpose, the UK government has divided the extra funding across the whole of the UK, depriving Scottish farmers of what is due to them .

In advance of the debate, Dr. Whiteford commented:

“I met Scottish farmers leaders earlier this week in Westminster. They are expressing deep concern about the way the UK Government is short changing Scottish farmers over CAP support. The UK only qualified for the convergence uplift because Scotland has fallen so far behind the rest of the UK and Europe in terms of area payments per hectare. Thanks to the Tory-Liberal coalition, Scotland now languishes at the bottom of the European table in both direct payments and Rural Development Funding, and the convergence uplift is intended to create a more level playing field for Scotland’s farmers. Once again Westminster cannot be trusted

“This morning the DEFRA Minister told me that Scotland is ‘getting more that its fair share’ which will anger and astonish the farming community. There has been cross-party consensus in the Scottish Parliament that the convergence uplift must come to Scotland, yet UK Ministers have shown today they are simply not listening. My debate next week gives them an opportunity to reconsider their intransigent approach, listen to their own colleagues in Scotland, and put the convergence plans into action now, rather than wait until 2016

“It is becoming even clearer that a Yes vote next year offers the best solution for Scotland’s farming and rural communities. All decisions about Scotland’s farming industry should be taken by the people who live and work here.”

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300 Aberdeenshire Tenants in Arrears as a Result of Bedroom Tax

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has accused Labour MPs of a ‘gross dereliction of duty’, after 47 failed to vote against the hated under-occupancy penalty – better known as the Bedroom Tax.

The opposition day debate on Tuesday was initiated by Labour - yet 47 Labour MPs, including ten Scottish Labour MPs, failed to turn up, and the motion was defeated by just 26 votes.

The ‘under occupancy penalty’ sees cuts to housing benefit for those living in council houses with spare bedrooms. 850 families in Aberdeenshire are affected, with 300 council tenants now in arrears due to the policy. Critics point out that years of under-investment in social housing by Westminster mean that there are few smaller houses for tenants to downsize to; and that the policy unjustly targets the poor.

Around 82,000 households are affected across Scotland, and eight out of ten households affected by the tax include a disabled person.

Speaking after the vote, Dr Whiteford described the no-show by Labour MPs as: “astonishing.” She said:

“It beggars belief that Labour, with support from the other opposition parties, should initiate this debate, then fail to attend in anything approaching adequate numbers. The fact that most Scottish Lib Dems turned out to support the Conservatives is par for the course. But the mass no-show from Labour is bitterly disappointing to those who have campaigned against this tax - myself included.

“The people of Aberdeenshire are entitled to explanations for this puzzling behaviour. Some may have quite legitimate reasons for not being there, but we have to ask why a quarter of Scottish Labour MPs failed to show up to their own vote. From press releases over the last week, one might have been forgiven for thinking that Labour were against this contemptible policy. The fact that they failed to turn out in sufficient numbers tells a very different story.

“Just 26 votes could have overturned the bedroom tax – Labour have to explain why their MPs did not turn up. This speaks of confusion at best and a gross dereliction of duty at worst.”

SNP councillor Anne Allan (Peterhead North & Rattray), sits on Aberdeenshire Council’s Housing and Social Work Committee, and echoed Dr Whiteford’s sentiments. She said:

“The bedroom tax affects hundreds of households across Aberdeenshire, and falls most heavily on those least able to pay. Families are having to choose between paying their rent and eating. Frankly, in a wealthy region of a wealthy country, that isn’t good enough.

”I have witnessed first hand the impact that this terrible policy is having, and in Aberdeenshire, 300 tenants are now in arrears purely because they cannot afford to pay this charge.

“It’s unfair, it’s unsustainable, and Westminster needs to look again at the impact its policies are having on the most disadvantaged sectors of our society.”

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Labour Admit Bedroom Tax not "of great political importance"

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


RANK HYPOCRISY OF SCOTTISH LABOUR MPs EXPOSED

In using the excuse that they ‘paired’ with coalition MPs on the vote to scrap the Bedroom Tax in the House of Commons last night, Labour have admitted that they did not regard the vote as "of great political importance" - since pairing "is not allowed" in such votes.

The opposition day debate was initiated by Labour, yet a quarter of Scottish Labour MPs failed to turn up and it was lost by just 26 votes.

Commenting, SNP spokesperson for Work and Pensions Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“On their own terms, clearly neither the Labour Party nor Westminster as a whole regard the Bedroom Tax as 'of great political importance' - which is an insult to all those families who are suffering from the imposition of this cruel policy.

