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SNP Support For Those Hit By Tory Cuts To Continue In 2015

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Support for those hit by Tory welfare cuts will continue in 2015, the SNP has said today.

At the beginning of December, Chancellor George Osborne confirmed Scotland was in line for more real terms cuts in the coming years – on top of the £25bn welfare cuts already announced. The impact of the majority of these cuts will continue to be felt most by the least well off people in society.

Despite the fact Scotland has very limited powers over welfare, the SNP in Government has consistently acted to mitigate the worst impacts of welfare reform. This mitigation is set to continue in 2015.

SNP work and pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

“With billions of pounds more cuts coming Scotland’s way from Westminster, it is clear that the people of Scotland continue to pay the price for the failed Tory austerity agenda.

“In recent years, food bank use has rocketed and one in five people in Scotland now live in poverty.

“While the proposals in the Smith Commission did not deliver the full powers over welfare the SNP believes are necessary to better enable us to build a fairer Scotland, the Scottish Government will continue to do all it can to help those feeling the worst impacts of Westminster cuts.

“In the coming year, the SNP in Government will provide £104m in total to mitigate welfare reforms imposed by Westminster. This will include £38m for the Welfare Fund, £35m Bedroom Tax support, £23m for the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and £8m for advice services – who are currently struggling to keep up with demand.

“The Community Charge Debt Bill will also end the collection of historic Poll Tax debts – a move which means no one who registered to vote in the referendum will have to worry about councils using their details to look up historic debts.

“And underlining our commitment to progress, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced she will appoint an independent advisor on poverty and inequality to advise on actions needed to make progress – the first appointment of its kind.

“The Scottish Government will also continue to pay the Living Wage to all those covered by their pay policy – and will encourage all other businesses to do the same. This will provide further help to low paid workers – and help tackle in-work poverty which has also risen under the Tories.

“In addition, the SNP’s continued roll out of childcare hours will see parents saving up to £707 per child per year as the roll out of 16 hours per week for all three, four and vulnerable two year olds continues.

“With job creating powers and full control over welfare, we could take more action to strengthen and grow the Scottish economy while ensuring support for our most vulnerable people. However, in government, the SNP remains absolutely committed to doing whatever we can to ensure people across the country are protected from the worst impacts of harsh Tory cuts.”

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More Scottish Children In Poverty This Christmas Due To Con-Dem Cuts

Saturday, 27 December 2014

TOO MUCH OF WELFARE POLICY WILL REMAIN IN THE GRIP OF WESTMINSTER

The Scottish National Party has said too many children are suffering this Christmas at the hands of UK Government welfare cuts and delays to benefit payments.

Shelter has estimated that 4,000 children in Scotland will be homeless this Christmas. The Child Poverty Action Group has forecast that by 2020 up to 100,000 more children will live in poverty in Scotland, largely as a result of ongoing tax and welfare changes.

Over 60 charities and civil society organisations focussing on poverty and welfare rights in Scotland had called for the full devolution of welfare policy to Scotland in their submissions to the Smith Commission.

The Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations, Barnardos, Citizens Advice Scotland, Shelter and a range of other groups had argued for the Scottish Parliament to have responsibility over the majority of welfare policy yet £15 billion of welfare spend will remain reserved to Westminster with only £2.5 billion transferred to the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament.

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

“Too many children in Scotland will be living in poverty this Christmas and too many working families will be struggling to put food on the table and heat their home.

“Poverty in Scotland is being perpetuated by UK Government policies and the powers we need to tackle this problem – such as working tax credits and child benefit – will remain in the grip of Westminster.

“The promised new powers for Scotland on welfare are welcome, but the reality is that the public and those who work on the frontline with the vulnerable and with struggling working families expected the UK Government to deliver so much more.

“Charities and civic society groups made it clear in their submissions that only by devolving welfare wholesale could we make a transformational impact on poverty in Scotland. However, even if the welfare powers recommended by the Smith Commission are delivered, 85% of welfare will remain in the grip of Westminster.”

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Need For Food Banks To Be Open On Christmas Day "Dickensian"

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

SCOTLAND CAN SEND A MESSAGE TO WESTMINSTER ON POWERS TO TACKLE POVERTY

The SNP has said that families using food banks this Christmas Day is a result of the “Dickensian impact” of welfare cuts.

The Trussell Trust has said that between April and September of this year more than 15,000 children have used a food bank and figures show that 48% of people using food banks have done so as a result of benefit cuts and delays.

Food banks are expecting a rise in demand over Christmas and will be open on Christmas Day.

The Child Poverty Action Group has estimated that by 2020 up to 100,000 more children will live poverty in Scotland, as a result of on-going tax and benefit changes.

However, the proposals set out by the Smith Commission will leave key powers for tackling poverty and creating a fairer social security system at Westminster.

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

“It is a disgrace that in a country as wealthy as Scotland food banks will be open on Christmas Day and will be relied upon by families with children.

“Heartless Tory Ministers are cutting £6 billion from the incomes of the least well-off in Scotland and fully £1 billion of these cuts will directly impact on children – and we are now seeing the Dickensian impact of these cuts.

“But with both the Tories and Labour committed to further austerity and social security cuts, we face the prospect of 100,000 more children living in poverty by 2020.

“In the New Year Scotland will have an opportunity at the General Election to send a message to Westminster that the Scottish Parliament must have the powers it needs to tackle poverty and inequality.”

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Report Shows Royal Mail Undervalued in Botched Sell-Off

Monday, 22 December 2014

PRIVATISATION HAS BEEN A FIASCO SINCE DAY ONE

In a report out today the former Business Minister Lord Myners has suggested that there was a £180 million shortfall in the sale of Royal Mail last year as the shares could have been sold for 30p more per share – but were not as the coalition did not take all Royal Mail’s assets into account and ministers were alarmed about all the ‘considerable‘ risks in the sell off.

Commenting, Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

"This is yet more evidence that the privatisation of Royal Mail has been a complete botch up from day one. This report shows that the UK Government could have made millions more for the taxpayer from this rushed, ill thought through sell off - but didn’t. This privatisation has been a fiasco from the start with Royal Mail itself now saying it fears for the future of the Universal Service Obligation (USO) – which is so important for businesses and consumers in Scotland .

"Each new disaster has been utterly predictable. In fact the SNP has been warning about this since the whole sorry sell off started - and the people who will pay for this incompetence are the individuals and businesses in rural parts of Scotland who need and should have the same postal services as the rest of us.

"Royal Mail should never have been privatised and it is painfully clear that the UK government should never have sold off a valuable public asset at well below its true value and despite all the warning about the end of the USO. We know the majority of Scots were totally opposed to the privatisation of Royal Mail - more than any other part of the UK. We need a postal service that meets the needs of our communities and one which is brought back into public ownership."

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Local MP backs Abolition of Bedroom Tax

TORIES AND LIB-DEMS REFUSE TO BACK DOWN ON ‘SHOCKINGLY BAD POLICY’

SNP MPs, including Banff & Buchan’s Eilidh Whiteford, have again voted for the abolition of the Bedroom Tax following a debate in Westminster.

Local MP Dr Whiteford and SNP colleagues have consistently voted against the Bedroom Tax at Westminster and did so again this week.

Speaking during the debate in the House of Commons, the SNP’s Work & Pensions Spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“As well as being a bad policy, the bedroom tax is, above all, a nasty and vindictive policy. It does not surprise me that the Tories have imposed it on us. This is supposed to be the season of good will, but there is a distinct lack of Christmas cheer among the people still dealing with the financial consequences of this fiasco of a policy.”

Commenting after the vote, Dr Whiteford said:

“This shockingly bad policy continues to put pressure on low income households in the North-east and contributes to food and fuel poverty and the rise in demand for foodbank support.

“Anti-poverty charities and organisations have roundly criticised the Bedroom Tax and in Scotland the Scottish Government has diverted funds from other budgets in order to support the families and individuals affected.

“I commend the efforts of council benefits staff who are distributing these funds to affected households and I commend the Scottish Government for providing money to tackle this unfair policy head on.

