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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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MP Congratulates Award-Winning Sea Cadets at House of Commons

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford today hosted a visit to the House of Commons by Peterhead Sea Cadets, recent winners of the Stephenson Trophy for the top Sea Cadet Unit in the Northern Area (Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland). This is the fifth time the Unit has won the prestigious trophy in the last ten years.

In addition, one of the Peterhead cadets, Petty Officer Cadet Hannah Strachan, has received the accolade of Navy Board Cadet in the Northern Area, one of the top cadets in 2013.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP
with Scotland’s top sea cadet,
Petty Officer Cadet Hannah Strachan, and
Officer-in-Charge Sub-Lieutenant John Bowman
(both of Peterhead Sea Cadet Unit)
To mark these awards, Dr Whiteford invited Hannah and Peterhead Sea Cadets Officer-in-Charge, Sub-Lieutenant John Bowman, to visit the House of Commons and attend Prime Minister’s Question Time.

Dr Whiteford also sponsored an Early Day Motion, published today, congratulating the Peterhead Sea Cadets on their recent success and commending the work of the organisation in connecting young people to their maritime heritage and building practical life skills.

Speaking at the House of Commons, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“I’m delighted to be able to mark the achievements of the Peterhead Unit at Westminster today. I have been able to spend time with Hannah and John and hear about their activities and the big part Sea Cadets play in their lives and that of the community.

“This is the second occasion during my time as an MP that the Peterhead Sea Cadet Unit have won the Stephenson Trophy – and the fifth time in ten years. “This success is a testament to the Peterhead Sea Cadet Unit and their leaders. Peterhead can be justly proud of these young people.”

During their visit Hannah and John were also shown around the Houses of Parliament by Dr Whiteford and visited Sea Cadets’ Head Office before attending a reception for Highland and Lowland Reserve Forces' and Cadets' Associations, held in Parliament.

Text of Early Day Motion Published today:

Early Day Motion 983 : PETERHEAD SEA CADETS

That this House congratulates Peterhead Sea Cadets on being awarded the Stephenson Trophy as the top sea cadet unit in the Northern Area (Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland) for the fifth time in 10 years; further congratulates Petty Officer Cadet Hannah Strachan for her appointment as a Navy Board cadet; welcomes all cadets visiting Westminster on 30 January 2013; and commends the work of the sea cadets for connecting young people to their maritime heritage and building practical life skills through its activities.

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Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP Comments on Inquiry into Electoral Conduct

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Chairman of the Westminster All-Party Parliamentary group against anti-semitism, John Mann MP, has today [Tuesday 29th January] announced an All-Party inquiry into electoral conduct in the UK.

The purpose of the inquiry is to investigate the management of elections, with a specific interest in charges of misconduct during elections with a focus on racism and discrimination.

The inquiry to be chaired by the backbench business committee chair Natascha Engel MP and will include the Scottish National Party MP for Banff and Buchan, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, who is the only Scottish MP invited to sit on the inquiry. Commenting on her membership, Dr Whiteford said :

“This is an important opportunity to ensure that racism and discrimination have no place in our electoral system and I hope we can use the inquiry to build a consensus across society on how to achieve that aim."

The inquiry is seeking written submissions from interested parties by 29 March 2013. Oral evidence sessions, located in Parliament, will begin in April 2013 and a report will be published in the summer.

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Local MP Stands up to Prejudice by Signing Holocaust Memorial Day Book of Commitment

Sunday, 27 January 2013

This week Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford signed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, in doing so pledging her commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who died during the Holocaust.

Sunday January 27th will mark the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp which is the site of the largest mass murder in history. In the weeks running up to the day, the Holocaust Educational Trust placed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, giving MPs the chance to honour those who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust and encouraging constituents to work together to combat prejudice and racism today.

In signing the Book of Commitment, Dr Whiteford paid tribute to those who perished during the Holocaust and honoured the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people about what they endured, through the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Outreach programme.

