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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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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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