“This is especially bizarre given that Margaret Curran wrote to Alistair Carmichael urging the Liberal Democrats to rebel against the government. If Labour were already in a cosy deal with the Con/Dems, what was the point of Ms Curran's letter?

“Unlike Labour and Westminster, the Scottish Government is well aware of how important an issue the Bedroom Tax is, and so I believe are the vast majority of people in Scotland. The Bedroom Tax is an unfair and unworkable policy which targets the most disadvantaged in our society, and it will only be scrapped with a Yes vote next year.”

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Labour Fail to Show on Bedroom Tax Vote

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Commenting on the news a quarter of Scottish Labour MPs failed to vote on their own Bedroom Tax debate, SNP spokesperson for Work and Pensions Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“We have had nothing but confusion, contradictions and a lack of commitment from Labour on the Bedroom Tax and today, their MPs failed to even turn up.

"It is ironic that Margaret Curran wrote to Alistair Carmichael seeking Lib Dem support on today's vote- she should have copied in her own colleagues.

"Only with a Yes vote will we finally be able to get rid of the unjust bedroom tax and have a welfare state that reflects the views and votes of the people of Scotland."



Labour “shambles” over the Bedroom Tax:
  • Ed Miliband announces on 20th September that they will scrap the Bedroom Tax if they win in 2015 – six months after the tax was introduced
  • Labour’s position has been extremely confused – on 05/09/13 Johann Lamont and Anas Sarwar appeared on TV at the same time: Lamont did not commit Labour to abolishing the Bedroom Tax, Sarwar did. But a Labour spokesperson said: “we are not writing our next manifesto today and, as with everything, we will have to take a view of the fiscal position nearer the time.”
  • Jackie Baillie told GMS on 14th September “Yes we will abolish it. My understanding is you can expect an announcement on that very soon” only for a Labour source to tell BBC Online that Ms Baillie had “gone a bit too far.”
  • Jackie Baillie MSP has introduced a motion to the Scottish Parliament on scrapping the Bedroom Tax, however Margaret Curran MP failed to ask Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael to offer similar proposals in a letter on the subject this week.

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Labour "shambles" on Bedroom Tax

The Scottish National Party have accused Labour of being in a “shambles” over the Bedroom Tax and have said only a Yes vote next year will ensure it is scrapped in Scotland.

Labour chose to debate the Bedroom Tax in an opposition day debate in the House of Commons, following 10 missed opportunities to do so since the SNP first raised the subject on their opposition day in February.

Commenting following the debate, SNP spokesperson for Work and Pensions Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“We have had nothing but confusion, contradictions and a lack of commitment from Labour. It took Ed Miliband six months after the Bedroom Tax was first introduced to pledge Labour would scrap it, and even since then there has been confusion amongst Labour politicians on their party policy.

"In contrast the SNP Government is doing all it can to help mitigate the impact of this divisive policy and Nicola Sturgeon pledged that our funding for Discretionary Housing Payments will continue next year with another £20 million to help victims of Westminster’s Bedroom Tax.

"One of the most significant gains of independence is that Scotland will have full control over its welfare system. That means only with a Yes vote will we finally be able to get rid of the unjust bedroom tax and have a welfare state that reflects the views and votes of the people of Scotland."

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Lamont Called Up On "Cruel" Council Letter

Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Scottish National Party has called on Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont to denounce a letter South Ayrshire Council has sent tenants who have fallen victim to the Bedroom Tax and found themselves in arrears of as little as £250, which warns of repossession action and involving Children’s Services.

South Ayrshire Council is a Tory minority in partnership with Labour.

SNP spokesperson for Work and Pensions Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“The letter which has been sent out by this joint Tory/Labour authority is cruel and of a threatening nature – Johann Lamont should denounce it immediately.

“The letter would undoubtedly cause a great deal of stress – the recipient is told repossession action could cost them £400 and it essentially threatens to take any children away. The council agreed in March that no families would be evicted over debts caused by the bedroom tax, so why has this letter been sent?

“One of the most significant gains of independence is that Scotland will have full control over its welfare system. That means only with a Yes vote will we finally be able to get ride of the unjust bedroom tax and have a welfare state that reflects the views and votes of the people of Scotland."

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Call for Clarification Over DEFRA Minister 'Downgrading' George Eustice in Peterhead

Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Scottish National Party has called for clarification from George Eustice MP over the apparent downgrading of his position in DEFRA as he visits Peterhead harbour today [Thursday] with new Scottish Secretary of State, Alistair Carmichael.Eustice was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Natural Environment, Water and Rural Affairs in David Cameron’s recent government reshuffle, however Eustice’s predecessor was a Minister of State. The UK government website claims the titles are currently under review.

