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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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Shambolic Mismanagement of Welfare Changes Shows Need for YES Vote

Monday, 30 June 2014

As Westminster debates the performance of the Department of Work and Pensions, the SNP has made clear that Westminster’s continued failure on welfare shows why Scotland needs to be able to make our own decisions.

With the rollout of Universal Credit years behind schedule and substantially over budget, it is still unclear if and when full implementation of the policy will occur. Problems introducing a computer system to manage the policy saw £40 million spent on software completely written off and a further £90 million spent on IT that will only be of use for five years.

Earlier this year Iain Duncan Smith was forced to personally intervene to stop Universal Credit being placed on a register of major public risks with a ‘red rating’ which would show the policy was unachievable within reasonable timescales and to a reasonable budget.

Meanwhile the introduction of Personal Independence Payments was described as a “fiasco” in recent days by the influential Public Accounts Committee at Westminster.

Scotland’s Future set out a promise to abolish the Bedroom Tax and halt the further rollout of Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments in an independent Scotland as part of the process of creating a fairer welfare system.

Commenting, SNP Work and Pensions Spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“The DWP has serious questions to answer over its poor performance in recent years and the way in which it has completely mismanaged the implementation of Universal Credit.

“But those failings do not disguise the fact that they are trying to implement a poorly designed, punitive policy which has been shown to be unworkable.

“The whole package of these welfare cuts has been a disaster from start to finish and has served only to waste money and punish the least well off in society.

“From the introduction of the Bedroom Tax to the delayed rollout of Universal Credit, we have seen nothing but failure with all too many people paying a heavy price for Westminster’s cuts agenda. As a result of these cuts, 100,000 more children in Scotland face poverty and food bank use has rocketed by 400 per cent in the last year.

“This sorry fiasco has once again underlined why Westminster cannot be trusted to get it right when it comes to making decisions over welfare. We need the opportunity to make our own decisions in Scotland that only a Yes vote will provide.

“Scotland is a wealthy country, more prosperous per head than the UK, France and Japan. With a Yes vote in September can use our wealth to make our own choices on tax and welfare and build a system that better reflects the values of people in Scotland.”

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Whiteford Praises New Byth Vintage Rally

Local MP Eilidh Whiteford has praised the turnout at the New Byth Steam and Vintage Rally held yesterday (Sunday) which saw a high turnout of over 160 tractors, along with vintage cars, motorcycles and stationary engines.

Eilidh Whiteford MP with Duncan Morrison of Maud
The event is an annual fixture in vintage vehicle enthusiasts’ calendar and draws entries from a wide area.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“I was pleased to be able to drop in on the New Byth Rally and meet with some of the exhibitors there.

“This event has been going for many years now and I congratulate the organisers on another excellent turnout of vintage vehicles.

“I was also pleased to be able to drop in on the Yes Scotland stall at the event which those staffing it told me had been very busy dealing with interested members of the public.”

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Local MP Hails Tremendous Effort at Turriff Relay for Life

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has hailed the tremendous effort of local fundraisers at the Turriff Relay for Life event which saw over £90,000 being raised this weekend for Cancer Research.

The local MP, who was present at the launch of this year’s event and also attended and spoke at the last event four years ago, praised the efforts of the local community in raising such a magnificent sum.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“Relay for Life is such an inspiring event and it was an honour to be asked back to speak at it once again.

“The efforts made by all those who took part and contributed to raising such a tremendous sum are worthy of a special mention.

“I must also commend Lynne Cruickshank and her fellow committee members who have brought this event together with their unstinting hard work. Well done to everyone involved.”

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DWP Urged To Do More Following PIP "Fiasco"

Monday, 23 June 2014

Scottish National Party MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has today raised the “fiasco” of delayed Personal Independence Payments (PIP) in the House of Commons with Work and Pensions Minister Mike Penning.

The SNP spokesperson for Work and Pensions asked the Minister if he would set out a timetable for clearing the backlog of all delayed PIP payments and asked what interim support would be offered to those having to wait more than 28 days.

The Department for Work and Pensions has been heavily criticised for its failure to manage PIP. The cross-party Public Accounts Committee warned that the PIP scheme has been “rushed” through with a “shocking” impact on claimants. MacMillan cancer support has said at least 4,500 cancer patients (29%) have waited six months or more to find out whether they will even be awarded their PIP.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“The Department of Work and Pensions is in a shambles and must do more.

