ABERDEEN CENTRAL CONSTITUENCY (Scottish Parliament)
KEVIN STEWART MSP
Born and bred in the city, Kevin Stewart was elected as MSP for ABERDEEN CENTRAL on 5 May 2011, taking the seat from Labour.
Kevin made his Maiden Speech to the Parliament on 26 May 2011. Appointed as the Deputy Convener of Holyrood's Local Government & Regeneration Committee, and succeeded Joe Fitzpatrick MSP as Convener in September 2012. He is also a member of the Welfare Reform Committee and the Cross-Party Group on Oil & Gas.
Kevin Stewart's Parliamentary career followed on from his wide experience in local government. First elected to Aberdeen City Council in 1999, he led its SNP group, with distinction, for 12 years. In 2007, he took the party's 12 councillors into coalition with the Liberal Democrats, and was appointed as Depute Leader of the Council. He also became convener of the influential Finance & Resources Committee -- something of a poisoned chalice, for he was soon made aware of the Council's £50million debt, incurred over the years by profligate and incompetent administrations. Showing considerable courage and tenacity, Kevin Stewart succeeded in making the necessary savings in the Council budgets -- without which the city would have faced near bankruptcy -- and his efforts were recognised by the electors of Aberdeen Central in the Scottish General Election. He stepped down as a councillor in May 2012.
Contact KEVIN STEWART at his CONSTITUENCY OFFICE:
Third Floor 27 John Street Aberdeen AB25 1BT
Tel.: 01224 624719 * Text relay calls welcome
Office hours: Monday to Friday, 10.00 - 12.00am and 1.00 - 4.00pm.
Surgeries: Every Monday at 2.30pm at the Constituency Office. Write, phone or e-mail to make an appointment.
Anything you want to know about the SNP and its policies? Please e-mail us at email@example.com If your query relates specifically to your own locality, please tell us your ADDRESS so that your message can be forwarded to the appropriate MSP, Constituency Branch or Councillor. We also welcome comments and suggestions regarding this website.
ABERDONIANS saying YES for Scotland !
KEVIN STEWART MSP (pictured) has called on residents of Aberdeen to join the ever-increasing number of Scots who will be voting YES in the Independence Referendum on 18 September 2014.
Mr Stewart said: “Over the coming months, Aberdonians have an exciting opportunity to be involved in the debate on the constitutional future of Scotland. Never in Scottish political history have ordinary citizens been so empowered to forge their own destiny. This is the most significant issue in Scottish politics for generations, and everyone in all parts of our city can get involved. I would encourage all residents of Aberdeen and across Scotland to join the discussions on taking our country forward, and to deliver a decisive YES for Scotland in 2014"
► Join in and help the YES campaign in ABERDEEN
A campaign stall will be a regular feature in Saint Nicholas Street, in the city centre, on Saturdays from 11.00am to 1.00pm.
Like to help? Contact Ciaran McRae
Tel.: 07792 281282
Or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
► Take part in the Independence MARCH & RALLY 2013
10,000 marched in Edinburgh on 22 September 2012.
For a video of the march, click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjgKoNisUW0.
YES ABERDEEN is looking forward to the even bigger event planned for Saturday, September 21.
March from central Edinburgh to Calton Hill. Book your seat on one of the special buses and BE THERE for Scotland!
For updates and slide-show: http://www.independencerally.com/main/
CONFIDENTIALITY BREACHED IN WORK ASSESSMENTS
ATOS Healthcare, which currently administers the Work Capability Assessment for Employment & Support Allowance, will launch its Personal Independence Payment assessments in June.
Documents received following a Freedom of Information request showed that, in many cases, the confidentiality of clients is being breached. 'Mystery shop'-style visits to a number of Work Assessment Centres in Scotland resulted in 16 being flagged as having very poor soundproofing. One report said "while sitting in an exam room, we could hear everything from other exam rooms."
Kevin Stewart MSP, a member of the Welfare Reform Committee of the Scottish Parliament, wrote to the UK Secretary of State for Work & Pensions calling for assurances that such breaches of confidentiality would not be tolerated. He commented: “The information that I managed to acquire from these ‘mystery shop’ reports was extremely concerning. Confidentiality of some of the most vulnerable people in our society is of utmost importance, and must be taken seriously by the UK Government."
"The assessment process for benefits is an extremely stressful one. Sitting in a waiting room, while being able to hear others being assessed, will only add to the strain on individuals. The UK Government and ATOS must give the people of Scotland assurances that such a continued breach of confidentiality does not continue into the PIP assessments due to start this summer. The burden of the Union is causing the people of Scotland various degrees of stress and strain, and now a breach of their human rights. The only choice to help build a prosperous nation is for the people to vote Yes in 2014.”
LABOUR FAILS THE WELFARE TEST
The Labour Party is wildly out of step with the aspirations of the Scottish people. This has been graphically demonstrated by its failure to support any meaningful devolution of taxation and welfare.
There is clear polling evidence that a majority of people in Scotland want all tax and welfare decisions to be made by the Scottish Parliament. Despite this, Labour has already ruled out any devolution of these powers from Westminster. Its "commission" has also rejected the Parliament having any power over North Sea oil and gas revenues, Corporation Tax, VAT, national insurance, alcohol and tobacco duties, Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax. Although Labour claims to oppose the attacks being made by the London Tory-Liberal administration, it seems quite content for Scotland to pay the price for the Bedroom Tax and other impositions.
Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, is a member of the Parliament's Welfare Reform Committee. On April 23, he commented: “If last week’s reports are accurate, then people in Scotland will be wondering why on earth it took Labour's commission so long to come up with such a meagre set of proposals. The poverty of Labour's ambition is shown by their decision to deny Scotland any meaningful powers, and that they are wildly out of step with the aspirations of the people of Scotland. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has pointed out that 71% of the organisations which responded to their survey want welfare policy devolved. Labour's leadership has closed their minds to this, meaning that iniquitous and destructive measures such as the Bedroom Tax would still be imposed on Scotland, despite over 90% of Scottish MPs voting against it. The party's Finance Spokesperson recently admitted that Scotland is not subsidised in any way, so it is indefensible for them to still want to deny Scotland the benefit of its own resources.