“That diversion of money to mitigate against the Bedroom Tax is the right thing to do to protect the vulnerable groups affected but it is an absolute disgrace that the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition continue to go against the advice of experts and widespread opposition throughout the country to this iniquitous policy.

“The SNP will continue to actively oppose the Bedroom Tax and I sincerely hope that the UK Government will back down sooner rather than later.”

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Scotland's Pensioners Need a Winter Fuel Allowance Increase

NEW RESEARCH SHOWS 24.6% REAL TERMS DROP IN VALUE SINCE 2000

The SNP has today highlighted the need for a rise in Winter Fuel Allowance (WFA) for Scotland’s pensioners so they feel safe in the knowledge that they can afford to heat their homes this Christmas and New Year.

New research from the Scottish Parliament Library reveals the UK Government's freeze on the basic payment level since 2000-01 by both Labour and Tory governments has resulted in the value dropping by 24.6% in real terms.

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said Westminster must now make a commitment to transfer the powers over the WFA at once or commit to ensuring it keeps pace with the cost of living by increasing it in line with inflation.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“This is just the latest example of Westminster’s sustained attack on the poor – and this time it is Scotland’s poorer pensioners who are the victims of Tory and Labour neglect.

“Many pensioners in Scotland live on small and modest earnings – the winter fuel allowance is a vital payment and it exits to try and make sure they don’t have to compromise between paying for groceries or heating their homes during the winter months.

“Energy bills have increased by over 37% since 2000-01 and if winter fuel allowance had increased by inflation since 2000-01, pensioners would be £76 better off in 2014-15 than they are.

“The transfer of control of the winter fuel allowance - as recommended by the Smith Commission - is welcome but without any clear timetabling of when this will happen we need immediate action to make sure not one pensioner in Scotland is afraid to put their heating on this winter.

“If this Smith Commission recommendation is not passed over with immediate effect then Westminster must in the near future increase the payment in line with inflation.

“The SNP will continue to campaign for full powers on welfare and pensions and will use these to make Scotland a fairer, more prosperous place, we will argue at next year’s general election to argue for full welfare and pension powers to be transferred to Scotland - to ensure our older people get a fair deal.”

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Whiteford and Stevenson Deliver Festive Cheer to Local Post Office

Friday, 19 December 2014

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford and Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson visited Royal Mail’s Banff Delivery Office to pass on Christmas wishes and thanks to our postmen and women at this, their busiest time of the year.

MSP & MP with Gerald Duncan and Calum Tawse
The MP and MSP were shown around the sorting process by Banff Delivery Office Manager, Ian Jackson, and met the postmen and women who are working hard doing their bit to sort and deliver cards and parcels in the Banff area this Christmas.

Commenting on Royal Mail’s work at Christmas Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“I really value the opportunity to catch up with our hard working Royal Mail postmen and women in delivery offices each Christmas and witness first hand just how much effort is put into delivering for people at this time of year.

“We all rely very heavily on the Royal Mail, especially so at Christmas, and I would like to thank them for their commitment and wish them all the best over the busy festive period.”

Stewart Stevenson MSP added:

“Our postmen and women are working extremely hard to deliver Christmas cards, letters and parcels to people across the Banff area. It was our pleasure to drop in to see the workers, wish them well for Christmas, and deliver some festive cheer with a couple of boxes of chocolates."

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Fishing Champion MP Welcomes Scottish Quota Gains

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The SNP’s Spokesperson on Fisheries at Westminster, Dr. Eilidh Whiteford, has welcomed the outcome of the December Fisheries Council which has resulted in key quota gains for the Scottish fishing industry.

A freeze on proposed cuts to days fishermen can go to sea and gains in key quotas were two of the main wins for Scotland as a package for the next 12 months was agreed this week by EU Fishing Ministers.

The deal will see significant increases for the Scottish industry in key quotas such as monkfish, prawns, West Coast haddock and Rockall haddock. Initial estimates by the Scottish Government suggest that the quota deal will be worth an additional £10 million to the Scottish whitefish and prawn fleets.

Dr Whiteford, whose constituency has some of the most fishing-dependent communities in Europe, commented:

“The increase in quota is a welcome gain for the Scottish fleet and I commend Richard Lochhead and his negotiating team for winning such favourable concessions. These negotiations have resulted in increases in quota in 8 out of 10 of the most valuable North Sea and West Coast stocks – that will be a welcome economic boost not just for our fishing fleet but for our processors and the coastal communities in which they are rooted.”

“I also hope that these increases in quota and a freeze on the cuts to days at sea will help ease the burden of implementing the landing obligation, which starts to come into effect in January for parts of the fleet. Our industry has been straining to make the point that this discard ban will be very difficult to implement in mixed fisheries and I hope that some progress can be made on finding a workable way forward.”

Earlier this month, the Banff & Buchan MP used her speech in the House of Common’s annual fisheries debate to demand a consistent enforcement regime for all vessels subject to the discard ban, including non-EU boats fishing in Scottish waters, and warned of the need to move beyond single species quotas to make the landing obligation workable in a mixed fishery.

Dr. Whiteford also put on record a tribute to the lost crew of the Fraserburgh-registered Ocean Way, which sank off the coast of Northumberland earlier this year.

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Bedroom Tax Vote Shows Why Welfare Powers Should be in Scotland's Hands


WESTMINSTER’S ‘SHAMEFUL’ TRACK RECORD ON WELFARE CONDEMNED

The SNP is today reiterating its call for the full devolution of the welfare system to Scotland – after the House of Commons voted to uphold the unfair Bedroom Tax.

In a vote in the House of Commons today, the SNP backed calls to finally end the iniquitous measure which hits some of the most vulnerable people in society– but were outvoted by the Tories and the Scottish Lib Dems who didn’t even show face in the Chamber of the House of Commons to defend their Government’s record.

Commenting after the vote, SNP Work and Pensions Spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“Today’s vote is another shameful episode in Westminster’s appalling record on welfare. The Bedroom Tax is an iniquitous measure which has a disproportionate impact on disabled people – and should be completely abolished as soon as possible.

“That the Lib Dems voted against the motion along with their Tory allies despite claiming to now oppose the Bedroom Tax is nothing less than a scandal – and won’t be forgotten by the people of Scotland at the election in May.

“It’s clear that people in Scotland can’t trust any of the Westminster parties on welfare – while Labour now say they oppose the Bedroom Tax, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Ed Miliband barred Scottish Labour from speaking out against it for a whole year.

“In Scotland, the SNP has taken real action to mitigate the impact of the Bedroom Tax – but the idea that the Scottish Government should have to spend tens of millions of pounds protect some of our most vulnerable people from a policy people in Scotland completely reject is absurd.

“Today’s vote only confirms what was already abundantly clear – that the Westminster establishment simply can’t be trusted on welfare and is committed to continuing its relentless and sustained assault on vulnerable people.

“This is exactly why full powers over welfare should be in Scotland’s hands rather than in the hands of people like Iain Duncan Smith – to allow us to use the welfare state to protect and support vulnerable people, rather than as a weapon with which to attack some of the poorest people in society.”

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Workfare not Fair for New Fathers

Sunday, 30 November 2014


SNP QUESTION UNCOVERS THE HARSH REALITY OF WESTMINSTER SANCTIONS

The SNP has today (Sunday) condemned Westminster’s failure to offer support to new fathers after it was revealed that the legal entitlement for Paternity Leave does not extend to jobseeker's allowance claimants in mandatory work or a community placement.

A parliamentary question tabled by SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP uncovered that the legal entitlement to Paternity Leave is not available to people who are forced to work for their benefits.

SNP MSP Christian Allard – a single father - said:

“These unfair rules effectively leave new fathers who are working for their benefits without any rights to see their baby and partner whatsoever.

“Not only does the Westminster system demand people work for free but they don’t even get any time off to be with a new born child - and if they go off anyway then they will sanctioned – it is totally ridiculous.

