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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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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.”

Read more...

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.

Read more...

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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