Their claim that Westminster’s welfare system ‘has served us well’ simply beggars belief at a time when hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland are facing the brutal reality of the Tory-Liberal’ welfare cuts. If Labour is happy for welfare decisions to be made in Westminster, then they cannot escape the fact that they are also happy for deeply unfair measures like the Bedroom Tax to be imposed on households across Scotland. The parties in the No campaign prefer bad government from Westminster to good government with independence. It is only with a Yes vote in next year's referendum that we will gain the powers we need to shape a tax and welfare system that reflects Scotland’s values, and which will enable us to build the fairer, more prosperous country we all want to live in.”
FAIR FARES FOR PUPILS AND STUDENTS
KEVIN STEWART MSP has called on First Aberdeen to tackle the disparity in bus fares that exists for school pupils aged 16 and over.
The operator's current pricing structure means that 16 to 18 year-olds, who are still at secondary school, are having to pay more for day tickets than classmates who are under 16, or those studying at college or university. On April 23, Mr Stewart wrote to Duncan Cameron, Director and General Manager at First Aberdeen, highlighting the situation and asking the company to ensure that school pupils aged over 16 are not extortionately charged.
Three examples of the disparity were given: (a) a 16 year-old school pupil has to pay £4.70 for a day-ticket.; (b) a 15 year-old pupil, in the same class at the school, only has to pay £2.60; and (c) a 16 year-old college student qualifies for a student day-ticket at £3.50. Mr Stewart commented: This is another example of the shambolic and disjointed pricing system First have in place. There needs to be a complete overhaul of pricing, and anomalies like this have to be among the first issues to be addressed. I think the recent price changes might have been the final straw for many in our city, and understandably so. Hopefully the momentum behind the Say No To First campaign continues and we might start to see a bus service we deserve, rather than the one we have.”
Students at Aberdeen's two universities say that they are being over-charged when travelling on First Aberdeen buses.
First Aberdeen's very busy No.1 and 2 services go from Bridge of Don to the Robert Gordon University (RGU) campus in Garthdee, via King Street and the city centre. In addition, their No. 20 connects the city centre with the main Aberdeen University campus at Old Aberdeen and the Hillhead Halls of Residence. Students are charged £3.50 for a day ticket. Rival operator Stagecoach runs its 9U service between the main Aberdeen University campus, Hillhead Halls, the university's campus at Foresterhill and the city centre. Their charge is only £2.20 for a day ticket in Zone 1 (Aberdeen City area).
Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, wrote to Stagecoach on April 8, to ask the company if it would consider introducing a city centre to Garthdee service. He commented: "Students in Aberdeen rightly feel aggrieved that they are victims of profiteering by First Aberdeen. On the other hand, Stagecoach already offers good value on its 9U service for University of Aberdeen students, and might be able to offer a cheaper alternative service for those at RGU."
WELFARE CUTS WILL COST SCOTLAND £1.6BILLION
Scottish Parliamentary control over all of the country's taxation and welfare benefits system has now become an urgent necessity. This became even more clear after a damning report was published on the effects of the UK Government's welfare reforms.
On April 11, a study by the Centre for Regional Economic & Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University estimated that £1.6billion would be taken out of the Scottish economy as a result of Westminster's swingeing cuts to several welfare benefits. This works out at around £480 per annum for every working adult in the country. Areas most affected will be Glasgow, Inverclyde, Dundee and West Dunbartonshire; whilst it is thought that Shetland, Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen would be the least likely to suffer. Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, commented: "This may sound like good news for our part of the country, but doesn't detract from the fact that there are also significant pockets of deprivation in both the city and shire."
67,000 disabled Scots are destined to lose their benefits by 2018, during the transition from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
The forecast by the UK Department for Work & Pensions was confirmed in a reply to a Parliamentary Question by Kevin Stewart on March 6. The transition began in April, when an estimated 240,000 current recipients of the DLA were reassessed under new criteria. The forecast indicates that, by 2018, there will be around 67,000 fewer disabled Scots being assessed as eligible to receive PIP. The UK Government has previously stated that the new system is designed to reduce its spending on disability benefits by 20%. Mr. Stewart commented: "These estimates are, quite simply, appalling. Fortunately, the Scottish Government has affirmed that the Scottish Welfare Fund will provide additional support to those who are in need, specifically through Community Care Grants. They will enable the disabled to maintain their independence, and reduce the need for institutional care."
It was later revealed, on March 19, that the cost of implementing the new Personal Independence Payment scheme will be £710million. This would be for things like changing IT systems and forms, training DWP staff and dealing with appeals. In her reply to Kevin Stewart's queries, UK Minister for Disabled People Esther McVey wrote: "By October 2015, 170,000 of the DLA claimants who have been re-assessed for Personal Independence Payment will receive no PIP payment." Mr. Stewart commented: "The UK Government’s Welfare Reform shambles have been proved to be ill thought-out, a waste of taxpayers' money and will add to the expenses of those in need. Ms. McVey says that the number of claimants is to be reduced by 170,000. By not implementing this new system, and topping up the balance books of private companies like ATOS, these people could continue to receive their benefits at no extra cost to the taxpayer." It should also not be forgotten that no less than £12billion was squandered by the UK Government on last year's London Olympic Games and Royal Diamond Jubilee.
The UK Government has virtually scrapped Council Tax Benefit. Instead, councils are being asked to introduce their own Council Tax Reduction Schemes. But they will have to do so with a 10% decrease in funding from Westminster.
On March 31, Finance Secretary John Swinney said the Scottish Government has been asked to bridge the gap. A total of £40million will be provided in 2013-14 to protect 560,000 people from the discontinuation of funding from London. £2.5million will go to social landlords to help people affected by Housing Benefit reductions, and £5.4million to Citizens Advice and similar organisations. Mr. Swinney commented: "Hard-working and vulnerable people are having to bear the brunt of these Westminster benefit cuts. We are using the limited resources we have to ensure vulnerable people do not have to face increasing bills.”