“I understand exactly how hard it is being a lone parent and fortunately I have always had understanding and fair employers, but sadly the UK Government either don’t understand or just don’t care about this.”

Eilidh Whiteford MP added:

“The sanctioning of a new parent’s benefits who is in a workfare programme threatens to be hugely detrimental to vulnerable families and is grossly unfair. I will be pursuing the Department of Work and Pensions on this matter and will be seeking clarification of the moral and legal grounds on which it was implemented.”

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Whiteford Invites Young Musical Talent to ' Rock the House'

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Young bands and solo artists could win the chance to perform in London

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has urged local bands and solo artists to participate in the House of Commons' annual 'Rock The House' competition. The competition is open to young bands and solo artists across the UK and offers them the opportunity to perform on the Terrace of the House of Commons.

Entries are being sought from across the UK for 5 categories including bands, solo artists and live music venues. Entrants submit a track to their MP, who then selects a local act to nominate to the competition.

Dr Whiteford urged local talent to put themselves forward for the competition, commenting:

"The Rock The House competition has grown massively in the last years and attracted a lot of attention. It is a great way for Parliament to connect with younger people and to recognise their achievements. I know there are some very good young bands and musicians in Banff & Buchan so I encourage them to put themselves forward and show the country just how talented this corner of Scotland is!"

The finals of the competition will be held in London in March 2015 and category winners will be rewarded with top of the range music equipment, slots at music festivals including the Download festival, and the opportunity to perform on the Terrace of the House of Commons. The competition has received the endorsement of high profile musicians including legendary guitarist Brian May and shock rocker Alice Cooper.

Applications are invited until 31st December 2015 and can be filled out online at www.rockthehousehoc.com/apply.

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SNP Will Vote to Prevent NHS Privatisation

Friday, 21 November 2014

KNOCK-ON FOR CUTS TO SCOTLAND

Commenting on the National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill which is being debated in the House of Commons today, local MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

“The Scottish National Party will be supporting this Private Members Bill in the House of Commons to prevent the back-door privatisation of the health service.

“While responsibility for the NHS in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, any cuts to NHS funding in England have knock on implications for the Scottish block grant and result in cuts to the Scottish budget.

“The parts of the Bill that apply directly to Scotland would exempt the NHS from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). TTIP could threaten the public ownership of the NHS and could undermine the democratic decisions of the people of Scotland. The Scottish Government’s proposals in its submission to the Smith Commission call for fiscal autonomy for the Scottish Parliament which would give Scottish Government greater control over NHS funding.

“I will be seeking cast iron assurances from the Westminster Secretary of State for Health that the TTIP will not impact on the Scottish Government’s ability to determine how NHS services are provided, and that there will be no obligation to open the NHS in Scotland to private providers as is happening in England.”

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Scottish Interests Frozen Out of Vital Discards Talks

Tuesday, 11 November 2014


North-east representatives condemn Westminster’s silencing of Scottish Fisheries Minister


Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has condemned the UK Government for its decision to refuse the Scottish Fisheries Minister the opportunity to speak at critical EU talks on discards this week.

The Scottish Government’s Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead, who has been in post for 7 years, put in the request to the UK Government to speak in the talks. However, Conservative Lord deMauley was instead chosen to represent the UK in the discussions.

Matters being discussed at this week’s EU Council included the landing obligation, or ‘discards ban’, which fishing industry leaders have warned could be disastrous for Scottish fishing if key concessions are not won.

Commenting from Brussels, Mr Lochhead – who is Europe’s longest serving Fishing Minister – said:

“Today we found ourselves in the crazy position of un-elected Lord Rupert Ponsonby, 7th Baron de Mauley, representing the UK Government and making the briefest of interventions – after being passed a note by an official – on a crucial discussion on the issue of fish discards - an issue the Scots industry tell me is one of the most important they face.”

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford, whose constituency hosts Europe’s largest fishing port, added her voice to the condemnation:

“This week’s Council meeting addressed issues which largely impact the Scottish industry yet an unelected Lord with next to no experience of fishing was chosen by Westminster to speak on the industry’s behalf. With the discards ban looming large on the horizon, we need the strongest voice for our fishermen. Instead, Scotland’s interests were completely frozen out of these critical talks.”

North East MSP Christian Allard attended the SFF’s annual dinner in Edinburgh last week where he heard SFF President Ross Dougal call for Scottish ministers to take the lead in negotiations where appropriate. Mr Allard commented:

“Only last week, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation supported calls for Scottish Ministers to be able to take the lead in fisheries negotiations. News of this farce will disappoint our fishermen at a time when they need the support most.”

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Banff & Buchan MP Re-Elected Vice-Chair of Parliamentary Fisheries Group

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has been re-elected as a Vice-Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Fisheries Group.

The meeting, held today in the House of Commons, was attended by MPs from a range of constituencies with fishing interests. It was also attended by UK Government Fisheries Minister George Eustice MP who was questioned on a range of issues by the Banff & Buchan MP.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“I took the opportunity to press the Minister on the implementation of the ban on discards, which comes into effect for the pelagic fleet next January. It’s vitally important that Scottish fishermen are subject to the same compliance measures as the non-EU vessels that fish in our waters. It would be completely unacceptable if Scottish vessels were to be fishing alongside Norwegian vessels which are subject to different rules.”

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Local MP Urges Shoppers to Break the Bag Habit


Beach clean weekend highlights damaging effect of plastic bags on the environment

Member of Parliament for Banff and Buchan, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, joined environmental campaigners on a beach clean of High Shore in Macduff this weekend as a new Scottish Government scheme on reducing bag use came into effect.

From 20 October, shoppers will face a 5p minimum charge for use of a bag in a scheme that is designed to reduce use of bags and protect the environment. Around 750 million bags are used in Scotland every year.

Eilidh Whiteford joined the 'Surfers Against Sewage' group as they launched a beach clean at High Shore, Macduff on Saturdy, commenting:

"Carrier bags are a highly visible aspect of litter, and that has become clear in today's beach clean. By reducing the amount being carelessly discarded we can cut litter and its impact on our environment and economy. A small charge should also encourage us all to stop and think about what we discard and what can be re-used."

“We have seen elsewhere that carrier bag charging has been effective in encouraging people to reuse bags. This charge is not a tax but will see retailers donating the proceeds to charity - this could be up to £5 million per year after retailers have covered their costs."

“Thousands of Scottish people already use bags for life and some retailers already charge. It is now time, however, for a national effort.”

The Surfers Against Sewage campaign weekend concluded on Sunday with a clean-up of Banff Links.

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Parliamentarians Welcome Progress on Ambulance Response Times

Friday, 17 October 2014


MP & MSP secure commitment from Ambulance Service to improve in North Aberdeenshire

Following on a recent report that ambulances were failing to meet call-out target times in North Aberdeenshire, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP and Stewart Stevenson MSP met with regional Scottish Ambulance Service chiefs to hear their plans on how to address the shortcomings.

The parliamentarians had earlier met with the chiefs and were told that the Service would produce a report aimed at identifying the improvements that were needed.

Commenting on the meeting, Banff & Buchan MP, Eilidh Whiteford, said:

“The Scottish Ambulance Service has made a welcome commitment to filling the current vacancies that exist in the north of Aberdeenshire and providing incentives to attract the best talent to the area. A fully staffed and trained service will go a long way to ensuring that residents in Banff and Buchan can come to expect improved response times."

"When I met with staff a few weeks ago, one of the priorities they identified was for additional A&E ambulance provision in Peterhead. I am very pleased that the Scottish Ambulance Service has listened, and has made a commitment to a second A&E ambulance in Peterhead which will go some way to relieving pressures at stations in Fraserburgh and Banff."

The Ambulance Service chiefs also informed the Parliamentarians that an additional paramedic response vehicle has been added to the station at Fraserburgh until a more detailed assessment of demand can be made.

Stewart Stevenson MSP added:

“The commitment of additional vehicles is a welcome step in addressing the demand profile that there is in Aberdeenshire. The extra paramedic vehicle in Fraserburgh and a commitment to assess the need for a second A&E ambulance based out of Peterhead will be key in bringing response times down."

