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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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Whiteford Leads Bedroom Tax Debate in Commons

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

BEDROOM TAX CONFUSION CAUSING ANXIETY FOR THOUSANDS

Ahead of a Westminster debate on the Bedroom tax today (Tuesday) Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has called on the UK Government to rethink its plans after comments from the Work and Pensions Secretary betrayed his deep unease with the devastating impact of the policy.

Last Thursday, Iain Duncan Smith said that he had instructed his officials to “look again” at how the benefit cut would affect disabled people, after the Chief Executives of seven charities wrote an open letter to Mr Duncan Smith and George Osborne outlining their concerns. However, within hours IDS’s own department had ruled out any changes.

Figures released over the weekend by the Scottish Government estimated that eight out of ten households set to be affected by this benefit cut in Scotland are occupied by a person with a disability.

The SNP have now demanded that Iain Duncan Smith get a grip on his department and order them to review the policy as he had wanted.

Commenting ahead of the debate – led jointly by the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party - SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson and local MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

"We know that over 80% of Scotland’s MPs at Westminster are totally opposed to this iniquitous measure. On Wednesday we have an opportunity to reflect the deep and genuine worry about the Bedroom tax. We know that about 100,000 households are going to be hit by this policy and we know from our mailbags and surgeries that there is huge concern about how this new tax is going to hit the most vulnerable in our communities.

"Now we see the confusion and panic at the Department for Work and Pensions. Last week the Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith ordered his officials to 'look again' at how this measure will affect the disabled following an approach by the Chief Executives of seven charities concerned about it. Now we are told there will be 'no u-turns' and it is full steam ahead for implementation in full.

“We know that many elderly people are also worried about what this benefit cut really means for them. There is widespread alarm about the way this Government’s incompetence now extends to communicating how this new measure is actually going to work.

“Iain Duncan Smith is clearly concerned about the impact of this policy – yet he appears to have been silenced by his own department. It’s time for Mr Duncan Smith to get a grip of his own department – and look again at this policy as he wanted. When they do, the devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our society will become quite clear.

"We are listening. We are listening to the charities and civic bodies. We are listening to individuals who are shocked at the confusion and shambles and we are listening to those who understand that the new Bedroom Tax will hit the vulnerable, the disabled and those in greatest need of support. Iain Duncan smith is not listening. He needs to come to the House of Commons urgently and tell us all what he is doing to take account of all of these concerns.”

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North Sea Oil and Gas Has Highest Levels of Investment in 30 Years

The SNP has welcomed the North Sea Oil and Gas UK report that shows the highest investment in the industry for more than three decades.

Commenting, Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

"For the North Sea Oil and Gas industry to record the highest level of investment in 30 years is a clear demonstration of the continued strength of the sector.

"It makes abundantly clear that George Osborne got it badly wrong in 2011 with his surprise tax raid on the industry and that he was right to heed our calls to undo his damage at the earliest opportunity.

"The oil and gas sector clearly has a bright future ahead of it and with the powers of an independent Scotland we can ensure that these fantastic resources are put to the best possible use on behalf of people in Scotland."

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Local MP Witnesses Fraserburgh Academy Rock Challenge Success

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has congratulated Fraserburgh Academy for gaining first place in the North-east heats of the 2012 Global Rock Challenge.

The event was held on Saturday night at Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre and the local MP was there to witness the Broch’s success.

Commenting on the event, Eilidh said:

“I was delighted to be able to attend the Aberdeen heat this year and I was even more pleased that Fraserburgh Academy emerged triumphant at the end of the night and brought first place home to Banff & Buchan.

“The performance by the Fraserburgh pupils was truly spectacular, highly professional and deserving of their first place, in addition to the other awards they picked up on the night for drama skills, video performance and performing skills.

“In addition, Peterhead Academy is a 'Premier School' in the Global Rock Challenge competition. This means they will be once again travelling to Grimsby to compete in the Northern Premier Finals of the dance/drama competition in June, representing not only the school, but the local area and Scotland.”

The Global Rock Challenge is for the students and their teachers to create and be involved in their own production from conceptualisation through to the live performance. The challenge is also to be the best that they can without the use of nicotine, alcohol or other drugs, and there are severe penalties for anyone who fails that challenge on any event day and for their team too.