### See below for Stewart Slams The Bedroom Tax and A Fairer Welfare System for Scotland.
POOL GETS FUNDING BOOST
The Scottish Government has created a capital spending fund of £7.4million, aimed at upgrading several sports facilities ahead of next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
In March 2012, a £10million fund was established by the Government "to help local communities bring Scotland's sports facilities into the 21st century." On March 23 this year, First Minister Alex Salmond announced that the additional funding, made available through SportScotland, would allow 27 sporting projects to be improved, refurbished or completed ahead of schedule. This means that over 80 projects across Scotland will be completed in good time for the Games on 23 July - 3 August 2014.
One of the facilities to benefit will be the 50 metre, 10-lane swimming pool in the Aquatics Centre at Aberdeen Sports Village. The latest funding was warmly welcomed by Kevin Stewart, the MSP for Aberdeen Central, who submitted a Parliamentary motion recognising the value of the facility to the local community. He commented: "I'm very pleased that SportScotland continues to recognise the importance of this project to the North-East. Many Aberdonians will be keen to 'take the plunge' in the new pool when it opens in 2014.”
Choices Aberdeen is to receive an award of £9,870 from the Big Lottery Fund.
The group runs a pregnancy counselling service at the Credo Centre, 14-20 John Street. Aberdeen. The award, from the Communities & Families Fund, will cover their cost of providing antenatal and postnatal classes for mothers under 25. Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, has submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament, and written to Choices Aberdeen to congratulate them. On April 2 he commented: "As always, I am delighted to hear of funding being awarded to a group in Aberdeen. I hope that these classes are as much a success as the other work Choices Aberdeen carries out.”
UNIVERSITIES LOSING OUT ON OVERSEAS STUDENTS
Changes in visa rules introduced by the UK Home Office have had a detrimental effect on the finances of Scottish universities, including Aberdeen.
Following the discontinuation of the Westminster Government's Post Study Work Scheme, overseas students who may have originally wanted to study in Scotland are now opting to go to countries like the USA and Australia. Our universities are not only losing overseas students, but also the financial benefits they provide. For example, Aberdeen University has revealed that, due to the new rules, it has lost £600,000 in income. Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, wrote to the Home Office to request that the changes be reversed, and raised a motion in the Scottish Parliament. On March 21, he said: "These are truly shocking figures that lay bare the enormous damage that Westminster is doing to Scotland’s education sector. International students are a critical part of the financial health of a university, and contribute enormously to campus life. Westminster’s determination to drive away these students is xenophobic and short-sighted. It represents a threat to Scotland’s cutting-edge research sector and the international reputations of universities like Aberdeen. This is completely unacceptable. The fact that the UK Government cannot be trusted to put the needs of our universities and colleges first, shows why we need the powers to ensure that Scotland has a student visa system that supports the education sector and the economy. Only a Yes vote in next year’s Referendum will secure that."
On May 7, Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, received a joint letter from the Principals of the University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University (RGU) and Aberdeen College. This highlighted the adverse results of new immigration rules introduced by the UK Border Agency. For instance, the numbers of postgraduate international students at RGU decreased by over 25% between 2010-11 and 2012-13. Current UKBA minimum course specifications conflict with those provided by Aberdeen College, in partnership with the oil and gas sector. The industry's training providers are potentially prevented from operating successfully in bidding for contracts. This is an issue which has detrimental implications for both the education sector and the local economy.
Ms. Watt commented: “It is clear that the UK Government’s misguided immigration measures are having a drastic impact on our education providers in Aberdeen. Not only are they seeing a drastic cut in student numbers but, in the case of Aberdeen College, they are also being prevented from working in partnership with the oil and gas sector to export our world-class expertise and training to nations across the globe. Undoubtedly, the potential financial impact of this upon both the College and oil and gas training providers, is extremely worrying and entirely unnecessary. This once again emphasises that the policies of the UK Government do not reflect the needs of Aberdeen and the North-East. I will be writing directly to Mark Harper, the UK immigration minister, calling on him to ensure that sensible changes are made.”
STEWART SLAMS THE BEDROOM TAX
As a result of the UK Government's welfare reform programme, something like 100,000 Scots will be worse off, or be forced to move into smaller accommodation. This will be the consequence of Westminster's now infamous Under-Occupancy Penalty or "bedroom tax", which came into force on April 1.
Kevin Stewart, the MSP for Aberdeen Central, is a member of the Scottish Parliament's Welfare Reform Committee. On January 29, he described the tax as "an attack on single parents and the disabled", and lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament deploring the imposition. He commented: "The UK Government seems determined to drive more Scots into poverty, and threaten family life for thousands. Single parents, and others who are judged to be 'under-occupying' their council or social sector house, will risk losing up to 25% of their Housing Benefit unless they move to a smaller home. Disabled people who live in housing specially adapted to meet their needs may be forced to move into smaller conventional accommodation, in order to avoid rent arrears or eviction." As if to add to this injustice, it was also revealed that Lord Freud, the UK Government's Minister for Welfare Reform, personally benefitted from a Council Tax cap on his 9-bedroom mansion worth £1.9million. The Tory peer's Council Tax is limited to just three times that of a bedsit worth 1/15th of his property!
KEVIN STEWART MSP won the support of 36 MSPs, voluntary organisations, the STUC and disability groups, in his call for the UK Chancellor to scrap the Under-Occupancy Penalty or "bedroom tax".