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MP Backs Campaign for Lower Westminster Voting Age


Eilidh Whiteford supports Scottish Youth Parliament campaign for votes at 16

Banff and Buchan MP, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, today met with two budding politicians to discuss their campaign to have the voting age lowered to 16 for all elections.

Kain McLeod (left) & Robbie Nicoll MSYP (right)
with Eilidh Whiteford MP
The Scottish Government and UK Government had agreed to lower the voting age to enable 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the referendum on Scottish independence but the voting age remains at 18 for all other elections. However, Whiteford and Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament Robbie Nicoll today used the opportunity of their meeting to issue a call for the voting age to be lowered permanently for all elections.

Commenting, Robbie Nicoll said:

"It is vital to build on the fantastic participation of 16 and 17 years in the Scottish referendum. They dispelled every myth surrounding lowering the voting age by doing research, raising their own issues and points and casting informed votes. I strongly believe that now is the time to give 16 and 17 year olds the permanent right to vote."

Dr Eilidh Whiteford added:

"It was a pleasure to meet with Robbie and I commend his hard work in campaigning on this issue. Some of the most informed voters that I spoke to during the referendum campaign were from our younger generation. It proves the point that young people of 16 and 17 are sensible and mature enough to vote in the Westminster election next May and all elections thereafter. I am pleased to add my support to Robbie's campaign and wish him all the best in his campaign to have him and his peers' right to vote recognised."

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New Deal for Railways Great News for North East Passengers and Rail Staff

Sunday, 12 October 2014


Whiteford welcomes new franchise announcement

Dr Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff and Buchan, has welcomed the announcement by Scottish Government Transport Minister of a new deal for Scotland’s railways, with a new franchise agreement that will see reduced fares and better working conditions for staff.

Operator Abellio, which will take on the running of the £6billion franchise from 1 April 2015. Abellio will move their UK HQ to Glasgow creating 50 new jobs alongside 150 jobs secured from First.

As a result of the new deal, passengers and staff will enjoy a range of benefits including: advance fares starting at £5 between Scottish cities; a commitment to earnings of at least the Living Wage for all staff and subcontractors; at least 100 apprenticeships; a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies; rail staff pensions and travel rights protected; free wifi on all trains; a new approach to cycling with more than 3,500 parking spaces and bike-hire at a number of stations; 80 new trains due to arrive at start of December 2017; 23 per cent more carriages across the network.

Commenting, Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

“The new contract is great news for passengers in the North-east.

“The new deal will rejuvenate our rail service and deliver a first class service that will rival any public transport system in Europe.

“A large investment in new trains in the coming years is a welcome development in shortening journey times, and the pledge of £5 fares between Scotland’s major cities is a great step towards making public transport an affordable alternative to taking the car on long journeys.

“The pledge to pay Living Wage to all employees including subcontractors and the commitment to no compulsory redundancies is welcome news for those railway workers and with all staff to have their rail staff pensions and travel rights protected, this really does represent a better deal.

“The establishment of a new Scottish training academy will also help build a better rail industry for the future – and the commitment to 100 apprenticeships will help get things off to a flying start.”

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MP & Local Councillor on Official Opening of MACBI Centre

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford and Central Buchan SNP councillor Lenny Pirie have hailed the opening of the new MACBI Centre in Mintlaw.

Dr Whiteford and Cllr Pirie attended the official opening of the MACBI (Mintlaw & Central Buchan Initiative) community facility yesterday (Saturday), which attracted a large crowd of local people.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“This really is a fantastic facility and credit must go to the hard-working local committee who have pushed this project forward over the past ten years.

“The Centre will be a real boost for Mintlaw and Central Buchan and provide facilities for a range of organisations and community groups. Indeed, I’ve already held one of my surgeries in it a few months ago and can vouch for the facilities.

“I’m delighted for the committee that their hard work has paid off so handsomely and I’m sure they now look forward to seeing the building being very well-used by the local community.”

Cllr Lenny Pirie added:

“It was a great pleasure to attend the official opening and see just how well-received the new building has been by the local community.

“It boasts a great range of facilities from fitness areas to meeting space and will be a tremendous asset to the growing communities of Mintlaw and Central Buchan.”

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Charities Attack Tory Welfare Policies as "Deeply Cynical & Senseless"

Sunday, 5 October 2014


EXPERTS VIEW ON IMPACT OF TORY POLICIES MUST BE HEEDED

The SNP’s Welfare and Pensions Spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford has said that the UK Government must listen to the voices of leading charities and poverty experts who have spoken out about the deeply damaging effect of their welfare policies on Scotland’s poorest families.

The intervention follows George Osborne’s announcement at this week’s Tory conference that a further £3bn is to be cut from the welfare bill, with benefits frozen for two years. These cuts are expected to hit 1 million families in Scotland. But when Mr Osborne made this announcement it was met with cheers from Tory delegates.

As reported in today’s Sunday Herald a wide range of organisations including Shelter Scotland, Citizens Advice Scotland, Shelter Scotland, the Child Poverty Action Group, SCVO, the Poverty Alliance, Positive Action in Housing, Barnardo’s in Scotland, the Poverty Truth Commission, the Big Issue and the Trussell Trust, have spoken out and raised their concerns.

Commenting Dr Whiteford said:

“The warnings of these respected experts on poverty and welfare issues must be heeded before increasingly damaging Tory policies drive more into poverty. 100,000 more children in Scotland already face being pushed into poverty as a result of the Tories’ sustained attack on hard working and vulnerable families. Reports today that George Osborne’s benefits freeze will hit 1 million families in Scotland are deeply worrying.

“As their intervention shows this is no longer just a debate between politicians - now those people and organisations who work daily to help tackle poverty and deprivation are giving a stark warning which both Westminster and the wider Scottish society must heed.

“Westminster has proven time and time again it cannot be trusted when it comes to welfare. It is time for the Scottish Parliament to have the powers we need to make Scotland a fairer, more equal country and address the causes of inequality."

Read more...

YES Vote Prevails in Banff & Buchan

Sunday, 21 September 2014


AMAZING SCENES IN NEW DEER TODAY AS FIRST MINISTER ARRIVES FOR MEETING WITH CAMPAIGNERS

Yes campaigners in Banff & Buchan have taken heart from the fact that a Yes vote topped the poll locally.

While there are no official figures for the referendum result broken down by constituency, information gathered by the Yes Campaign’s Counting Agents at the Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre point to a clear Yes vote in Banff & Buchan.

Commenting, a spokesperson for YES Banff & Buchan said:

“The Westminster establishment has made extravagant promises to the people of Scotland that they will find hard to keep. The 'new powers' promised will need to go much further than the lowest common denominator of 'devo-nano' if they are to meet the expectations of the people of Scotland. It's our job now to hold them to account, and make sure they keep their pledges.

“Although we are disappointed that we failed to secure a Yes vote last week, we can take great heart from the fact that 1.6 million people, 45% of the electorate, voted Yes. And we’re proud that in every age group except our older citizens, the Yes campaign won a majority of votes.”

The positive YES campaign has galvanised a whole new generation of activists which was in evidence today at New Deer. A scheduled meeting of the local Constituency Association of the SNP had to be hastily turned into an outdoor rally when around 300 people turned up to greet First Minister Alex Salmond on his arrival after hearing about the meeting on Facebook.

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

“Alex has served the people of Scotland with passion, vision and immense dedication. His role in shaping the Scottish political landscape over the past 25 years has been immeasurable, and in the last seven years he has transformed the role of First Minister.

“Alex continues to be an outstanding MSP for East Aberdeenshire. Anyone who knows Alex, knows his extraordinary willingness to make time for his constituents, his determination to improve the lives of our people, and his desire to build a better future for Scotland.

“I am very sad that Alex is stepping down as First Minister. One of the supreme ironies of this campaign is that all along the No campaign tried to make the Referendum all about Alex. And on Friday, that's exactly what happened, and instead of focussing on defeat, the agenda focussed on him.