“The Minister should have committed to providing interim support for those left below the bread line because of his government’s failings. The failures of the UK government have meant some of the most vulnerable people in our society have been forced to turn to food banks and loans whilst their claims are being decided – including people who are terminally ill.

“We know the majority of Scots want all welfare decisions made in Scotland rather than Westminster, and a Yes vote in September will make that a reality.”



DWP Questions:

Dr Eilidh Whiteford:

"Mr Speaker, I have a number of very sick constituents who have been pushed into severe financial hardship because of the unacceptable delays to the PIP process. Some of them now dependent on foodbanks.

I listened carefully to the minister earlier, but will he set out a timetable for clearing the backlog, not just for terminally ill applicants but for all applicants, and what interim support will he offer those having to wait more than 28 days?"


Department of Work and Pensions Minister Mike Penning:

"Mr Speaker I repeat again, it is too long, I accept it is too long and I am determined to get it down. We are working with the providers to make sure, and we’re making sure that we, we actually get it down.

I will look into the individual case if the honourable lady wants to bring it to me, but I can’t repeat more. We are doing everything we possibly can to do this, but I’d rather see people being assessed than left like the previous administration did, without having any assessment too and just done on paper based assessments."

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UK Government Slammed for "Catalogue of Mistakes" on Welfare

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Scottish National Party has criticised the UK government after a string of blunders on welfare reform which have affected some of the most vulnerable people in society.

In the past few days the Department for Work and Pensions has been criticised by the Public Accounts Committee and Macmillan cancer support for mismanaging Personal Independence Payments (PIP). The Department has also been made to defend its decisions on welfare reform after leaked memos showed the UK government could be about to breach its self-imposed welfare cap, and the UK government has been slammed by the Poverty Truth Commission for imposing “disproportionately and unfairly applied” welfare cuts.
  • The Department of Work and Pensions has been heavily criticised following a damning report from the Public Accounts Committee on the introduction of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which described the scheme as a “fiasco.” The cross-party group of MPs warned that the PIP scheme has been “rushed” through with a “shocking” impact on claimants.
  • MacMillan cancer support has criticised the Department of Work and Pensions as a report shows at least 4,500 cancer patients (29%) have waited six months or more to find out whether they will even be awarded their Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
  • A leaked memo has revealed the government could be in breach of its self-imposed cap on welfare spending. The memos suggest Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) costs are rising with few cost-cutting options.
  • A report by the Poverty Truth Commission has said benefit sanctions are being “disproportionately and unfairly applied” and are “breaking people’s spirits and damaging their physical and mental health.” It is also stated in the report that people are more and more “being blamed for being poor” – a damning indictment of Westminster’s increasingly right-wing rhetoric on the welfare state.
Commenting, SNP spokesperson for Work and Pensions Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“The Department of Work and Pensions is in an utter shambles.

“The failures of the UK government have meant some of the most vulnerable people in our society have been forced to turn to food banks and loans whilst their claims have been decided – including people who are terminally ill.

“We know the majority of Scots want all welfare decisions made in Scotland rather than Westminster, and a Yes vote in September will make that a reality.”

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Women Bear the Brunt of Westminster's Welfare Cuts

Sunday, 15 June 2014

SNP CONDEMN WESTMINSTER’S ‘APPALLING’ TRACK RECORD

Westminster’s track record on women has faced further criticism today – after new research confirmed that women will bear the brunt of the vast majority of welfare cuts in Scotland over the next year.

Research from the House of Commons Library shows 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.

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

“The Westminster Government has an absolutely appalling track record when it comes to women – so it comes as no surprise to see that women will bear the brunt of 69 per cent of Tory welfare cuts this year.

“The welfare state is being dismantled by Westminster and it is women who are being hardest hit – but a Yes vote in September would allow Scotland to take a different path.

“Westminster’s record on women and poverty is appalling. 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 – but we can also take action to offer more opportunities for women.

“Too many people in Scotland – most of them women – are struggling to make ends meet in low-paying jobs. With the full powers of independence we can ensure that the minimum wage increases at least in line with inflation – and we can transform childcare, allowing more women to get back into the workplace.”

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Whiteford Ups the Pressure on Laying Hens Directive Violations

Thursday, 12 June 2014

MP for Banff and Buchan urges UK Government to prevent Scottish egg producers being undercut

In a letter to the Undersecretary of State today, Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has urged the UK Government to do more to prevent Scottish egg producers being undercut by producers in other EU Member States that have failed to implement the Directive outlawing battery cages.