Despite 90% of Scottish MPs voting against the tax, it will still be imposed on Scotland – unless opposition to it forces a reversal of the policy. Mr. Stewart said: “Fundamentally, the bedroom tax is a direct attack on disabled and vulnerable Scots who will be forced out of their homes as the UK Government proceeds with its vicious welfare reforms. The DWP’s concessions on Housing Benefit show that the reforms are already falling apart, but many are still at risk of losing their homes due to an absurd policy." On March 13, Kevin Stewart's letter to George Osborne MP was co-signed by the following:--
Grahame Smith General Secretary, STUC; Ian Hood Coordinator, Learning Disability Alliance Scotland; Brian Sloan Chief Executive, Age Scotland; Leon Wylie Lead Officer, Hepatitis Scotland; Clare Byrne Vice-Chair, Spinal Injuries Scotland; Susan Archibald The Archibald Foundation; Simon Hodgson Director, Carers Scotland; Keith Robertson Disability Access Officer, Scottish Disability Equality Forum; Morag M. Campbell Chairperson, Badenoch & Strathspey Disability Access Panel; Leslie Young Chief Executive, Epilepsy Scotland; Angela Forbes Manager, Advocacy Aberdeen; Satwat Rehman Director, One-Parent Families Scotland; Katrina Michie Shopmobility Aberdeen; Ian Welsh Chief Executive, Health & Social Care Alliance Scotland; Bill Scott Manager, Inclusion Scotland; Grant Sugden Director, Waverley Care; Billy Watson Chief Executive, Scottish Association for Mental Health; Martin Sime Chief Executive, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations; Paul Moore Chief Executive, Quarriers; Barclay Bisset Administration Officer, Aberdeen Action on Disability Ltd.; Gwyn Morrison Area Manager, Sense Scotland; and 36 MSPs (mostly SNP, a few Greens and Independents -- and even some Labour).
### Why independence will lead to A Fairer Welfare System for Scotland. See below.
GAS COMPANY ANNOUNCES HUGE PROFITS
The gas supply company CENTRICA PLC operates under the trading names of British Gas and Scottish Gas. On February 28, it announced profits of £606million in 2012, up from £544million in 2011.
There was a 6% price rise in November 2012 and an increased demand for gas heating, due to freezing temperatures experienced at the end of the year. In light of Centrica's bumper profits, Kevin Stewart, SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, wrote to Kevin Roxburgh, Managing Director of Scottish Gas, calling for a review of prices. Mr. Stewart commented: "It is ridiculous that British Gas has been able to increase prices and profits as Scotland struggles with economic uncertainty, Westminster cuts and welfare reform. It is absolutely galling that many people in the energy capital of Europe cannot afford to adequately heat their homes. I would urge British Gas to reflect on the enormous profit that they have made; to plough the bulk of the eye-watering £606million into reducing customers’ bills; and to come up with a fairer pricing scheme for the future."
On 29 October 2012, Mr. Stewart lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling on the UK Government to instruct industry regulator OFGEM (Office of the Gas & Electricity Markets) to conduct a review into the standing charge, tariff system and steep price rises announced by the main energy companies. He said: "Hard-pressed families are facing unbelievable hikes in their energy bills. This is bound to cause huge concern for a number of people, and will plunge thousands more into fuel poverty. At the same time, we have a billing system that is so complex it would take a mathematician to work out what is the most cost-efficient tariff for a consumer. The present system is designed to be as confusing as possible, and is nothing more than a ruse by the big energy companies to over-charge people who already can't afford to pay their electricity and gas bills. It is clear that action has to be taken to ensure that this unsuitable energy regime does not continue. Unfortunately, the Scottish Parliament doesn't yet have authority over the energy companies. In the meantime, we have to rely on the UK Government, which is merely sitting on its hands whilst winter bites and people have to make an impossible decision of whether to heat their home or feed their children. A change in this regard is long overdue. Further delay is unnecessary and inexcusable."
BID TO MAKE ABERDEEN ENERGY DEPARTMENT HQ
The Scottish Government is being asked to consider the possibility of locating the Energy Department of an independent Scotland in Aberdeen, following a Yes vote in the independence referendum.
The request was made by the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, Kevin Stewart, in a letter to Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The Government is currently working on a detailed prospectus on independence, which will be published in advance of the vote on 18 September 2014.
On February 5, Mr Stewart said: "As the Oil Capital of Europe, and a major player in the development of renewable energy, Aberdeen is unquestionably the UK’s leading centre of energy expertise. However, as with all reserved matters, energy policy is implemented and enforced by remote control from London, and by a ministry that seems to have a revolving door of Energy Secretaries. One of the main benefits of independence is that it will allow decisions to be taken much closer to where they will be implemented. The UK is one of the most centralised states in the world. In an independent Scotland, we will be able to locate Government departments in the parts of the country with the greatest concentration of knowledge and skills. In the case of the energy industry that place would undoubtedly be Aberdeen.
"Locating an independent Scotland’s Energy Department in Aberdeen would allow for the development of a much closer and stronger working relationship between Government and industry. We have seen, all too often, how dysfunctional the current relationship is, where ministers based in London take decisions that have drastic consequences. This was most clearly highlighted by the disastrous decision to increase the supplementary rate of corporation tax on oil producers, and although this has now been reversed, countless hours were wasted by the industry travelling back and forth to London to plead their case. It is inconceivable that such a situation would have arisen had Scotland been independent. A 'Yes' vote in 2014 will help unlock Scotland’s undoubted potential. Decisions that affect Scotland will be made in Scotland, and I firmly believe that this will be of major benefit both to Aberdeen and the energy industry."
CHARLIE HOUSE APPEAL
Grampian Children’s Respite Care was founded in late 2010, with the aim of securing appropriate respite care and short breaks for children and young people with complex needs. The charity is working to fund and build a much-needed respite care centre in Aberdeen, which will be called Charlie House.
The group is currently looking at sites where Charlie House could be based, and are aiming to raise £5million to fund its construction. On January 18, Kevin Stewart attended the launch of the Charlie House Appeal and gave his full support to their fundraising drive. The MSP for Aberdeen Central also lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament, congratulating the organisers and calling on public bodies to do all they can to support the project.
Mr Stewart commented: "Charlie House is a tremendous initiative by parents and professionals in the North-East, and they should be congratulated on their efforts. It is an ambitious project that will be of great help to parents who have children with complex disabilities and medical needs. This is an appeal that I hope the whole of Aberdeen City and Shire and all public bodies can get behind, to enable the Charlie House organisers make their vision become a reality.”