“But Alex’s departure as First Minister leaves Scotland with unfinished business in terms of the new powers promised to our parliament, but the seeds of hope and expectation he has helped to plant in the hearts and minds of the people of our country will flourish in the years to come, and will make Scotland a better place for all of us.”

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Whiteford Comments on Salmond Statement

Friday, 19 September 2014

Commenting on the statement from First Minister Alex Salmond, Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

"Alex Salmond has served the people of Scotland with passion, vision and immense dedication. His role in shaping the Scottish political landscape over the past 25 years has been immeasurable, and in the last seven years he has transformed the role of First Minister.

"Alex has represented the interests of the people of Banff & Buchan, and East Aberdeenshire without fear or favour. Anyone who knows Alex, knows his extraordinary willingness to make time for his constituents, his determination to improve the lives of our people, and his desire to build a better future for Scotland.

“Alex’s departure as First Minister leaves Scotland with unfinished business in terms of the new powers promised to our parliament, but the seeds of hope and expectation he has helped to plant in the hearts and minds of the people of our country will flourish in the years to come, and will make Scotland a better place for all of us.”

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Bedroom Tax Vote Highlights Need for Independence

Friday, 5 September 2014

The Scottish National Party has said today’s vote in the House of Commons against the Bedroom Tax highlights the need for independence.

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said that while the vote was a defeat for the UK government, it won’t end the Bedroom Tax.

The Scottish Government has already provided funding to protect those hit by the tax in Scotland.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“This vote demonstrates exactly why we need independence.

“This was a defeat for the UK government but it doesn’t end the Bedroom Tax which has caused misery for so many people.

“Every single Scottish MP could vote against the Bedroom Tax and we would still be faced with it because we can be outvoted by Tory votes from the south.

“Labour’s hypocrisy on this issue is simply breathtaking – every single one of their Scottish MPs is working hand in glove in the No campaign with the Tory Government who have given us the Bedroom Tax in the first place.

“Labour seem more interested in playing tribal party politics than in giving Scotland the powers to scrap the Bedroom Tax once and for all. The SNP have already voted to end the Bedroom Tax – a vote which Labour failed to turn up for.

“Independence will mean we never again have to put up with policies like the Bedroom Tax, the Poll Tax and Trident imposed by Tory Governments we didn’t elect.

“We will take no lectures from Scottish Labour MPs who are joined at the hip with their Tory friends to try and prevent Scotland governing itself.”

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Whiteford Welcomes Independence Boost for Rural Scotland

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed Scottish Government proposals to use the powers of independence to boost rural connectivity.

Rural communities are home to almost one fifth of Scotland’s population and contributed more than £32bn to the Scottish economy in 2011. The Scottish Government has set out plans to establish a Rural Connectivity Commission after a YES vote – to consider how to improve issues like mobile and broadband coverage, postal services and transport links for rural Scotland.

Five key gains of independence with regard to rural connectivity have been set out: improving telephone and broadband coverage, delivering fairer parcel and delivery charges, ensuring fairer fuel prices and energy bills, establishing improved transport links and achieving the true potential of rural Scotland’s renewable resources.

Dr Whiteford commented:

“Once again, the Scottish Government is thinking ahead of the curve on rural connectivity. Through the Digital Scotland programme, we are already moving forward with a revolutionary infrastructure investment of £310 million to bring superfast broadband to rural communities as quickly as possible. The investment and the government backing for this project is already yielding dividends. By 2017, we will bring superfast broadband to 95% of Scotland’s homes.

“However, with the full powers of independence however, the Scottish Government will be able to address rural connectivity in the broader sense – taking action to make our rural economy more competitive by, for example, establishing a fuel duty regulator which would keep fuel prices stable, giving business greater certainty and removing the disincentives associated with high rural fuel prices.

“The Scottish Government is determined to encourage and develop our rural economy – a Yes vote gives us the full ability to pursue this ambition.”

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Pensions Secure and More Affordable in an Independent Scotland

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Following a report in today’s Sunday Post citing letters from private and public organisations about pensions being unaffected by a YES vote and independence, the SNP has reiterated that the people of Scotland can look forward to safer state pensions and should dismiss the NO campaign’s scaremongering.

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

“As these letters covering private, public and armed forces pensions make absolutely clear, all pensions are totally secure in an independent Scotland. Scotland would be in the top 20 wealthiest countries in the world, and a smaller share of our tax revenues and national income are spent on pensions compared to the UK as a whole - which means that pensions are more affordable for an independent Scotland. And with the powers of independence, we will have the triple lock to ensure that the state pension rises by at least 2.5 per cent a year - and we will review Westminster's unfair decision to keep raising the state pension age."


click to read whole letter
DWP pension letter quote:

"If Scotland does become Independent this will have no effect on your State Pension"
click to read whole letter
MoD Royal Navy pension letter quote:

"The Government of the continuing UK would have a legal obligation to ensure that accrued pension rights for members of the Armed Forces are met, irrespective of where they retire."
click to read whole letter
Daily Mail pension letter quote:

"I can confirm that should there be a Yes vote in the 2014 Scotland Referendum the benefit you have accrued in the scheme would be unaffected."
click to read whole letter
HSBC pension letter quote:

"I confirm that your pension plan will not be affected should Scotland vote for independence."

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New Post Office Van a Welcome Service for Rural Communities

Friday, 29 August 2014

Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed the addition of a brand new post van to the Post Office’s rural fleet, after officially opening the service on Thursday.

Dr Whiteford met with Subpostmaster Moira Raeburn at the ceremony in Rothienorman’s Public Car Park. The new van, operates out of Turriff, and stops at Rothienorman, Cuminestown and Udny Station. The new vans have been designed specifically to welcome disabled customers, and replace the previous LDV vehicles, which have travelled around three million miles over the past six years.

Cutting the ribbon, Dr Whiteford said:

“The new van is a welcome upgrade to the Post Office fleet, and I am pleased to officially launch the new service today. Outreach services are vital to rural communities across Banff and Buchan, and the improved accessibility will benefit villagers in Rothie and Cuminestown."

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UK Government Slammed as Health Experts Issue Malnutrition Warning

Sunday, 24 August 2014


"YES VOTE NEEDED TO USE SCOTLAND’S WEALTH"

The Scottish National Party has slammed the UK government for their cuts to welfare following a warning on an increase of malnutrition from health experts.

The Faculty of Public Health have said conditions such as rickets are becoming more apparent because people cannot afford quality food in their diet. It comes after health figures recently revealed a 19% increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with malnutrition over the past year.

Earlier this year, figures from the Trussell Trust revealed that use of their foodbanks had increased by 400% in the last year alone as Westminster’s welfare cuts continue to bite.

Nobel Prize winning economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz said this week that Scotland would have more success in tackling inequality than the rest of the UK – highlighting that Scotland takes a “different view from say the Cameron Conservative policies...”.

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

“It’s almost unbelievable that rickets and other symptoms of malnutrition are on the increase in Scotland in 2014. It’s completely unacceptable.

“Westminster’s welfare cuts have had a devastating effect on the most disadvantaged people in Scotland and new cuts could push 100,000 more children in Scotland into poverty.

“As Professor Joseph Stiglitz said this week, Scotland has the political will to truly tackle inequality and make our country a fairer place.

“A Yes vote next month is our one opportunity to rid ourselves of the Westminster establishment and its obsession with austerity – creating a welfare state that is a springboard to a better life, not one that leads people to a life of malnourishment and rickets.”

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Whiteford: YES Vote is One Opportunity to Secure NHS for the Future

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has urged undecided voters to take the opportunity of independence to secure the future of the NHS as a free and open health service – and to consider the implications a No vote would have for Scotland’s future funding.

Picking up on comments from the unionist parties over recent months, Dr Whiteford claimed Scotland stands to face significant cuts through the scrapping of the Barnett Formula.