Commenting, Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

“It would be helpful if George Eustice would provide some clarification on his new job title and tell us if, in fact, his position has been downgraded following the reshuffle.

“DEFRA represents Scotland in important EU negotiations on Common Fisheries Policy and so it is worrying if the ministerial position has been downgraded. Scotland is a fishing nation, and we need to be adequately represented. Former DEFRA Minster Sir James Paice has raised concerns that the role appears to have been downgraded.

“The new Scottish Secretary of State should also shed some light because already Scotland is being short-changed – we are not represented in the European Commission and at present, Scotland’s Fisheries Minister requires a permit from Westminster to attend EU meetings. 

“Rather than going via a UK government which doesn’t share Scotland’s priorities when it comes to the fishing industry, independence would allow Scottish interests to be better heard in Europe."

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Whiteford Brands Bedroom Tax 'Unjust and Unworkable'

Monday, 21 October 2013

Local MP and SNP spokesperson on Work & Pensions at Westminster Dr Eilidh Whiteford branded the Westminster Government's Bedroom Tax 'unjust and unworkable', speaking at the SNP Annual Conference in Perth.

The discriminatory tax affects around 80,000 households in Scotland, 80 per cent of which are the home of a disabled adult, and 16,000 of which are the home of families with children.

Following on from the SNP's spring conference where all SNP council's committed to a no evictions policy as a result of the tax, delegates have once again appealed to Labour, LibDem and Tory controlled councils to follow in the SNP's lead.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

"The message from SNP conference delegates in response to this damaging tax is clear - it is unjust and unworkable and has no place in a modern-day country.

“The token review of the Bedroom Tax that Westminster is engaging in is not enough – it must be scrapped entirely before it causes any more damage to people’s lives.

"The UK Government has showed a reckless lack of care and attention to the consequences of its introduction for low-income households.

"In contrast the SNP Government is doing all it can to help mitigate the impact of this divisive policy and Nicola Sturgeon pledged that our funding for Discretionary Housing Payments will continue next year with another £20 million to help victims of Westminster’s Bedroom Tax.

"One of the most significant gains of independence is that Scotland will have full control over its welfare system. That means only with a Yes vote will we finally be able to get ride of the unjust bedroom tax and have a welfare state that reflects the views and votes of the people of Scotland."

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MP Completes Surgery Tour

Monday, 14 October 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has completed her annual surgery tour. The SNP MP was busy getting out and about in some of the constituency’s smaller communities with her mobile office during the recent Parliamentary recess.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“Most of the casework I receive from constituents these days comes in via e-mail, post or by phone, but I think it’s still very important to be available for face-to-face discussions in people’s own communities and the Surgery Tour serves that purpose very well.

“People brought a range of issues to me, which I am progressing with the relevant authorities, but there was also great interest in the Independence Referendum with a number of people coming along simply to express their support or to ask questions.

“I’ll be holding more surgeries of the conventional type across the larger towns in the coming months but in the meantime, any constituent wishing to contact me can do so in a range of ways; by phone, e-mail, post, calling in at my Constituency Office or online via my website, www.eilidhwhiteford.info, which also has full details of how to get in touch.”

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Whiteford Welcomes 2013 Harvest Recovery

Banff & Buchan MP and SNP Westminster Agriculture spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed the latest estimates from Scotland’s Chief Statistician which show that the cereal harvest is expected to make a partial recovery in 2013 after poor weather last year caused the largest fall in yields for more than two decades.

Eilidh Whiteford MP with
Ian Partridge of Boghead Farm, Memsie
In total, close to three million tonnes of cereals are expected this year, an increase of a quarter of a million tonnes on 2012. Despite the setback in productivity caused by last year’s weather, the longer term trend of improving yields continues, with the average cereal yield for the last 10 years seven per cent higher than in the previous decade.

Scotland’s Chief Statistician has released the latest estimates of the Scottish cereal and oilseed rape harvest. The figures show that the latest increase is due to an anticipated 11 per cent improvement in overall cereal yields. This follows a 15 per cent fall in yields last year. The total area of land sown has remained largely unchanged, though oats have replaced wheat and oilseed rape in some areas.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“After a difficult start to the year, growing conditions improved and allowed a relatively straight-forward harvest, although the high degree of variability across the country introduces additional uncertainty around current estimates.

“The statistics show Spring barley is estimated to increase by 15 per cent to 1.7 million tonnes and winter barley by 6 per cent to 294,000 tonnes. With both higher yields and areas, production of oats is estimated to rise by around 80 per cent to 195,000 tonnes. This is in part due to the replacement of wheat and oilseed rape which experienced a poor start in some places. Production is expected to fall by 6 per cent for wheat, to 630,000 tonnes, and 2 per cent for oilseed rape, to 104,000 tonnes.