You can donate by logging onto www.charliehouse.org.uk
A FAIRER WELFARE SYSTEM FOR SCOTLAND
SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, KEVIN STEWART, has welcomed the establishment of the Scottish Government’s Expert Working Group on Welfare, which will publish a new progressive vision of a national welfare system for Scotland.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the launch of the expert group after the UK Government introduced a Bill which will see support for low earners in Scotland cut by up to £210million. Mr. Stewart, who is a member of the Scottish Parliament's Welfare Reform Committee, welcomed this important initiative by lodging a Parliamentary motion on January 7. He said: "The new expert panel will be able to give the people of Scotland an exciting vision of a fairer welfare system that will protect the most vulnerable in our society. This is another step which proves that the Scottish Government is committed to protecting those worst off, and this support has been unwavering despite the ever-worsening cuts by London. The vicious attacks by the UK Government on those in need cannot be tolerated. The people of Scotland have the chance to ensure that a fair and just welfare system is in place. I believe that they will choose fairness over injustice, and vote Yes in 2014.”
Motion by Kevin Stewart MSP in the Scottish Parliament on 7 January 2013:
EXPERT WORKING GROUP ON WELFARE. That the Parliament welcomes the announcement by the Deputy First Minister that an expert group has been set up to advise on how an independent Scotland’s welfare system would work; welcomes the Deputy First Minister’s call for the system to protect the vulnerable and support Scottish households; rejects the UK Government’s welfare reform agenda, which, it considers, puts the Scottish Government’s work to alleviate poverty and hardship in jeopardy, and looks forward to welcoming a positive vision for a welfare system in an independent Scotland should the Scottish people vote Yes in the 2014 referendum.
### On January 15, Kevin Stewart criticised the UK Government on its decision to add yet another layer of bureaucracy to an already complex appeals system for benefit claimants. The procedure, which came into force on April 1, will require claimants to ask the Department for Work & Pensions to reconsider their decision before any formal appeal can be lodged. Mr. Stewart wrote to the responsible UK Government minister, asking that he reconsider the imposition of this bureaucratic and unmanageable system. Mr Stewart commented: "We hear, time and again, that a high percentage of appeals result in a positive result for the claimant. This extra layer of bureaucracy and complexity appears to be designed to discourage claimants from appealing, resulting in the 'cost-saving' that the UK Government is so determined to achieve. The London Government is playing with people’s lives. Clearly, they are intent on cutting support for those in need, and thus furthering the gap between them and the wealthiest in society, which includes members of the Tory-Liberal Cabinet. The burden of the Union is causing the people of Scotland to be plunged further into poverty as the UK Government removes its support. The only choice available to help build a prosperous nation is for the people to vote Yes in 2014.” Mr. Stewart also lodged a complementary motion in the Scottish Parliament.
HELP HOMELESS KIDS CAMPAIGN
Shelter Scotland’s campaign to introduce a national standard for temporary accommodation for children has won the support of KEVIN STEWART, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central.
According to Shelter, over 5,300 homeless Scottish children woke up on Christmas Day 2012 in temporary accommodation which was often of poor quality, damp and dangerous, and unsuitable for children. In June 2012, there were 10,466 households in temporary accommodation in Scotland, with 157,000 families and individuals on Council waiting lists. Aberdeen had 397 households in temporary accommodation and 5,536 on waiting lists. There are currently no national standards for temporary accommodation. On 19 December 2012, Mr. Stewart pledged his support for Shelter Scotland's "Help Homeless Kids" campaign. This calls for a standard which will guarantee children the legal right to a bed of their own, enough room to play and do homework, and a safe and secure place to call their own.
Mr. Stewart commented: "Shelter Scotland has raised a very important issue, and I am happy to support their campaign. I believe every child should have the right to live in a home that is suitable and secure. We would expect nothing less for our own children, so we should expect nothing less for any child." Gordon MacRae, Head of Communications and Policy for Shelter Scotland, added: "We’re very grateful for the support of Kevin Stewart MSP. We know that bad housing wrecks lives, and we want 2013 to be the year that homeless children in Scotland can be guaranteed a standard of housing that shouldn’t be beyond the grasp of a civilised country. With support from Mr. Stewart and the public we know we can make this happen."
Picture: Kevin signs up for the campaign outside Parliament House.
PASSENGER DUTY LIMITS AVAILABLE ROUTES
In June 2006, the Spanish contruction group FERROVIAL obtained control of the British Airport Authority (BAA), the owner of Aberdeen Airport.
Ferrovial announced, on 15 October 2012, that Aberdeen and Glasgow Airports would switch to operating under their own stand-alone brand, and the name "BAA" would be dropped. Both were renamed "International Airport" on January 8. At this stage, it is not known whether the Labour Party will be "offended" by the name change.
Meanwhile, the Aviation Trust has published figures which show that aviation accounts for 20% of Scottish exports and 88% of our international visitor arrivals. In order to highlight the importance of aviation to the economy, Kevin Stewart MSP submitted a motion in the Scottish Parliament on 10 December 2012. Mr Stewart said: "The Aviation Trust’s research shows how important air links are to the Scottish economy, and highlight the potential boost that could be gained by making Scotland’s airports more internationally competitive. Air Passenger Duty is a major disincentive to airlines developing routes to and from Scotland, and is regularly cited as a reason why airports such as Aberdeen lose out to foreign competitors. If APD was devolved to the Scottish Parliament, we could develop an aviation strategy fit for purpose, help boost the number and choice of direct air routes and provide a real boost to the economy. The Calman Commission recommended that APD should be devolved to Scotland*, yet the overwhelming case for this to happen was rejected by the UK Government. It is time for that decision to be reconsidered, and an unnecessary shackle on the Scottish economy removed."
The SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central had previously sought a cut in Air Passenger Duty, as a means of increasing the number of flights from Aberdeen Airport, and thus helping to boost the local economy. However, the request was dismissed by UK Treasury Minister Sajid Javid. On 12 November 2012, Mr. Stewart commented: "A number of airline executives tell us that APD makes a hugely negative impact on their operations. For instance, when it comes to making decisions on which routes to offer, it can put airports like Aberdeen’s at a major disadvantage when competing for destinations outwith the UK. Their position on this matter is utterly untenable." The UK currently has the highest aviation taxes in Europe, and a study suggests that they are costing the Scottish economy £77million a year.