Scrapping the Barnett Formula was one of the recommendations of the LibDem’s commission on further powers. Senior Labour figures including Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones[1], Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls[2] and Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith[3] have all recently called for it to be scrapped. Prime Minister David Cameron stated in 2010 that “the Barnett Formula is coming to the end of its life”, and in 2013 refused to guarantee its future.[4]

Dr Whiteford said:

“All the evidence points to the fact that the unionist parties are agreed on cutting the Barnett Formula in the event of a 'no' vote. If the Barnett Formula is cut, it would mean £4 billion a year less coming to Scotland.

“Barnett represents a pretty poor deal at the best of times – Scotland already contributes far more revenue to the UK than it receives back. However, ending Barnett will ensure that what we receive back is even less. To put those numbers into perspective, a £4 billion cut represents a third of Scotland’s current NHS budget. That’s the equivalent to five times NHS Grampian’s annual budget of £777 million. It is difficult to overstate the sort of damage such a cut to the Scottish Government’s grant would do.

“In tandem with the direct threat to the current funding arrangements is the prospect that privatisation of NHS services in England will have an impact on the budget allocation for Scotland. The English NHS is in chaos because of the UK Coalition Government’s privatisation policies – and any cuts to the English NHS budget will have a direct impact on funding for services in Scotland.

“Everyone should know that a No vote isn’t a vote for no change – it’s a vote for Scotland’s budget to be tied to Westminster’s austerity policies, and for electors in Scotland to place their services at the mercy of the Tory-led Government in London. Devolution allows us to improve our services – but it gives us no control whatsoever over the size of the funding pot.

“There’s a better way forward – and that’s for the Scottish Parliament to have full responsibility for its budget, with a Yes vote in September.”


Notes:
  1. http://yoursenedd.com/debates/2014-03-25-questions-to-the-first-minster#150401
  2. Speaking to Insider (06-Dec-2011) before addressing a CBI Wales dinner, he said:
    "It [the Barnett Formula] was never intended to be long term. We are getting to the point where it needs to be looked at again … I have read the Holtham report [on funding] and I understand the arguments."
  3. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110118/halltext/110118h0001.htm
  4. http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-economy/8484-p4bn-cut-to-scottish-budget-looms-as-cameron-letter-fails-to-curb-barnett-fears

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Local MP Welcomes Support for YES Vote from Leading Farming Figures

Friday, 15 August 2014

Banff & Buchan MP and SNP Westminster Agriculture spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed the support for a Yes vote from four past Presidents of the National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS).

John Ross, Jim Walker, John Kinnaird and John Cameron have declared their support for a Yes vote on September 18. All four are convinced that the safety and security of the Scottish farming industry is better served under an independent Scottish Government than by a remote, out-of-touch and unsupportive Westminster.

They gathered at Yes Scotland HQ in Glasgow to urge Scotland’s 65,000 farmers, crofters and growers – as well as the 250,000 others who depend on agriculture for their living - to follow their lead and vote Yes on Referendum Day.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

‘These gentlemen have between them many years of experience of leading the NFUS and seeing close-up how UK Governments of all political colours fail to promote the interests of Scottish farming and our rural communities.

‘Their backing for a Yes vote is extremely significant and demonstrates quite clearly that rural Scotland and Scottish agriculture will be best served by an independent Scottish Parliament which is focussed on the interests of our rural communities.’

John Ross, a livestock farmer for 50 years and president of NFUS from 1990 to 1996, said:

‘Farming and rural affairs need to be at the forefront of all future Scottish government thinking – and being fully committed members of the European Union is an essential part of that policy.

‘An independent Scotland is the only way that this can be secured. A No vote will mean years of uncertainty about a UK government’s EU membership and commitment and this will have very serious consequences for the future of Scottish farming.’

Dr John Cameron, who became NFUS first long-term president in 1978 at the age of 39, has represented Scottish agriculture – particularly the livestock sector in many parts of the world – said:

‘Having worked in this industry all my life, I have come to the very firm conclusion that the interests of Scottish agriculture and rural Scotland will be best served by having an independent Scottish Parliament and an independent place as of right at the EU Agricultural Council.

‘The recent decision by the British Minister at DEFRA to distribute to the whole of the UK the Convergence Fund from the EU – which was granted to lift the level of Single Farm Payment in Scotland to the UK average – was completely unjustified and against the legitimate expectations of Scottish farmers.

‘My experience is that the development of agriculture policy has been handled with much better understanding between the industry and the Scottish Government and that this position will only be strengthened with independence.'

Jim Walker, who was NFU Scotland president from 1998 to 2003, said:

‘Food is a key strength of the Scottish economy, especially its rural areas, but remaining in the UK is now a very real risk for our food and farming businesses.

‘The EU is important to the food and farming sector. It provides us with markets and is a source of grants and support. If, as seems increasingly likely, the UK leaves the EU after a promised in-out referendum, the funding that currently comes from Brussels will be left with HM Treasury and Scotland will be much more dependent on its decisions. Worryingly, we know from the decisions the Treasury has consistently taken over the last 20 years, irrespective of the party in power, it will prioritise cutting expenditure on food, farming and rural development rather than encouraging investment. That has been the pattern for years and won’t change now.

‘Independence, on the other hand, will allow us to really back our food and farming sector, set our own priorities and sit at the European negotiating table, no longer affected by the UK Treasury indifference. It will also give our food business the kind of export support to guild their businesses that our counterparts in countries with a similar population, like Ireland and New Zealand, take for granted. Like Ireland, we will continue to sell to England but we will also have our own embassies throughout the world giving priority to promoting Scottish products so that we can build and grow new markets.’

John Kinnaird, who farms in East Lothian and was NFUS president from 2003 to 2007, said:

‘I am voting Yes because I believe this is the next logical process after devolution. Lines of communication with government are much quicker and more focussed.

‘The current UK administration and other political parties lack focus, understanding and leadership on many issues, including EU membership.

‘I am deeply concerned of a backlash against Scotland from Westminster if the vote is No. On September 18 I am not voting for a political party – I’m voting for independence.’

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

‘The decision by four of Scotland's most respected farming leaders to declare for a Yes vote is highly significant and sends a powerful message to not only rural Scotland but the whole nation.

‘These four former NFU presidents are big hitters with a wealth of experience in dealing with UK Governments and Ministers including Prime Ministers in recent decades. They care deeply about the future of their industry and the fact they have reached the conclusion that our key agriculture and food sectors will be better safeguarded and promoted with independence is a momentous moment in the referendum campaign.

‘These men know the industry inside out, and know that Westminster has failed Scottish farming time and again. With the powers of independence Scotland, farming and food will always be a priority with a direct voice in the crucial farming talks in Europe to help secure a far better deal for our food producers and rural communities.’

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Whiteford Joins Ambulance Crew in Fact Finding Mission

Tuesday, 12 August 2014


Issues behind poor performance on response times come to the fore

Dr Eilidh Whiteford today joined ambulance crew from the Fraserburgh station as she shadowed the team on their daytime shift. The fact-finding trip comes after the MP for Banff and Buchan held a range of meetings with senior figures in the Scottish Ambulance Service to discuss concerns about ambulance response times in the north of Aberdeenshire.

It was revealed earlier this summer that paramedics had taken longer than 20 minutes to react to 47 life-threatening incidents in Peterhead in the last year. The figure for Fraserburgh was 36. Dr Whiteford subsequently met with regional bosses of the service to discuss what had gone wrong. Now the SNP politician has carried out her own fact finding mission, joining front-line paramedics and ambulance technicians from Fraserburgh on their daily shift.

Commenting on her experiences, Dr Whiteford said:

"I want to thank the Fraserburgh Ambulance Service staff for sharing their insights with me, and especially Douglas Ewen and Liam Ritchie who took me out with them on their shift. The dedication and professionalism of our ambulance staff is hugely impressive, and the Service is fortunate to have such highly skilled individuals on its front line."

Dr Whiteford added:

"It was a real pleasure to meet the team, spend the day with them, and see for myself some of the challenges they face. I now have a much clearer understanding of the pressures on our ambulance crews, and I intend to feed my findings back to those who manage the Service. I will also continue to press to ensure that the service in north Aberdeenshire is adequately resourced to meet local demand."