The Directive, passed in 1999, bans the use of battery cages and outlines improved welfare conditions for egg-laying hens. All Scottish farms were compliant by 2012 but after 15 years, a number of EU Member States remain non-compliant with the Directive. Last year, the European Commission launched a court action against Italy at the European Court of Justice for having some 239 farms or 11.5 million hens in non-compliant conditions. Although the EU's highest court found Italy guilty of being non-compliant with the Directive, no financial sanctions were imposed on the country, setting a dangerous precedent for other non-compliant Member States.

Speaking after raising the issue in the chamber of the House of Commons today, Dr Eilidh Whiteford commented:

"It is absolutely intolerable that sub-standard eggs may still be imported into the UK at cheaper cost because of the non-compliance of certain Member States with this Directive. Scottish farmers have invested millions of pounds in improving welfare conditions and becoming compliant with this measure and they have every right to expect a level playing field."

"It is very concerning that a country which is non compliant has escaped any penalty. It sets no incentive for other Member States to get their act together and become compliant with the Directive. Our priority must now be to ensure that the investment of our Scottish farmers is protected and not undermined by substandard and non-compliant egg imports. That is why, following my intervention in the House of Commons this morning, I have written today to George Eustice, the UK Government Undersecretary of State and have urged him to get behind Scottish farmers and prevent them from being undercut."


The following is an exchange between Eilidh Whiteford MP and the Undersecretary of State George Eustice at today's Oral Questions in the House of Commons:

Eilidh Whiteford:
Our egg producers have been outraged to learn that Italy will face no financial penalties for their failure to implement the EU Directive outlawing battery cages. Our poultry farmers have invested millions of pounds complying with the law and as a result have put themselves at a competitive disadvantage in a really tough international market. Why does the UK implement EU Directives that other countries see fit to ignore and what is the Government going to do to support our poultry sector?

George Eustice:
The Government has consistently raised concerns about other Member States not complying by the rules that were introduced two years ago on Battery Cages. However it is fair to say that the Commission have taken this seriously and have brought some cases against some Member States in the European Court of Justice. I think we continue to maintain pressure on them but I do think they are taking this seriously and taking the appropriate action.

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Whiteford Highlights Achievements of Mintlaw Pupils in Queen's Speech Debate

Falling unemployment in Banff and Buchan, but MP warns that more needs to be done on youth unemployment

logo © 2014
North East Scotland College
In a debate on the Queen's Speech in the House of Commons yesterday, Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford welcomed news of falling unemployment in Banff and Buchan, but called on the UK Government to do more to tackle youth unemployment. She highlighted the way in which energy and technology companies are working with local schools and the North East College to make youngsters aware of the job opportunities available to those with qualifications in science and technology subjects, and paid tribute to those who took part in the recent Technology Challenge competition, won by pupils from Mintlaw Academy.

​Figures published by the Office for National Statistics show 710 unemployed claimants in Banff and Buchan in May 2014 - 1.5% of the economically active population, and a fall of 365 claimants on the previous year. The statistics also showed the highest rate of the employment of women in Scotland since records began.

Dr Whiteford commented:

"Few issues are more important than the availability of work, and I am therefore pleased to see another fall in unemployment in Banff and Buchan.

"Unemployment among young people, however, remains unacceptably high . In Scotland, the Scottish Government's Modern Apprenticeship scheme has seen 77,000 young people gain an apprenticeship in the last three years, and thanks to the Opportunities for All scheme, every 16-19 year old in Scotland is guaranteed a work placement, training course or education place.

"However, the publication of the Wood Commission interim report on Developing Scotland's Young Workforce highlighted the need for schools, colleges and employers to work much more closely together to equip young people for the workplace. There are already great examples of this happening locally - just a couple of weeks ago I was pleased to present prizes to pupils from Mintlaw Academy who won the Technology Challenge competition run in partnership by North East Scotland College and energy sector employers, and I was pleased to see pupils from all the secondary schools in North Aberdeenshire take part. It's those kinds of partnerships that point the way forward for young people to gain the expertise and build the team-work skills that will help them secure well-paid jobs when they enter the labour market."

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Local MP Opens New Peterhead Art Gallery

Tuesday, 10 June 2014


Arcaro Arts expands into new premises

Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff and Buchan, joined Melissa Arcaro at the weekend to cut the ribbon on Arcaro's expanded Peterhead arts project.