*On 29 Sep. 2011, the London Treasury announced it would be devolving the collection of Air Passenger Duty to Northern Ireland, but not to Scotland. This is despite the devolution of APD being recommended by the Calman Commission, whose report formed the basis for the current Scotland Act.
Motion by Kevin Stewart MSP in the Scottish Parliament on 10 December 2012:
Parliament recognises the importance of air links to the Scottish economy; notes that in 2010 20% of Scottish exports totalling £2.9bn were transported by air; further notes that in the same year 88% of Scotland’s 2.35 million international visitors arrived by air; commends the Aviation Foundation’s Great British Flying Test campaign to highlight to communities the importance of aviation to the local economy; considers that Air Passenger Duty has an adverse impact on the Scottish economy by reducing the competitiveness of Scottish airports on a global scale; and calls for the UK Government to devolve responsibility for Air Passenger Duty to the Scottish Parliament at the earliest opportunity.
LABOUR'S HATRED OF THE SCOTTISH FLAG
On April 1, Scotland acquired a unified fire and rescue service, based in Perth. In recognition of the national status of the new organisation, Saltires were painted on the radiator grilles of some fire engines. Apparently, Grampian Fire & Rescue Service received "complaints" from two unnamed individuals who were "offended" by the appearance of the national flag on the vehicles. As a result, they were removed!
This almost unbelievable decision caused considerable resentment and puzzlement from both firemen and the general public. A concerned Kevin Stewart MSP wrote to the Chief Fire Officer of the Grampian service, on 27 November 2012, for an explanation. He also submitted a Parliamentary motion on the matter, and made Freedom of Information enquires to ascertain the exact nature of the complaints that were made, and by whom. Mr. Stewart said: “In no other country would the national flag be removed from public vehicles. The Saltire is Scotland's ancient symbol that bridges all political divides, and there is no reason why we should be prevented from displaying our national flag at every opportunity. The whole situation is bizarre, and no explanation has been given as to how a Saltire on a Scottish fire engine could possibly be 'offensive' to anyone."
Although the identities of those "offended" have never been revealed, a significant clue was provided on November 30. Employing some classic reverse logic, Lewis Macdonald, the British Labour regional MSP, blustered: "On St. Andrew's Day, of all days, the St. Andrew's Cross should be above politics and the SNP should butt out. The livery of emergency vehicles is the last place for the SNP to be playing party politics. And it's not a place for flying flags of any colour." It should be noted that Mr. Macdonald is also a prominent supporter of the Better Together alliance of Labour and Tories, which is campaigning against the Scottish Parliament being given any significant powers. Labour's dislike of Scottish flags was also oddly expressed by Johann Lamont MSP on 25 September 2012, when she said: "You cannot hide a dole queue behind a Saltire. The Lion Rampant is not an alternative to an opportunity to have an education or a job. Anyone who tells you anything different lacks credibility." When it achieved power in May 2012, the Labour-led Aberdeen City Council removed the Saltire from the Town House flagpole, and replaced it with a Union Flag.
The HQ of the unified national Scottish Fire & Rescue Service is in Perth, under the command of Alasdair Hay. After the eight services merged on April 1, Aberdeen became the sub-HQ for the previous fire and rescue areas of Highlands & Islands, Grampian and Tayside. The commander of the new Aberdeen base is Robert Scott. He said that while there will be no compulsory redundancies, it is accepted that it would be "an unsettling time" for employees.
EMERGENCY CARE CENTRE
Aberdeen Royal Infirmary's new Emergency Care Centre (ECC) became operational on 21 November 2012. The £110million building took over three years to construct and now dominates the Foresterhill site.
The ECC brings together emergency and urgent care facilities into one building for the first time, which will improve access to unscheduled care. Patients will also benefit from access to a coordinated team of clinicians. Graeme Smith, of NHS Grampian, said: "This is quite simply the most ambitious development undertaken by NHS Grampian in a generation. The ECC stands taller than any other building on the Foresterhill Health Campus and replaces 40% of the inpatient beds at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. We have got the most modern equipment, including pneumatic tube systems which connect directly to the laboratory so that tests can be turned around much more quickly. The standard of our accommodation is much higher. In our in-patient facilities, 75% of the beds are in single rooms with en suite accommodation and that is much better for the privacy and dignity of our patients." Other projects in the city will also benefit from revenue funding via the "hub initiative". The new Aberdeen Health Village in Frederick Street will receive £15.5million and Woodside Health Centre £4.7million.
Commenting on the opening of the Emergency Care Centre, Kevin Stewart MSP said: "This is an ambitious project that will improve the health service for all those living in the North-East. It is the result of a huge commitment by the NHS, the Scottish Government and a number of charities, and is another step towards ensuring Scots have access to a world-class health service. I will be viewing the new facilities on Friday, and look forward to seeing exactly what this building has to offer.”
ORIGINAL OILFIELDS TO BE REDEVELOPED
Two of Scotland's original oilfields are to resume production. On 24 October 2012, Talisman Energy Inc. of Canada announced that they were going to immediately progress their Montrose Area Redevelopment (MAR) project.
The Arbroath field is 130 miles east of Aberdeen. Discovered in September 1969, it was the first commercial oilfield in the Scottish sector of the North Sea. Montrose, five miles to the NW, was discovered two years later. They and two undeveloped discoveries will be integrated in the MAR project, costing £1.6billion. Altogether, the fields are estimated to have 100million barrels, with production expected to peak at 36,000 barrels a day until 2030.
Kevin Stewart MSP (Aberdeen Central) hailed the excellent news by submitting a motion in the Scottish Parliament. He commented: "This is a very welcome announcement. The huge investment by Talisman confirms Aberdeen, the Silver City, to be worth its weight in gold, and helps show the strength of the North-East economy. Hopefully, this will inspire other companies to follow suit and invest in similar projects."