In the weeks leading up to and after Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. This year, people will also be encouraged to honour those communities that have been destroyed by genocide and reflect on the importance of coming together to oppose prejudice and hatred.

Commenting, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity to remember the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. I encourage all constituents to mark the day and to join members of community in the fight against prejudice and intolerance.”

Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said:

“We are proud that Eilidh is supporting Holocaust Memorial Day this year. It is vitally important that we both remember and learn from the appalling events of the Holocaust – as well as ensuring that we continue to challenge all forms of hatred and bigotry.”

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MP Congratulates Peterhead Sea Scouts on Top Award

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has congratulated Peterhead Sea Cadets on being awarded the Stephenson Trophy as the top Sea Cadet Unit in the Northern Area (Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland).

In addition, one of the Peterhead cadets, Petty Officer Cadet Hannah Strachan, has received the accolade of top sea cadet in the Northern Area.

Eilidh was in attendance at the awards ceremony at the TS Caledonia in Peterhead’s Seagate on Friday evening when newly appointed Area Officer, Captain Peter Adams RN, presented the Stephenson Trophy.

Speaking after the event, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“I’m delighted for the young people involved in Peterhead Sea Cadets and send them my congratulations on their achievement.

“This was the second occasion during my time as an MP that the Peterhead Sea Cadet Unit have won the Stephenson Trophy, competing against all other sea cadet units in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North of England, so this is a major accolade.

“This success is a testament to the Peterhead Sea Cadet Unit and their leaders and the town can be justly proud of these young people.”

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Whiteford Welcomes Help for Citizens Advice from Scottish Government

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed extra resources for advice organisations to help them cope with increased demand for their services as a result of welfare cuts being introduced by the Tory-led London Government.

Organisations which offer advice on benefits will share more than £5 million of Scottish Government funding to help meet the rising demand for their services. The Scottish Government has set up a £1.7 million fund to provide support to advice services while a further £3.4 million will be spent over the next two years to help organisations mitigate the impact of welfare reforms.

Meanwhile, Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) will be given an immediate £300,000 cash injection.

CAS last week reported an increasing demand for its services and warned that this was likely to get worse as further changes to the welfare system come into force.

Benefits reforms passed by the Conservative-Lib Dem London Government last year include the introduction of the new Universal Credit and changes to Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“I know from my mailbag and casework that the cuts in welfare are hitting hard and are hitting some of the most vulnerable people in society.

“It underlines the need for Scotland to have full control of its own affairs with independence so that we can make decisions in Scotland which best serve the people who live here. In the meantime, the extra support being made available by the SNP Government to advice agencies who will be the first place those affected turn to for help in many cases is extremely welcome.”

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP said:

"Many people across Scotland are suffering as a direct result of UK Government benefit cuts and many more are concerned about how they may be affected by changes yet to come into force.

"Citizens advice bureaux across the country are currently dealing with nearly 800 new issues for every working day.

"It is clear that the impact of the cuts will extend across Scottish society, with vulnerable groups, women and working families all likely to suffer. This is putting more and more pressure on the organisations that provide crucial frontline advice to those affected.

"These are the people, who, on a daily basis see how lives are being damaged by the fall-out from the UK Government's welfare reform changes. That is why we have listened and are providing £5.4 million to help meet the demand for advice and support as it dramatically increases."

CAS chief executive Margaret Lynch said the money would be used to train more advisers and provide longer hours of service. She said:

"Bureaux across the country are already dealing with unprecedented levels of need due to current welfare changes and benefit cuts.

"We already can see the damaging aspects of cuts and changes on the lives of families and household across the country, and more is set to come over the next few years.

"We are, therefore, delighted that additional funding is being made available by the Scottish Government for all advice services across Scotland to help cope with the increased demand. It is much-needed and will be well-used."