“Scottish cereals are still being harvested and these figures are very much provisional estimates. Final harvest estimates from the Cereal Production Survey will be announced by Scotland’s Chief Statistician in December. Final estimates of overall cereal production are typically within five percent of the early estimates.”

These early statistics were agreed by a panel of experts from the Scottish cereal industry and professional statisticians at the annual Crop Report Meeting. They are used to assess the economic well-being of the cereal sector and in determining impacts on the market, and are required by law by the Statistical Office of the European Communities.

The figures released were produced by independent statistical staff free from any political interference, in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

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Importance of Potato Sector Highlighted at Westminster

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Banff & Buchan MP and SNP Westminster spokesperson on Agriculture Dr Eilidh Whiteford has given her support to the constituency’s potato sector, after taking part in events at the House of Commons to mark ‘Potato Week’.

Dr Whiteford met with representatives of the Potato Council in Westminster to discuss the contribution the humble tattie makes to the region’s farming industry, as well as meeting industry representatives.

Speaking after the event, Dr Whiteford said that the potato remains a crucial staple crop not only for the North-east, but for the country as a whole.

She said:

“It was a pleasure to meet with industry representatives, and to give my support to this initiative which highlights just how important the potato crop remains. Potatoes constitute a tasty and nutritious dietary supplement, low in fat and surprisingly rich in vitamin C.

“Every year, Scotland sells thousands of tonnes of potatoes abroad, constituting a significant national export. The Scottish Government recognises the importance of this crop, and in August announced that it would contribute £627,000 to research into improving yields and reducing production costs.

“As a vegetable which is adaptable to a variety of soil types and climates, potato cultivation continues to constitute a major element of Banff & Buchan’s agricultural output, and I am pleased to join in promoting Potato Week.”

Potato Week runs between October 7 and 13, with consumers encouraged to be adventurous with their potatoes. Potato Council is a division of the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board, and is committed to supporting the potato industry. For recipes, potato facts and more visit www.lovepotatoes.co.uk

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Westminster Ignores Scottish MPs - Again

Commenting on the vote last night on the next stage of the controversial Lobbying Bill in the House of Commons, when the vast majority of Scottish MPs were opposed to it – but failed to stop it proceeding, Dr Eilidh Whiteford SNP MP said:

“The Lobbying Bill more commonly known as the Gagging Bill – even with its amendments - is opposed by the vast majority of Scottish MPs and yet this dog’s breakfast of rushed and ill thought out legislation is being pushed through. 82% of Scottish MPS voted against the Bill last night but once again Scotland’s democratic wishes have been ignored. Groups across the third sector have expressed huge concern about the impact on charities and that their absolutely legitimate campaigning activity could be hit by this Bill. That has been reflected by Scottish MPs but ignored at Westminster.”

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Whiteford Gives Backing to Turriff "Relay for Life" Launch

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has given her backing to the launch of Turriff’s Cancer Research Relay for Life. The launch was held on Friday evening in Turriff Academy.

Eilidh Whiteford MP at closing of
Turriff 'Relay for Life'
Cancer Research fundraising event
The local MP attended the launch of the previous event in 2010 and spoke at the closing ceremony in The Haughs, where a huge crowd of participants, supporters and family members gathered to cheer on those taking part.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

"The fact that so many people of all ages, and from across the community, turned out for the launch reminds us that most of us have had our lives touched by cancer, directly or indirectly.

"Relay for Life is a great reminder that treatment is improving all the time and many people are recovering from cancer nowadays. Taking part is a great way to remember those we've lost, and through fundraising, provide hope for the future. Above all, events like Relay for Life let those currently undergoing treatment know that they have the support of the whole community behind them.

"I'm delighted to support the Relay for Life and wish Lynne Cruickshank and her team every success in organising the event, which I’m sure will be a great success, just as the last one proved to be.”

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MP's Backing for Maud Railway Museum

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford visited Maud Railway Museum at the weekend as part of its programme of opening over the summer.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP with
Nigel Sawford, Chair of the Friends
of Maud Railway Museum
The Friends of Maud Railway Museum are a group of volunteers who staff the station building and promote the Museum and its projects. The Museum is still owned by Aberdeenshire Council while run by the volunteers, who have opened it up to the public on seven weekends over the summer months.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“The museum was closed by Aberdeenshire Council several years ago but thanks to the Friends of Maud Railway Museum, it has been opened up to the public regularly since then and on seven weekends during the summer this year.