NEW UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
The University of Aberdeen's new library was opened on 24 Sept. 2012, and named for the Aberdeen-born SIR DUNCAN RICE, who was Principal from 1996 to 2010.
Designed by Danish architects, construction began in Sept. 2009. The futuristic building takes the form of a giant cube. Its exterior is largely of glass, with an abstract pattern intended to suggest "shards of ice". The new building replaces the neighbouring Queen Mother Library, which has been demolished.
The library was the venue for World Book Week, from 26 October to 2 November 2012. The programme included a book exchange; daily Twitter questions and blog posts highlighting the library's collections; a "flash fiction" short story competition; book-binding workshops and community events. Kevin Stewart, SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, congratulated the University of Aberdeen on its new addition and for organising the exciting series of events. Mr. Stewart, who presented the award to the winner of the "flash fiction" short story competition, also lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament to mark the event.
On October 12, he commented: "World Book Week is a great initiative by the staff of the Sir Duncan Rice Library. They have planned an exciting programme for both students and the wider community. There are a great number of relatively unknown stories waiting to be read, many of them by local authors. I hope that this will encourage more people to read recreationally; and would urge Aberdonians to follow this example, get into the spirit of World Book Week and get reading!"
SMALL ABERDEEN BUSINESSES AIDED BY BONUS SCHEME
The Scottish Government’s Small Business Bonus Scheme has been of considerable benefit to many Aberdeen businesses since it was introduced in 2008.
This was confirmed by Fergus Ewing, Minister for Energy, Enterprise & Tourism, in his answer to a Parliamentary Question put by Kevin Stewart, MSP for Aberdeen Central. In the last four years, small firms in Aberdeen had saved £12.7million in business rates taxation. Statistics published on 27 October 2011 also showed that 2,010 business premises in the city were paying reduced or zero business rates under the Small Business Bonus Scheme.
On 11 October 2012, Mr Stewart commented: "The Small Business Bonus has proved to be an absolute lifeline for many small Scottish businesses; and I know from speaking to business people in Aberdeen how much they value this much needed relief, particularly in such difficult economic times. Had the SNP not introduced this scheme, I think there would have been more businesses facing financial difficulties and even possible closure. When finances are tight, every penny helps, and that is particularly the case for small businesses. I am happy that this scheme has helped so many businesses in Aberdeen, and I am delighted that the Scottish Government’s budget makes provision for it to continue."
STEWART LEADS DEBATE ON ATOS ASSESSMENTS
An individual's entitlement to state benefits as the result of disability or injury now depends on the result of an assessment carried out by ATOS Healthcare Ltd., on behalf of the UK Government's Dept. for Work & Pensions. The Aberdeen assessment centre is at 484 Union Street.
The ATOS assessments have been criticised by organisations representing disabled people and by medical professionals, and were the subject of a debate in the Scottish Parliament on 26 September 2012, led by Kevin Stewart, MSP for Aberdeen Central. Mr Stewart said: "Work Capability Assessments have been discredited by individuals who have gone through the process, and there is overwhelming evidence that they can no longer be seen to be fit for purpose. Despite two years of independent reviews, the research proves that the system is flawed. Having to go through the procedure is sometimes frightening and daunting for claimants; and having to wait up to six weeks for communication from the Department for Work and Pensions is unacceptable. When medical professionals are opposed to a system which claims to be 'foolproof', surely it’s time for the UK Government to scrap it and create a system that works for disabled people?” The British Medical Association called on MSPs to support Mr Stewart’s motion, stating: “The BMA is concerned about the impact that UK welfare reform legislation will have on the people of Scotland.”
Motion for debate by Kevin Stewart MSP in the Scottish Parliament on 26 September 2012:
That the Parliament understands that there are ever-increasing concerns in Aberdeen and across Scotland regarding the work capability assessments for Employment and Support Allowance that are being carried out by Atos; notes the reported fears of stakeholder organisations and individuals that similar concerns will be reproduced with assessments for Personal Independence Payments, and understands that members are receiving significant casework from constituents regarding negative experiences of work capability assessments.
### On 1 October 2012, Kevin Stewart submitted a second motion in the Scottish Parliament condemning the UK Government for awarding a £206million contract to ATOS to carry out work capability assessments for personal independence payments in Scotland and the North of England, which will see the company make profits of between £16-40million. The projections were revealed in a Freedom of Information response from the Department for Work & Pensions. Mr Stewart said: "It is quite breathtaking to see the staggering profits that ATOS will make from carrying out humiliating assessments on disabled people. These assessments have been designed by the UK Government with the sole intention of slashing spending on the most vulnerable in society. That it is willing to take £40million out of the pockets of the disabled, and hand it over to a private company, shows how spectacularly misguided their priorities are. Quite frankly, it is inhumane and crass to put private profit before the needs of vulnerable people. What makes matters worse is that this £40million profit is only the tip of the iceberg, as it only covers Scotland and the North of England. When you take into account the fact that similar contracts will be awarded across the rest of the UK, private companies will be laughing all the way to the bank. Aberdeen was one of the areas where these tests were piloted, and the harrowing tales of humiliating assessments were all too frequent. When people realise that the company carrying out these assessments is making exorbitant profits from the misery of others, I am sure they will be rightly horrified."
MSPs CALL ON COUNCIL TO SAVE REMPLOY
The Aberdeen Remploy workshop for the disabled closed on 26 October 2012, following the UK Government's decision to reject a bid from the factory's management to continue operations. Of the 15 people who lost their jobs. 14 have a disability, with poor prospects for re-employment.
After a meeting with Esther McVey, the UK Minister for Disabled People on 22 October, three SNP MSPs made a last-ditch effort to avert the closure. Kevin Stewart, Maureen Watt and Mark McDonald reiterated their call for Aberdeen City Council to use the city's near £60million Common Good Fund to save the St. Machar Road factory, and help to support its development as a social enterprise hub. The site has an estimated commercial value of £550,000, and owners Remploy UK charged an annual rent of £80,000 -- a sum well in excess of normal commercial rates for a property of that value. A key reason for the closure was the requirement for the factory to be transferred to Aberdeen Remploy for £1.