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MP Backs Friends of the Earth's Bee Campaign

Monday, 21 January 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford joined a giant bumble bee and campaigners from the environment charity Friends of the Earth this week to draw attention to the alarming decline in bee numbers.

Eilidh was one of more than 125 MPs to show their support for our threatened bees. Last year Friends of the Earth launched its Bee Cause campaign, which has been backed by more than 80,000 people and calls for the UK Government to urgently to introduce a National Bee Action Plan aimed at saving our bees.

Bees are not only makers of honey, they are also crucial for pollinating crops and plants. A sharp fall in their number in recent years has led to growing concerns about the impact this may have on our local environment, farmers and the economy.

A study last year found that if bees disappeared it would cost UK farmers at least £1.8 billion a year to pollinate their crops by hand - which would cause food prices, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, to rocket.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“The rapid decline in bee numbers is a concern. They’re not only an iconic part of our countryside; they play a vital role in pollinating our crops and flowers too.

“Across the North-east there are many bee-keepers and honey producers and, indeed, I’ve met with some of them, and it’s clear that our local shops would be the poorer without their high quality honey.”

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:

“I’m delighted Eilidh Whiteford MP is showing support for Britain’s threatened bees – they are under severe threat and need all the support they can get.

“People up and down the UK can help by creating bee-friendly gardens and habitats to enable bees to thrive, but it is vital that the UK Government does its bit too by introducing a National Bee Action Plan.”

Friends of the Earth’s Bee Cause campaign is asking David Cameron to adopt a National Bee Action Plan:
  • to ensure our towns and countryside provide bees with enough flowers to feed on and places to nest; 
  • to help farmers, gardeners and park keepers to reduce chemicals that harm bees; 
  • and to protect Britain’s 250+ bee species, not only the ones who make our honey.

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Westminster Caught "Red-Handed" on Scotland's Underspend

SCOTLAND SOLD SHORT ON DEFENCE SPENDING TO THE TUNE OF £7.4 BILLION

A Freedom of Information request has revealed Scotland is being sold short on defence spending – to the tune of £7.4billion – and gives conclusive proof that the Ministry of Defence has hidden damaging evidence of this massive underspend in Scotland, having consistently denied holding this information.

The MoD has repeatedly claimed in the House of Commons, and elsewhere, that they no longer produce spending statistics for the nations and regions of the UK – but this FOI shows they do.

The FOI adds £1.9bn more to the known underspend in the whole defence establishment in Scotland taking the total over ten years to 2012 to at least £7.4billion.

Despite repeated attempts to unearth this information, the MoD has evaded and avoided answering – and moreover has lied about its ability to produce these figures, making alarming reading for Scots.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

“The MoD has been caught red-handed. They told us they stopped publishing statistics of this type, only for it to be revealed that they do – but only for internal consumption.

“This is really nothing more or less than a cover-up as the minister assured SNP MPs in parliamentary questions and debates that they were no longer published.

“Worst of all these figures show the underspend in Scotland continues to fundamentally undermine any remaining defence case for the Union.

“Scottish taxpayers will feel rightly outraged at this deception and begs the question if any MoD pronouncements can be taken seriously.

“It is of course a devastating blow to Unionist claims that Scotland gets a good deal on defence spending and totally exposes the deliberately misleading behaviour of the anti-independence parties."

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Whiteford Comments on Algerian Hostage Crisis

Friday, 18 January 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

“Until we know the status of all those caught up in this crisis our thoughts and prayers are with the individuals and families concerned.

“I met with the Foreign Office Minister on Thursday afternoon when it became apparent that one of my constituents was affected and I am being kept informed of developments.”