“It really is a fascinating little museum and the volunteers are on hand to explain the exhibits and, in the case of one gentleman who worked on the railway at Maud, share first-hand experiences of what it was like in the heyday of the railways in Buchan.

“The volunteers deserve our gratitude for keeping up this important aspect of our local history and I’m sure that as heritage tourism becomes more and more popular these days, Maud will be a first-class stop for tourists again next summer.”

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MP Drops in on MacMillan Fundraiser

Local MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford dropped in on the Macmillan Cancer Relief fundraiser being held in Mintlaw at the weekend.

Eilidh Whiteford MP with
Buchan Indoor Bowling Club
The MP took time out of her schedule to drop-in and support the event which was held in the Buchan Indoor Bowling Club.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“I was pleased to be able to take time out to drop by and support this very worthwhile event

“I was delighted to see that it was so well-supported by members of the public."

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Whiteford Tours Central Buchan Community Project

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford toured the new community centre in Mintlaw yesterday (Saturday). The building, which is currently under construction, is part of the Mintlaw & Central Buchan Initiative, known as MACBI.

MACBI, which holds charitable status, was set up by local people in the area in 2005. They aim to improve facilities and offer a place for people to meet, a centre for cultural events, a centre for health and sports activities and most importantly a centre to foster community spirit.

The building will be centrally located in Mintlaw, adjacent to Mintlaw Academy, Pitfour Primary School, Mintlaw Health Centre, the Library and the all-weather pitch.

Eilidh Whiteford MP with MACBI Director
John Pascoe (l) and Chair Norman Smith (r)
The Banff & Buchan MP toured the building with local residents and Directors of the MACBI Project and viewed the plans detailing the development, including floor plans which illustrating multi-purpose hall, multi-gym, soft play area, meeting rooms, changing rooms, lounge/viewing area and a café.

Commenting after her visit, Eilidh said:

“The new community centre is really starting to take shape now and it’s clear it will be a facility of which the communities of Central Buchan can be proud.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work by a dedicated team of local people to get to this point and it is a very exciting time for the community as we move towards the February completion date.

“I’m confident this will be a vital asset for Mintlaw and the surrounding villages which will be well-used for years to come.”

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Local MP Comments on St Fergus Post Office Changes

Monday, 30 September 2013

Speaking after the announcement of proposed changes to Post Office opening hours in St Fergus, Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has said that it is imperative that the village retain access to its current range of Post Office counter services.

The village’s Post Office will move from its current location to the village hall, a short distance away. The days of opening have also been changed to Tuesday and Friday, 9.00am-12.00pm.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“I’m pleased that Post Office management have secured the use of the village hall from which to continue the village’s Post Office service.

“A number of communities locally lost their Post Office completely under the previous London Government. St Fergus had its service downgraded but it is, nevertheless, an important and valued local service and I am keen to see that continue.

“I have written to the local community council in this regard but I’m also happy to hear from any St Fergus residents who may have concerns or suggestions about the new arrangements.”

A local public consultation on the changes runs until November 5.

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MP Takes to the Sea with Broch Lifeboat

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has paid tribute to the dedication of volunteers at the Fraserburgh Lifeboat Station, after taking part in a lifeboat exercise off the town’s coast in the lifeboat ‘Willie and Mary Gall’.

Cllr Hamish Partridge and Eilidh Whiteford MP, with Lifeboat volunteers Barry Pitchford, Rachel Masson and Stephen Brown
Dr Whiteford and Troup councillor Hamish Partridge joined Coxswain Victor Sutherland and the volunteer crew at the station to discuss the challenges involved in running a lifeboat service. They then participated in the crew’s weekly exercise, which saw the crew rehearse a fire drill and man overboard recovery. Dr Whiteford and Cllr Partridge were given the opportunity to pilot the lifeboat at sea, and during the return to port.

Speaking after the event, Eilidh said that even in mild conditions, it was clear that lifeboat volunteers were risking their lives to save others. She said:

“It has been a great privilege to be able to take part in this exercise, and to see the work that goes into responding to a maritime emergency.

“It was really thrilling to be part of the crew’s training evening – experiencing what the Fraserburgh crew face firsthand gives a whole new insight into the risks that these men and women take on a regular basis in order to save the lives of others.”

Troup SNP councillor Hamish Partridge added:

“Victor and the whole team at the Broch lifeboat are very highly respected by the local community who appreciate just what an important job they do.

“It’s been great to see that up close for myself and certainly gives me an insight into the dangers faced when carrying out a rescue.”