Feedback / research indicates that the concept works, with young people clamouring to return year after year to take part, with improved relationships with teachers at school, with a reduction - or even cessation - of substance abuse by team members and with a lower incidence of substance abuse generally within participating schools.

Attendance rates are also boosted, as are staying-on rates into sixth year.

The Rock Challenge® communicates health and social education messages in a positive and supportive environment.

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Mundell Under Pressure Following 'Misrepresentation' Claim

Friday, 22 February 2013

Pressure is rising on the Tories’ sole MP in Scotland after accusations he misrepresented the views of COSLA on the bedroom tax at Westminster.

Reports in today’s Herald (Friday 22) make clear that COSLA president David O’Neill has written to the Westminster Government minister demanding a retraction of claims David Mundell previously made in the House of Commons that the concerns of local authorities had been satisfied following a meeting between COSLA and Lord Freud.

Figures highlighted by the SNP recently demonstrated the significant mismatch between the number of people assessed by the DWP as needing one-bedroom social homes and the number of people who currently have them. With 60% of social housing tenants in Scotland ‘needing’ such properties but 26% currently living in one-bedroom social homes, the lack of availability means that the bedroom tax will be unavoidable for many people.

Commenting, SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

“These are extremely serious accusations and if David Mundell has misrepresented COSLA’s views at Westminster, then he must set the record straight as a matter of urgency.

“Like everyone else, Scotland’s local authorities have huge concerns over the utterly unfair bedroom tax that Westminster is preparing to implement, and to suggest otherwise is simply unacceptable.

“The fact is that the bedroom tax will leave tens of thousands of people in Scotland facing bills they can’t afford - and will only be able to avoid by leaving the communities they have lived in for years and secure smaller accommodation elsewhere, with all the disruption to families and sources of support that involves.

“No amount of manufactured claims of support will change the fundamental unfairness of the bills people will soon face, or the devastating impact it will have for tens of thousands of people in Scotland.

“The determination to pursue this fundamentally flawed charge shows just how out of step Westminster is with the needs of people in Scotland. Decisions over housing benefits are the kinds of decisions we need to make for ourselves in Scotland - a position supported by 64 per cent of people in the Scottish Social Attitudes survey - and only a Yes vote in next year’s referendum will secure the right for us to do so.”

Details of COSLA’s letter to David Mundell can be viewed at http://www.heraldscotland.com/mobile/politics/

Figures below from the Scottish Government show the mismatch between the number of people assessed as ‘needing’ small social homes and those who currently have them.

Table 9: All tenants in social housing in Scotland










Estimated number of bedrooms needed using DWP standard v Number of bedrooms in the house










Number of bedrooms required using DWP standard
Number of bedrooms in the dwelling


1 2 3 4 5 or more Total %
1

142,000 142,800 45,600 2,800 100 333,300 60.40%
2

2,900 92,700 36,900 3,000 300 135,800 24.61%
3

200 17,600 40,100 4,000 200 62,100 11.25%
4

0 1,400 11,600 2,900 100 16,000 2.90%
5 or more

0 300 2,500 1,400 400 4,600 0.83%
Total

145,100 254,800 136,700 14,100 1,100 551,800 100.00%
%

26.30% 46.18% 24.77% 2.56% 0.20% 100.00%

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SNP Questions 'Rancid' Bedroom Tax

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

During Scottish Questions at Westminster today two SNP MPs raised the issue of the Bedroom tax about to hit an estimated 100,000 Scots who live in social housing.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford SNP MP for Banff and Buchan and Work and Pensions spokesperson asked Tory junior minister David Mundell:

"Will he take the opportunity to distance himself from this shameful attempt by the Government to stigmatise and penalise people who live in council houses and need help with their rent?"

In his reply Mr Mundell said Dr. Whiteford was:

"Playing party politics"

Angus Robertson Westminster SNP Leader and MP for Moray then asked the Secretary of State Michael Moore:

"As one of the most rancid unfair pieces of legislation since the Poll tax, can the Secretary of State remind the House how many Scottish MPs voted for it?"