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Whiteford and Smith Highlight Success of Local Egg Producer

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford and Scottish MEP Alyn Smith have highlighted the success of local egg producer AJ Duncan in a visit to the company’s egg-producing facility near Turriff.

Alyn Smith MEP,
Milan Copic, General Manager of Egg Production at AJ Duncan,
and Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP
Dr Whiteford, who is the SNP’s Agriculture Spokesperson at Westminster, and Alyn Smith, who is the sole Scottish representation on the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, visited the Fortrie-based business last week as part of their summer tour of rural communities.

AJ Duncan were recently honoured with a Scottish Egg Quality Award and the two politicians took the opportunity on their visit to congratulate the company on their success.

Dr Whiteford commented:

“I was interested to hear of the scale of investment that AJ Duncan have made into egg production at this facility and this award is well-earned recognition for the quality of the final product at Fortrie. I congratulate David Green, Milan Copic and all involved at AJ Duncan in driving the success of this local business.”

"It was also important to have the opportunity to discuss the failure of the EU to ensure welfare standards of hens across the EU. Scottish farmers have invested heavily in improving welfare standards and I will continue to press their case at Westminster to ensure that they are not disadvantaged by other Member States who have failed to implement improved conditions for laying hens."

Alyn Smith added:

“I was deeply impressed by the scale and organisation of production at the AJ Duncan farm. Having an award-winning and ambitious company based here is a major boost for the local rural economy and I wish all at AJ Duncan every success in the future as they seek to go from strength-to-strength.”

Whiteford and Smith were treated to a tour of the company’s facility, followed by a meeting with Dave Green, AJ Duncan’s Chief Executive, to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the company.

Dave Green, Chief Executive of AJ Duncan, commented after the visit:

“It was a delight to welcome Eilidh and Alyn to the farm. Their support and that of the wider community is very important for a company with local roots like AJ Duncan. We also appreciate their willingness to be approached and to assist us wherever possible, and we look forward to welcoming them back to AJ Duncan in the not too distant future.”

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Whiteford and Smith: Only a YES Offers a Real Future for Farming

Rural tour for YES campaign generates local interest

Peterhead, 5 August: Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford and Scottish MEP Alyn Smith have been taking the case for a Yes vote next month to the north-east’s farming communities in two local meetings last week.

Councillor Lennie Pirie, Eilidh Whiteford MP, Alyn Smith MEP
At meetings in Strichen on Wednesday and Rosehearty on Thursday, the MP and MEP gave speeches and took questions from undecided voters still to make their minds up before the vote. Both made the point that for Scotland’s agricultural sector to thrive, Scotland needs the full powers of independence within the European Union.

For the next six years, Westminster representation in Europe has delivered a deal which represents a real-terms cut to the funding Scottish farmers receive – including a settlement which leaves Scotland at the absolute bottom of the European league table for Pillar 1 and 2 funding. In addition, the UK Government have so far refused to hand over £230 million worth of convergence funding which was only secured because of Scotland’s history of poor area payments.

With independence, Scotland’s farmers would be guaranteed a seat at the top table, an increase to our representation in the European Parliament, and the ability to name a Scottish European Commissioner.

The meetings come following a poll by Survation on behalf of the Mail on Sunday on August 3, which showed that voters were switching dramatically to Yes in the North East of Scotland – with 48.6% of respondents backing independence, 39.8% for no, and 11.6% undecided.

Dr Whiteford said:

“These meetings were a fantastic opportunity for those in the farming community who haven’t made up their minds to ask questions, and to hear the facts. Alyn and I have vigorously fought the corner of our farmers in Europe and at Westminster. However, it is only by giving the Scottish Government the full power to defend our farming interests that we can secure a better funding deal from Europe.”

“Our farming communities have nothing to gain from a No vote – and everything to gain from a Yes.”

Alyn Smith added:

“The Common Agricultural Policy hasn’t worked as well as it could for Scottish farmers. That’s a reflection of successive poor deals, negotiated on Scotland’s behalf by a Westminster Government which doesn’t prioritise our crucial agricultural sector, and which is ideologically opposed to the idea of subsidising industries – even ones as important as our farming sector.”

“With independence, we could only negotiate a better deal than the one negotiated by Westminster. Any deal which leaves our farmers at the absolute bottom of the table for Pillar 1 and 2 funding is simply not good enough – and while I will continue to represent our farming interests vigorously in the European Parliament, the only way to do this more effectively is to untie the Scottish Government’s hands with a Yes vote.”

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50,000 Scottish Pensioners Lose Benefits

Friday, 1 August 2014

SAVINGS CREDIT CUT BY £90m SINCE 2010

50 000 of Scotland's poorer pensioners who have saved for their retirement are now substantially worse off due to UK government cuts.

Research by the House of Commons Library has shown 50,000 Scottish pensioners have lost benefits since 2010 with a cut of £90 million to Savings Credit, and pensioners across Scotland are set to lose out as the benefit is to be scrapped for all new pensioners in 2016.

Savings Credit is paid to poorer pensioners who have saved for their retirement. A single pensioner could receive up to £20.52 per week, or £27.09 per week for a couple.

As set out in the White Paper Scotland's Future, following a YES vote the Scottish Government will provide Scotland's pensioners with a guaranteed pension of £160 a week from 2016-17, a triple lock and the continuation of Savings Credit.

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

"This benefit cut is hitting poorer pensioners who have planned ahead and worked hard for their retirement.

"The UK government gives the impression it wants to protect pensioners, but they have cut a massive £90 million since 2010 which is leaving tens of thousands of pensioners in Scotland worse off.

"It's a real shame that Scottish pensioners who have put savings away for their old age are being hit in this way.

"Scotland has paid more in taxes in each and every one of the last 30 years than the rest of the UK, much of it through the efforts of those who are now in retirement.

"Following a Yes vote in September, we can make Scotland's wealth work for the people who live here- which includes a fairer welfare system and a better deal for our pensioners."

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Whiteford Welcomes Signing of Memorandum of Understanding at Fraserburgh Harbour

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed a deal for Fraserburgh Harbour which could potentially lead to the creation of hundreds of new jobs.

Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd (MORL) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Fraserburgh Harbour Commissioners on Friday, which will allow the harbour to compete as a support site for the 186-turbine project in the Moray Firth.

MORL received planning permission from the Scottish Government in March to construct the Telford, Stevenson and MacColl windfarms 13.5 miles off the North-east coast. The firm anticipates that the project will generate around 1,116 megawatts of electricity – contributing significantly towards the Scottish Government’s ambition to generate the equivalent of Scotland’s energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“I was delighted to witness the signing of the Memorandum at Fraserburgh Harbour today. The Harbour is a first class facility that is extremely well-placed to service renewable developments off the coast of the North of Scotland. The town more widely is positioning itself well to benefit from the renewables revolution – with the local college heavily involved in equipping future generations with the engineering skills that will be required by companies like EDRP.

“The signing of the Memorandum today acknowledges Fraserburgh’s competitiveness and the expertise that is harboured here. I hope that on this basis, the two parties can now explore the potential of Fraserburgh Harbour as a base for first-class servicing of offshore renewable developments.”

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First Minister Opens 167th New Deer Show

Monday, 21 July 2014

WHITEFORD PRAISES SHOW ORGANISERS ON SUCCESSFUL EVENT

East Aberdeenshire MSP and First Minister Alex Salmond officially opened the annual New Deer Show at the weekend and announced £17,500 Scottish Government funding to support the staging of the event in the Year of Homecoming.

The event was also attended by Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford, who praised the organisers on another excellent show, despite some inclement weather on the Saturday morning.

During his opening remarks, Mr Salmond went on to praise rural events such as the New Deer Show for the role they play in enriching community spirit and supporting local businesses, such as the regional food and drink sector.

Alex Salmond said:

“The New Deer Show is a much loved and eagerly anticipated local event that the whole wider community loyally turn up for year in year out and thoroughly enjoy. The competition element – be it best of class, shearing, or the young farmers’ programme – not only encourages healthy rivalry but more importantly, a sense of community solidarity.