 Local artist Elinor Grieve
Gallery owner Melissa Arcaro
Eilidh Whiteford MP
Arcaro Arts, which previously stood on Kirk Street, has expanded into enlarged premises opposite Morrison's on Queen Street. The gallery is set to continue its work in providing an artistic space for local groups, as well as hosting exhibitions and other arts events.

Cutting the ribbon on the new gallery, which hosted an exhibition from self-taught wildlife artist Elinor Grieve on its opening day, MP Eilidh Whiteford commented:

"I am delighted to be able to declare Arcaro Arts' expanded premises open for business. The new gallery is a fantastic venue in a great location. It will breathe new life into the town centre of Peterhead and offers great opportunities to local artists to exhibit their work and my congratulations and best wishes for the future go to Melissa and the team."

Melissa Arcaro, who heads the gallery, commented:

"The fact that we have had to expand into larger premises shows what a real appetite there is for this kind of amenity in Peterhead. The stunning new venue is also well-placed to benefit from increased footfall. As well as continuing our arts work with local groups, the new venue will act as a showcase for talented local artists."

The gallery, on Balmoor Terrace, is open 10am-4pm from Monday to Saturday and 12pm-3pm on Sundays.

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Whiteford Comments on Queen's Speech

Thursday, 5 June 2014


Local MP criticises UK Government over missed opportunities

In the last Queen's Speech before the referendum, Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has criticised the absence of new powers for Scotland that the pro-union political parties have been offering.

Last week, the Conservatives published the Strathclyde Report, promising that Air Passenger Duty could be quickly devolved to the Scottish Parliament. However in the ConDem coalition Government's program announced yesterday, no bills were announced which would see new powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Dr Whiteford commented:

"The absence of any mention of Scotland by any of the Westminster parties is extraordinary. There has been much talk of what powers they might consider devolving to Scotland but once again they have bottled it - making promises but completely failing to follow through. The Conservatives have admitted that Air Passenger Duty could be easily and quickly devolved - but there was no mention of that in the legislative agenda. How can we believe any of their promises on more powers for Scotland?

In September we have the opportunity to take Scotland's future in Scotland's hands by voting yes. This Queen's Speech - where Scotland is completely absent and does not even feature as an after-thought - should be a wake-up call that our interests will only be served by having the decisions that affect Scotland being made in Scotland."

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Whiteford Praises Fraserburgh Food Bank Volunteers

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has praised volunteers at South Church Hall, who have helped support local families over the past year.

Dr Whiteford met with volunteers Linda and John Sorrie, and Evie Watt on Thursday, to discuss the work the food-bank is doing locally. The South Church Hall facility operates on the basis of referrals from Home Start North East Aberdeenshire, and currently supports six local families. The need, however, is estimated to be much greater.

Volunteer Linda Sorrie said:

“I have no doubt whatsoever that many more people need a bit of help when it comes to buying shopping. However, many will be too proud to accept a food parcel.”

Dr Whiteford said afterwards:

“Linda, John and Evie deserve our admiration for the time and hard work they have put into this project. That a volunteer group can do so much good is testimony to the strength of the community in Fraserburgh, the generosity of the congregation at South Church, and the kindness of those who have donated food and money.

“The fact, however, is that in this day and age, we shouldn’t need food banks. Leaning on the generosity of volunteers should not and cannot be a substitute for a properly funded system of social protection, and we have reached this stage because of swingeing UK Government cuts, which have hit families on low incomes hardest.

“Constituents can be assured that I will continue to pursue the ConDem UK Government on their reckless austerity agenda that is hitting people on low incomes the hardest. However, the only way to banish coalition austerity for good is by bringing full control of tax and benefits to the Scottish Parliament.”

The Scottish Government has recently announced a £500,000 Emergency Food Fund, to compliment the £500,000 already committed to charity FareShare for distribution of surplus food from retailers. The new fund will be used to respond to increasing demand for food banks, as well as responding to the underlying causes of food poverty. Grants are on offer to food aid organisations in Scotland, and interested bodies should apply by July 11, via the Scottish Government’s website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/welfarereform.

The volunteers at Fraserburgh South accept donations of food and money. These can be donated through Home Start North East Aberdeenshire on 01346 518930, or dropped off at Fraserburgh South Church Hall, Seaforth Street, Fraserburgh. Anyone in need of assistance from the food bank should contact Home Start NEA for a referral.

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