Lifeboats have been launching from Fraserburgh Harbour since 1806, and crews from the station have been honoured with 16 awards for gallantry. The station has also seen witnessed tragedy over the years, with thirteen volunteers losing their lives in the act of saving others.

The RNLI is prides itself on being funded by donations from the public and donations are gratefully received and can be made at rnli.org/donateorbecomeamember

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Westminster Hiding Poverty Figures

Sunday, 22 September 2013


MORE INTERESTED IN ERADICATING STATS THAN POVERTY

The SNP have accused the UK Government of trying to hide the devastating impact of their welfare policies by limiting the amount of data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS have now released a consultation on which statistics should be shelved following severe budget cuts made by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

Commenting, SNP Westminster welfare spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

"The Tory-led government at Westminster is more interested in eradicating the poverty statistics than eradicating poverty.

“The Westminster Government is trying to cover up the fact their policies are raising the cost of living and increasing poverty – the UK is one of the most unequal societies in the developed world.

“It doesn’t have to be this way, and it won’t be this way in an independent Scotland. Scottish MPs and the Holyrood government have already made their opposition to these Tory welfare cuts clear, and a majority of people in Scotland believe that the Scottish Government - not Westminster - would be best at deciding welfare policy for Scotland."

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MP Praises Fyvie Skills Centre

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has spoken warmly of her visit to the Scottish Traditional Skills Training Centre at Fyvie yesterday [Tuesday].

Youngsters from local schools demonstrated some of the skills they have been learning, including gardening, and the construction of a dry stone wall. Among those participating were pupils from Banff, Inverurie, Meldrum and Westhill Academies, as well as the Gordon Schools, Huntly.


The STSTC was established in 2006 in response to skills shortages in the historic buildings conservation sector. The centre provides education and training programmes related to the internal and external maintenance of historic buildings, engineering and landscaping. The centre has attracted funding from the Scottish Government in the past, including a Sustainable Action Grant of £30,000 in 2006-07, £20,000 in 2007-08 and £20,000 in 2008-09 to deliver training in conservation skills. The centre also works closely with a number of corporate partners across a range of sectors.

Speaking at Fyvie, Eilidh said:

“It was a real pleasure to meet staff and students at the training centre. The fact that the North-east now hosts this facility is testimony to the drive and dedication of staff at the centre.

“Scotland is a nation famed for its historic buildings, and training a new generation of skilled craftsmen who can care for them is a worthwhile endeavour. Our built heritage is critical to the continued success of the Scottish tourism industry, and it is great to see this particular skills shortage being tackled head-on.”

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Lobbying Bill Will Hit Charities - MP

Monday, 9 September 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has attacked the UK Government’s ill-thought-out proposals for a Lobbying Bill in the House of Commons.

Speaking in a debate in the House of Commons, Dr Whiteford drew attention to the Bill’s flaws, which have generated widespread concerns among charities and voluntary organisations.

The provisions as they stand would place heavy legislative burdens on charities and third sector bodies that campaign on political issues. Particularly onerous are significant new restrictions on what charities will be able to spend in the year before General Elections.

The Bill will come before the house for a second reading later this week, when it is hoped by campaigners that MPs will have an opportunity to amend the bill.

Speaking in the Commons debate, Dr Whiteford said:

“The measures in part 2 are particularly deeply flawed, and in spite of all the assurances we have heard from the Leader of the House, they will place undue restrictions on the ability of campaigning organisations to raise legitimate concerns about public policy issues.

“My key point is that an active, politically engaged, challenging civil society is a hallmark of democracy and the lifeblood of live political culture, every bit as much as a free press or free and fair elections. I have grave concerns that a side effect of the Bill will be to restrict the discursive space where citizens can make a fuss about public policies that affect their lives.”

The cross-party Political and Constitutional Reform Committee has already commented that the lobbying bill had been "unnecessarily rushed".

In their report, the committee said:  

"We do not believe that the government has... provided a satisfactory account of the basis on which the new levels for registration and expenditure by third parties have been set.

“The definition of spending 'for electoral purposes' as currently drafted is likely to cause confusion."

Commenting afterwards, Dr Whiteford said that she would continue to oppose the bill in its present form. She said:

“Dozens of constituents have been in contact with me regarding the impact this Bill will have on charities and voluntary organisations. I share their concerns, and have made my feelings clear in the House of Commons.

“While I recognise the need for a lobbying bill which encourages openness and transparency, the legislation as it stands pleases no one save the government. I will continue to argue for a sensible lobbying bill, which does not penalise voluntary bodies and charities.”