“Rural events the length and breadth of Scotland are the jewel in the Year of Homecoming crown, the unsung heroes promoting our heritage and traditional way of life. They also support many regional business who come along to sell their produce, such as our exceptional local food and drink entrepreneurs. That is why the Scottish Government has granted New Deer £17,500 to help stage the 2014 event.

“More specifically, as part of the Homecoming 2014 programme, we have also allocated up to £250,000 to enhance the food and drink element at a number of events across the year. Our magnificent natural larder continues to attract huge interest abroad and helps to market Scotland to the world as a Land of Food and Drink - an important ingredient as we encourage people to celebrate their Scottish heritage during Homecoming.

"Our local communities play an integral part in the food and drink industry and it’s great to be able to support them by bringing events to their areas. This is especially important as we look ahead to our 2015 Year of Food & Drink when we will build on the activity taking place during the Homecoming Year to spotlight, celebrate and promote Scotland’s quality produce to our people and visitors alike.”

Local MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

“New Deer Show is a great local event with a long tradition. It is one of the highlights of the North-east calendar and attracts a huge crowd.

“I’m delighted for Drew Wilson and his committee that year’s show was a great success once again and that a short cloudburst on the Saturday morning didn’t last long and certainly didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd.”

Drew Wilson, New Deer Show President, said:

"2014 is the 167th year of the New Deer Show and we have the very best of the region on display here this weekend. Aberdeenshire produces some of the finest livestock in Scotland that is enjoyed both locally and internationally - from farm to fork.

"There is huge community support for the New Deer Show and the funding from the Scottish Government will help us make it even better.

"We're not even finished with the 2014 programme yet but we're already thinking ahead to 2015 and the Year of Food and Drink - and where better to showcase Aberdeenshire's excellent produce than right here at the New Deer Show."

As well as showcasing the best of Scottish produce at the events, the £250,000 fund is providing event organisers with expert support in developing their food and drink offering through a series of one-to-one sessions and workshops, delivered by food and drink consultants, Experiencing Scotland.

These workshops, took place in Aberdeen, Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh, will ensure organisers benefit from expert advice and ideas for including fresh, local and seasonal produce from quality Scottish suppliers.

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Parliamentarians Secure Review of Demand for Ambulance Services

MP & MSP RECEIVE ASSURANCES ON RESPONSE TIMES

Following on a recent report that ambulances were failing to meet call-out target times in North Aberdeenshire, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP and Stewart Stevenson MSP met last week with regional Scottish Ambulance Service chiefs.

The parliamentarians were told that the Service is currently re-examining its practices and processes as part of an already-ongoing national review - but secured assurances that more immediate action will be taken to address the shortcomings in North Aberdeenshire identified in the report.

The parliamentarians heard that an additional driver is being recruited in Peterhead and shift patterns adjusted to extend coverage, which should relieve pressure on neighbouring stations.

An undertaking was also secured by the parliamentarians that the Scottish Ambulance Service will undertake a detailed review of the demand profile in North Aberdeenshire forthwith, to assess whether any additional resources might also be required to ensure appropriate standards of performance are met.

Commenting on the meeting, Banff & Buchan MP, Eilidh Whiteford, said:

“Having studied the performance statistics and met with various constituents and community representatives over recent weeks, I very much share the concerns that have been expressed. I am therefore very pleased that the Scottish Ambulance Service is now taking action to ensure that they are addressed effectively.

“We all very much value the work done by our hard working ambulance crews, in what can be extremely demanding circumstances. I am therefore absolutely committed to ensuring that they have the support and resources required to provide the quality of service which patients have the right to expect.”

Stewart Stevenson MSP added:

“The population of North Aberdeenshire is growing due to our economic success, but that brings with it challenges for the Ambulance Service which is seeing demand increase by 3% year on year.

“We need to get this right, and I welcome the commitment we received from the Scottish Ambulance Service for a full review of the demand profile in North Aberdeenshire. I also welcome the steps which they are already taking to increase provision in the area.”

A further meeting is to be convened in twelve weeks’ time to discuss the content of that report, and identify what substantive measures need be taken to ensure that the response time targets are appropriate, and met with on a consistent basis.

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Whiteford Praises Local Business Following 'Best Bar None' Award

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has congratulated a Fraserburgh business, after it received a prestigious award for innovation.

http://cheersbarfraserburgh.com/
The local MP visited Cheers Café and Bar in Fraserburgh after the venue was awarded a ‘Best Bar None’ Award for Innovation. The latest award comes in the wake of more than a dozen similar awards and nominations in recent years, which have established the café and bar as a major attraction in the town.

Owner Dennis Forsyth welcomed Dr Whiteford, along with Troup councillor Hamish Partridge, to learn more about his business and its success. The visit was also an opportunity for Dr Whiteford to meet staff, and offer her congratulations on the venue’s recent award.

Speaking afterwards, Dr Whiteford said:

“It was an absolute pleasure to visit Cheers, and to see for myself the good work that Dennis and his staff are undertaking on the site. The astonishing number of awards and nominations Cheers has received from national bodies indicates the quality of the service being offered, and the business is a credit to Fraserburgh and the surrounding area.

“I look forward to congratulating Dennis on further awards in future.”

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Appointment of More Women to UK Cabinet "Does not Compensate for Cuts"

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

IMPACT OF WELFARE REFORM ON WOMEN HIGHLIGHTED

Following David Cameron's attempts to bring more women into the UK Cabinet, the SNP is today highlighting the fact that women bear the brunt of UK Government welfare cuts.

Evidence of Westminster's failure on welfare continues to mount up, with UK Government's own report - sneaked out during yesterday's reshuffle - admitting that Bedroom Tax has failed with only 4.5 per cent of those impacted moving to a smaller property and 59 per cent in arrears.

Research from the House of Commons Library has shown that out of a total of £4bn of welfare cuts coming to Scotland in 2014/15 – 69 per cent of the impact will fall on women.

As well as this, a report published this week highlights young women are likely to be among the hardest hit by Tory cuts. The report from the IFS and Joseph Rowntree Foundation finds young adults are bearing the brunt of the recession - and that 58 per cent of these young people are women, with a high percentage in paid employment. Many of these women will also have dependent children.

And despite Tory claims that the reshuffle is a step forward, women still make up less than 25 per cent of the UK Cabinet, while 40 per cent of Scottish Cabinet members are women.

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

“For four years, David Cameron’s Government has presided over cuts which have hit women the hardest. While it is always welcome to see progress made on equality, the appointment of more women to Cabinet does not compensate for the impact of his welfare reforms on women in Scotland. What is needed is action to help women in Scotland who are suffering 69 per cent of the impact of unfair Tory welfare cuts.

"Evidence that Westminster is failing our women and young people grows by the day. We have already seen a 400 per cent increase in the number of people relying on food banks as a result of Westminster’s obsession with dismantling the welfare state, and now the UK Government's own report on Bedroom Tax - sneaked out during the reshuffle - finds 59 per cent of those hit by Bedroom Tax are in arrears. This week's report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation also highlights the impact Tory cuts are having on young people - and a majority are women.

“The Scottish Government is doing what it can to mitigate the impact of welfare cuts, but with the full powers of independence we could do so much more. In an independent Scotland we can not only build a welfare state that is a tool to tackle poverty and is a springboard to a better life – we can also take action to offer more opportunities for women. Our plans to transform childcare will help more parents – particularly women – back into work.

“We have also committed to ensuring women are not disadvantaged by the welfare system in the way the UK Government’s plans do.

“As Scotland’s Future makes clear, the Scottish Government is committed to building an equal Scotland. Women make up 40 per cent of the members of the Scottish Cabinet and just last month, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon held the first all-women Scottish Cabinet event, which brought together women from 130 organisations across Scotland.

“But we can’t allow Westminster to keep holding back progress on tackling inequality. Only a Yes vote will enable us to tackle inequality and poverty, and further empower women in the process.”

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