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Westminster Pension Claims - Another Tory Con

Monday, 14 January 2013

The SNP today said the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis of the Tories latest pension reforms showed claims it would help mums where a con. The long awaited proposals for a new flat rate state pension were almost instantly derided by the IFS :

"as is often the case with pension reforms – the overall effects will be more complex and in the long run will be to reduce pensions for the vast majority of people"

The IFS also stated that those who have children and took time out of their contributions would be worse off :

"the reform will not increase pension accrual for part time workers and women who take time out to care for children. In fact, in common with almost everyone else, these groups would end up with a lower pension at the state pension age under the new system than they would do under the current system"

Commenting on the statement today SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson , Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said :

“The coalition’s claims have been exposed as another Tory con.

“If we have learned anything from the last three years of Tory rule it is that the devil is always in the detail.

“In the long run workers who take time off for child care - principally women - and part time workers , will be worse of with these proposals . The independent IFS analysis makes it clear that the main effect of these reforms will be to reduce pensions for the vast majority of people.

“On top of the cuts already put in place for public sector pensions, the child benefit changes hitting some families by up to £1,300 a year and the impact of serious cutbacks in support for vulnerable people the UK Government are cutting back on support people need in difficult times.

“People in Scotland have an alternative. With a Yes vote in next year’s referendum we could set pensions policy, which is more affordable in Scotland, in the best interests of the people of Scotland, ensuring proper equality of pensions and protection for all."

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Local MP Says Westminster Greed is 'Crassly Insensitive'

Friday, 11 January 2013

LABOUR AND TORIES MPs WANT PAY HIKE AS WELFARE GETS CUT

The SNP has hit out at the Westminster system’s ‘crassly insensitive’ mind-set following a revelation showing anti-independence MPs believe they deserve a salary hike to £86,250.

In the same week where MPs voted through welfare cuts which will have an adverse impact on hundreds of thousands of working families the anti-independence parties MPs have declared that they want more money from the public purse.

The survey conducted by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) showed the Tories want a whopping £96,740, the Lib Dems said they should get £78,361 and Labour MPs want to increase their pay £77,322.

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford, the SNP’s spokesperson on Welfare, said:

“The Ipsa survey reveals a crassly insensitive show of greed which is an embarrassment for the Westminster system and highlights the need for Scotland to have full responsibility for its own affairs.

“In a week where the UK government has imposed cuts to welfare benefits on the most vulnerable members in our communities - and a further £210 million set to be taken from the pockets of individuals, families and communities - this just highlights how archaic the Westminster system is.

“Whilst politicians are expecting the public sector to cope with restricted pay rises and in some cases pay freezes, and hard pressed families are being hit with benefit cuts politicians should be expected to follow the same approach

“The self-serving nature of anti-independence MPs combined with Alistair Darling’s absence from the vote against Tory cuts to Welfare this has been a dreadful week for the anti-independence campaign.

“It could scarcely be clearer that the Westminster system has its priorities all wrong and is failing to act in the interests of people in Scotland.

“Decisions over taxes and welfare in Scotland should be made by people in Scotland so that we can build the kind of country that Westminster has consistently failed to deliver. Only a Yes vote for an independent Scotland in next year’s referendum will give us that opportunity.”

Notes: MPs call for '32% salary increase' http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20978487

SNP MPs do not vote on issues relating to their remuneration as they don’t believe MPs should be in the position of voting on their own pay and conditions.

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Whiteford Welcomes Ithaca's Commitment to North Sea Oil

Thursday, 10 January 2013

The SNP has welcomed news that Canadian firm Ithaca Energy will invest up to £224million in the North Sea.

The company confirmed it will spend the money in an oil field south-east of Peterhead.

Commenting, Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

“It is extremely encouraging that Canadian energy firm Ithaca is investing in Scotland’s oil assets.

“Countries from around the world acknowledge the potential Scotland has, which was reflected in the outstanding year the oil and gas industry had in 2012, with a predicted £11.5billion of investment and jobs and investment announced.

“There are 24 billion barrels of oil still to be recovered in the North Sea, with a wholesale value of £1.5 trillion.

“Scotland’s North Sea resources are fantastic assets which will benefit an independent Scotland for generations.