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Tory Welfare Cuts "Flawed" - Welfare Cuts Scotland Didn't Vote For

Thursday, 5 September 2013

SNP Westminster welfare spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP has condemned the UK Government as a spending watchdog has said welfare reform has been badly managed, is “over ambitious” and is poor value for money.

The National Audit Office said risks were taken with the universal credit to hit targets, IT systems had "limited functionality" and an unfamiliar project management approach was used.

Under the government's plans, six key means-tested benefits - jobseeker's allowance, employment support allowance, housing benefit, working tax credit, income support and child tax credit - are to be combined into a single payment which ministers say will ensure that claimants are always better off in work and also reduce fraud. All new claimants were supposed to receive the universal credit from next month as part of a phased implementation plan but this has been delayed following a number of pilots earlier this year.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“This report highlights many problems with the project including officials being unable to explain the reasoning behind their timescales or their feasibility, inept computer systems, and no real leadership.

“Expenditure on IT systems has accounted for more than 70% of the £425m spent to date but the report suggested officials do not yet know whether the infrastructure in place will support a national rollout.

“We already knew the Tory- Lib Dem government’s welfare reforms were discriminatory, but we can now see the extent of how badly managed this project is.

“It doesn’t have to be this way, and it shouldn’t be this way. Scotland has already made its opposition to welfare cuts absolutely clear, and a majority of Scots believe that the Scottish Government would be best at deciding welfare policy for Scotland.”

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Whiteford Raises Rural Post Concerns in Commons Debate

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has hit out at the UK Government’s plans to privatise Royal Mail. The local MP was speaking during a debate in the House of Commons on the future of rural postal provision.

Speaking during the debate, Dr Whiteford drew attention to the fact that rural communities relied heavily on the postal service, and that any change to the Universal Service Obligation would have a devastating impact on rural constituencies like Banff & Buchan.

Commenting afterwards, Eilidh said:

“It is difficult to overstate just how important the Royal Mail is to residents and businesses in my constituency. In many areas of Banff & Buchan, the postal service is more than a service – it is a lifeline.

“Businesses in rural areas depend on a reasonably priced postal service. It is difficult to see how a privately owned and run business will be able to replicate the reach and cost effectiveness of the Royal Mail as it operates at present.

“By pushing ahead with these wildly unpopular privatisation plans, the UK Government is doing the country a profound disservice. I am hopeful that regulation of the privatised industry will preserve the Universal Service Obligation, however I am under no illusions that a privatised Royal Mail, operating in a privatised delivery market, will come under severe market pressure.

“I and many others have campaigned to keep the Royal Mail in public ownership. However, the UK Government are ideologically determined
to push ahead with privatisation, and that being the case I seek to secure the next best thing – a permanent, cast iron commitment to the Universal Service Obligation.”

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SNP Highlight UK's £87.5 Billion of 'Missing Aid' Ahead of Westminster Debate


UK AID FAILURE IN CONTRAST TO RECORD OF SCANDINAVIAN COUNTRIES

Ahead of a Westminster debate (today) on Scotland's role in the UK's international development programme after 2014 , the SNP has highlighted House of Commons library research which shows the financial impact of the UK failing to meet its aid targets for over 40 years.

The research, which calculates the annual financial gap between the UK’s aid promises and what they actually spent, shows cumulative missing aid of £87.5 billion since 1970, when the UN set the target to spend 0.7% of wealth on aid. This year – for the first time in 43 years – the UK has at last budgeted to meet the target, but has backtracked the promise in the coalition agreement to enshrine the target in statute – opening up the prospect of the UK missing its aid targets in future years.

Successive Conservative and Labour Westminster governments failed to meet the target, despite devastating levels of global poverty. In contrast Sweden met the target in 1974 and by 1975 was joined by the Netherlands. Norway and Denmark reached it in 1976 and 1978 respectively, and all four countries have met it ever since. Luxembourg joined the group in 2000.

Commenting ahead of the Westminster Hall debate, SNP International Development Spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP, who is a former Campaigns Manager for Oxfam, highlighted the impact of the UK breaking promises on aid – and outlined the role an independent Scotland can play.

Commenting Dr Whiteford said:

“This House of Commons research lays bare the decades of broken promises by the UK. Cumulatively those years of missed targets show a staggering £87.5 billion of missing aid over the last 42 years.

“We know aid saves lives – be it in humanitarian emergencies or in long terms efforts to get children into school or to improve healthcare. Every day almost 19,000 under-fives die from poverty-related conditions, and around 800 women die in childbirth or from pregnancy complications. The UK’s missing aid reflects a huge missed opportunity to both save lives and improve lives.