The Secretary of State was unable to answer Mr Robertson’s question. Mr Robertson continued:

"Anybody watching this debate will have noticed that the Secretary of State wasn’t prepared to confirm that 82 percent of Scottish members of this house had voted against the Bedroom tax. So just like the Poll tax an unpopular regressive measure is being imposed on the people of Scotland when the overwhelming majority of their public representatives are totally opposed to it."

Angus Robertson commented later:

"People will have seen the inability of Michael Moore to answer straightforward questions about the imposition of the Bedroom tax, and how despite a huge majority of Scotland’s MPs - over 80 per cent - voting against it this iniquitous tax will still hit Scots. Only with a Yes vote for an independent Scotland in 2014 can we stop more unfair, unwanted and undemocratic taxes being imposed on Scotland by Westminster."

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Local MP Welcomes BT Fibre Investment in Turriff


RAFT OF COMMUNICATIONS INITIATIVES COMING TOGETHER

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed the latest investment in the North-east by BT, who have announced that 25 communities in Scotland are to see investment in high-speed fibre broadband. Turriff is included in the communities set to benefit, with Banff and Mintlaw having previously been announced.

Commenting Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“This announcement by BT of a major fibre broadband upgrade in Turriff is very welcome news indeed. It is critical to our local economy that we see investment in new communications technology to enable business to remain competitive with major urban centres and to attract new investment in businesses, including life sciences, which are viewed as so important to the area’s economic future.

“Combined with the upcoming plans for next generation broadband right across our region and more localised projects in harder to reach areas, this range of investment not only supports our economy in the future but such a major infrastructure upgrade also means jobs during the installation of these new technologies.”

Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities, Nicola Sturgeon, said:

“I very much welcome this latest announcement from BT. It is essential that households and businesses everywhere in Scotland have access to high-speed connectivity and fibre broadband will play a key role in enhancing our digital offering.

“The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that a world class digital infrastructure is in place across Scotland by 2020 and that a significant increase in coverage has been achieved by 2015. This investment, along with significant investment by the public sector, will ensure that this ambition is achieved.”

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MP Backs Quality Scotch Beef in Commons Debate

Monday, 11 February 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has spoken up for quality Scotch Beef in the House of Commons.

The SNP’s Westminster Agriculture spokesperson was responding to a statement from UK Secretary of State for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson, on horsemeat and food fraud.

Following the Secretary of State’s update on the situation to the House of Commons this evening, he was asked by Dr Whiteford:

“I think we have all been shocked by these unacceptable failures in our food supply chain. Does the Secretary of State agree that one way we can be absolutely sure what is on our plates is to buy Scotch beef—quality assured and fully traceable—preferably from a local butcher, and not least that which is produced in Banff and Buchan?”

Responding, Secretary of State Owen Paterson agreed and said:

“The hon. Lady is absolutely right. I talked to her Minister, Richard Lochhead, only yesterday. She may be a great advocate of locally produced Scottish beef, and I may be a great advocate of British beef—or Shropshire beef—but she is absolutely right that British consumers should have faith in locally produced food.”

Speaking from Westminster after the debate, Dr Whiteford said:

“The quality assurance schemes in Scotland guarantee Scotch Beef comes from cattle born, reared and slaughtered in Scotland. The industry, rightly, takes great pride in the world-leading traceability which it has in place.

“The clear message to consumers should be that bodies such as Quality Meat Scotland have rigorous assurance schemes in place covering everything from animal welfare to haulage standards; from auction marts to processors.

“By supporting your local independent high street butcher, the consumer can be assured that they are purchasing meat of the highest quality and traceability.”

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English NHS Minister Jeremy Hunt Says, "We Can Learn from Scotland"

In today’s debate in Westminster on the funding of social care in England the SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff and Buchan asked :

“Obviously these proposals won’t apply in Scotland where people already receive personal and nursing care as they need it, when they need it, regardless of their income. But is the Secretary of State aware that this approach has helped substantially reduce the number of people requiring long term hospital beds -- has also helped reduce NHS hospital bed blocking and has enabled thousands of elderly frail people in Scotland to live in their own homes rather than face the crippling costs of moving into residential care?"

Health Secretary for England, Jeremy Hunt answered:

“There are some things that we can learn from Scotland and some things that we can’t learn. But I do think that Scotland has a very good record in identifying people with dementia, and I do think that the point she makes about helping people to live at home for longer is a very good one."

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