“It is only with a Yes vote in 2014 that will allow us to build a lasting economic legacy from our offshore resources that will benefit Scotland for generations to come.”

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Welfare Benefits - Uprating : An Assault on the Working Poor

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

After the coalition relaunch yesterday the landscape of what Scottish families can expect between now and 2015 is being laid out with the second reading of the Welfare Benefits-Uprating Bill today at Westminster. It represents a further assault on the working poor.

The proposed cap of 1% on the uprating of working age benefits is a measure that will make people on low incomes even poorer, increase deprivation, and widen the gap between the haves and have nots in our communities.

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford , MP for Banff and Buchan commented :

"The coalition cap will particularly hit parents in low paid work or in part time work who are already struggling to make ends meet because of the wider economic climate. Many people – particularly in lower paid private sector jobs - have had their working hours cut in recent times because of the economic downturn.

"Many people who are working part-time want to be working full time, but can’t find a full-time job, or pick up extra hours at the present time. And we’re all aware of the particular challenges for those who are juggling work with parenting or caring responsibilities in the context of reduced support for child care and changes to the tax credit system.

"A family with one full time earner on minimum wage, will be £13 a week worse off by 2015. A disabled lone parent of two children receiving the support component of ESA will see a comparable net loss of income in real terms. These calculations don’t include the cuts families like these will already have experienced through changes to the tax credit system and child care support. What these examples mask, though, is the disproportional impact the rising costs of living have on low income households.

"It is welcome news that Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is establishing an expert group which will advise on how a fairer welfare system can be introduced in an independent Scotland which will protect the vulnerable, support Scottish households, and ensure that work pays. With devolution the powers of the Scottish Government are currently limited, nevertheless the SNP Government is investing to mitigate the impact of Westminster cuts to communities. Together with partners in local government, £40 million is being invested in 2013/14 to ensure that over 560,000 people in Scotland are protected from the UK Government’s 10 per cent cut to Council Tax Benefit funding.

"An extra £9.2m has been allocated for the Scottish Welfare Fund which means an additional 5,600 Community Care Grants, and over 100,000 Crisis Grants for those groups who need help most.

"With a Yes vote in 2014 we would begin work to establish a welfare system that better reflects Scotland’s values, and ensures fair and decent support for those that need it most - a system that protects the vulnerable and supports households, rather than seeing them subject to unfair ideological benefit cuts from Westminster"

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New Report Slams Westminster Welfare Plans as 'Bogus' and 'Poverty Producing'

A newly published report from the Child Poverty Action Group has condemned the Westminster Government’s benefit uprating plans as ‘based on bogus claims and is a poverty-producing bill that will further exclude the poorest workers, jobseekers, carers and disabled people’.

The Westminster Government is in the process of legislating to break the link between benefits and inflation, by capping any increase to benefits payments of 1% per annum, well below the rate of inflation.

This is expected to have the cumulative effect of introducing a 4% real-terms cut to working-age benefits payments received by workers, jobseekers, carers and disabled people over the next three years.

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

“This report makes damning reading for the Westminster Government who are set to throw their commitments to tackle child poverty out the window by hammering some of the poorest people in society.

“It shows that their arguments are fundamentally flawed and are set to do untold damage to thousands and thousands of people across Scotland.

“The Coalition’s welfare plans will inevitably only increase poverty and increase inequality in society, which is why they have been condemned in such stark and unequivocal terms.

“It could scarcely be clearer that the Westminster Government has its priorities all wrong and are failing to act in the interests of people in Scotland.“Decisions over taxes and welfare in Scotland should be made by people in Scotland so that we can build the kind of country that Westminster has consistently failed to deliver. Only a Yes vote for an independent Scotland in next year’s referendum will give us that opportunity."

Note: The Child Poverty Action Group’s report can be viewed at  http://www.cpag.org.uk/

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