“Small independent nations like our Scandinavian neighbours stepped up to the challenge and met their promises decades ago, and an independent Scotland would do the same. Furthermore we would enshrine the 0.7% target in legislation – something which was in the coalition agreement but which the UK Government have not brought forward for legislation.

“In contrast to the cross-party support in Scotland, there are those on the Tory backbenches in Westminster who are opposed to meeting the 0.7% target, and lobbied hard for it to be dropped. They seem to forget that such absolute poverty is a political issue. Almost all these deaths are preventable through low-cost interventions; to stand aside, to pretend it's nothing to do with us, or convince ourselves we can't make a difference runs counter to a current that runs deep through Scottish history and culture.

“With independence we can ensure we meet our promises to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.”

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Westminster Welfare Cuts Hitting Women and Children the Hardest

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Banff & Buchan MP and SNP Westminster spokesperson on Work & Pensions Eilidh Whiteford has condemned the UK Government’s discriminatory welfare reforms as fresh analysis has revealed that women will lose out the most due to Westminster’s changes to the benefits system.

The report, published today by the Scottish Government, highlights how key changes implemented in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 will disproportionately affect women and families, including the slashing of Child Benefit, reduction in the proportion of childcare costs covered by Working Tax Credit, and the overall benefit cap, of which 60 per cent of those affected by the change are single female households.

Commenting on the report, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“This report is extremely troubling. The UK Government’s benefits cuts are now shown to disproportionately affect women, particularly mothers and their children – one of the sections of our society that we should be protecting most.

“From tax credit changes to child benefit cuts and benefits disqualification, those who need support the most are being made to pay the price for Westminster’s economic incompetence.

“It doesn’t have to be this way, and it shouldn’t be this way. Scotland has already made its opposition to these welfare cuts absolutely clear, and a majority of Scots believe that the Scottish Government would be best at deciding welfare policy for Scotland. An SNP Government in an independent Scotland would abolish these discriminatory cuts and ensure that women and families get the support they need.”

The Scottish Government’s welfare reform analysis can be found at:

www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/welfarereform

YouGov (Fieldwork: 20th-22nd March 2013)
Sample size: 1105 Scottish adults

Which government do you think would be best at deciding welfare and pensions policy for Scotland?

The UK government - 34%
The Scottish government - 53%
Don't know - 13%

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Whiteford Opens Peterhead Family History Fair

Friday, 2 August 2013

Local MP Eilidh Whiteford officially opened the Family History & Heritage Fair on the final day of Peterhead Scottish Week. The event, which was held in the Apex Church Centre, was judged to be a great success by the organisers.

Eilidh was asked to open the event by the Family History Society of Buchan and the day brought together organisations such as the Buchan Heritage Society, Peterhead RAF Association, Aberdeenshire Museums & Libraries and the local Registrars’ Office to provide a one-stop shop for anyone interested in genealogy and local history.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“Ancestral tourism is becoming increasingly popular and we are already seeing an increase in that locally thanks to the efforts of the Family History Society of Buchan.

“This event, the first of its kind in Peterhead, has been a huge success and the organisers and those who took part on the day deserve congratulations for their efforts."

After opening the event, Eilidh spent around an hour touring various exhibitions chatting to the stallholders.

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MP Hails Gardenstown Habour Gala Success

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford performed the official opening at Gardenstown Harbour Gala at the weekend amid glorious sunshine.

Eilidh Whiteford MP with
Gardenstown Harbour Trustees
Chairman Michael Watt
The annual gala, held at the village harbour, is an important event in the local calendar and helps to raise a huge sum towards the upkeep of the harbour, which is entirely managed and maintained by local volunteers, and support for other community groups.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“I’m really pleased that Gamrie scored with the weather on Saturday and saw a tremendous crowd turn out for this important event.

“It’s sometimes very easy to take for granted the work which must go on all year round in our local communities carried out by local volunteers, and Gardenstown is very fortunate to have a highly committed and dedicated team of individuals who work tirelessly to maintain the harbour, and other community amenities.

“I was honoured to be invited to open the gala and I’m delighted to hear that over £7000 was raised. My congratulations to everyone who helped make the day such a huge success.”

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MP Makes Early Call to First Event of Peterhead Scottish Week

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford made an early call to the first event of this year’s Peterhead Scottish Week when she visited the OAP Social Club’s annual buttery morning at their premises in Windmill Street.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“Scottish Week is made up of a multitude of events, some of which are new some of which, like the OAP Social Club Buttery Morning, are a long-standing feature of the week’s events and I was pleased to be able to drop by and show my support for the volunteers there.

“The weather has helped get Scottish Week off to a great start and I hope that it continues throughout the week’s programme of events.”

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