Picture: SNP MSPs and councillors visit Aberdeen Remploy in April 2012.
REDUCING VAT ON HOME IMPROVEMENTS
With the aim of giving a much-needed boost to the construction industry, KEVIN STEWART MSP has renewed his call for the VAT on home improvements to be reduced to 5%. Work in the building sector has fallen by 5.2% in the last quarter, as a result of the UK Government’s policy of cutting capital spending. Many people in the industry have been made redundant and many more building jobs are at risk.
Mr. Stewart originally raised a motion on the subject in the Scottish Parliament in July 2011*, which received widespread support from MSPs. On 2 August 2012, he wrote to UK Chancellor George Osborne, urging him to use this cut in VAT to assist the construction industry. He commented: “The UK Chancellor’s spending cuts have been blamed for the recent decline in construction, so he really needs to look at helping the industry at this difficult time. The London Government's capital spending program has been slashed drastically, leading to a reduction in infrastructure investment. Reducing the VAT on home improvements would go some way to limiting the damage his policies are causing. Renovation of residential properties would be more affordable and encourage homeowners to invest in their homes. This would not only provide general assistance to builders, but would also help legitimate businesses compete with less reputable firms which don't charge VAT."
*Motion by Kevin Stewart MSP in the Scottish Parliament on 4 July 2011:
CUT VAT ON HOUSING IMPROVEMENTS. That the Parliament recognises that many small construction firms are suffering because of the economic downturn; notes that new house building is VAT exempt, but that housing extensions and improvements are not, and calls on the UK Government to consider cutting or abolishing VAT on housing improvements and extensions to allow for the security and survival of Scotland’s small construction companies.
On 14 August 2012, it was announced that the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise will provide £3.3million to enable Aberdeen City Council to complete the purchase of ten hydrogen-powered buses. The city will also be the site for Scotland’s first large hydrogen refuelling station, which will also cater for hydrogen cars as they come onto the market.
Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart has campaigned for some time to bring hydrogen technology to Aberdeen’s bus fleet, including pressing Scottish Enterprise to contribute funding to the project. In July, he tabled a Parliamentary motion* calling for a debate on Aberdeen's ambitious plans to become a world centre for hydrogen technologies. At its budget meeting in February, Aberdeen City Council voted unanimously to provide £2million capital funding towards bringing these state-of-the-art buses to the North-East. The vehicles will be operated by Stagecoach and FirstBus, and could be in service by 2014.
Mr Stewart said: "Aberdeen has long been at the forefront of developments in the energy industry. The city now has the potential to become a global leader in the development of new hydrogen technologies, and this will be the next step in our evolution as the Energy Capital of Europe. It is already the first city in the world to have hydrogen-powered vehicles available to members of its car club. Hydrogen is a clean and plentiful source of energy. All you need to create it is a wind turbine, some wind, and some water. When this is used in a fuel cell, the only emissions from vehicles are water and oxygen. If you combine Scotland’s renewable energy potential with the possibility of diversification into hydrogen, the sky's the limit. Aberdeen is positioning itself to be at the forefront of this exciting new concept. We can harness our existing expertise in renewables and oil and gas to ensure that the use of hydrogen really takes off. This will not only provide a boost to the local economy, but also lead to an eventual reduction in greenhouse gas. It is a compelling vision for a greener future, and the eyes of the world will be closely following what happens in Aberdeen. It was important that the city's steps towards this goal were recognised at a national level and I thank my Parliamentary colleagues for sharing Aberdeen’s vision. I'm delighted by this announcement and very much looking forward to the arrival of the new buses."
*Motion by Kevin Stewart MSP in the Scottish Parliament on 16 July 2012:
Parliament welcomes the ambition shown by Aberdeen to become a world leading centre for the development and deployment of new Hydrogen technologies; notes that Aberdeen City Council unanimously agreed a contribution of £2m from its capital budget towards the deployment of Hydrogen Fuel Cell buses in the city; further notes that the city’s new car club is the first in the world to trial hydrogen vehicles; recognises that Hydrogen Fuel Cells are one of the most promising technologies to facilitate the decarbonisation of public transport; congratulates Aberdeen City Council on its engagement with partners across the European Union to secure its participation in and funding from a variety of hydrogen projects, and notes the potential links between the city’s oil and gas and renewable industries; considers that the deployment of hydrogen technologies will help maintain Aberdeen’s status as a global energy city, boost the local economy, and help Scotland meet its targets for greenhouse gas reduction contained in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009
MINIMUM PRICE FOR ALCOHOL
KEVIN STEWART MSP hailed the 14 May 2012 announcement by the Scottish Government that it will seek to set the minimum price for a unit of alcohol at 50p.
Mr. Stewart commented: “I am glad to see that a minimum price has been announced and look forward to seeing this introduced as law. Aberdeen does not have a healthy relationship with alcohol and I anticipate the long-term benefits that a minimum price will have on health, families, crime and society. I am sure that a number of local shops, pubs and producers throughout the North-East will benefit from this too, by being much better placed to compete with the big supermarkets, breweries and distilleries. This is an innovative and forward-thinking policy and I am sure it will deliver the best for the people of this city.
Making the announcement, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "Too many Scots are drinking themselves to death. The problem affects people of all walks of life. It's no coincidence that as affordability has increased, alcohol-related hospital admissions have quadrupled, and it is shocking that half of our prisoners now say they were drunk when they committed the offence. It's time for this to stop. Introducing a minimum price per unit will enable us to tackle these problems, given the clear link between affordability and consumption. There is now a groundswell of support for the policy across the medical profession, police forces, alcohol charities and from significant parts of the drinks and licensed trade industry, who recognise the benefits minimum pricing can bring -- saving lives and reducing crime."
### MANY CHILDREN'S LIVES are being ruined by alcohol-fuelled violence and, on 3 July 2012, the charity Children 1st launched a summer drive to raise awareness of the issue. With an estimated 80,000 children in Scotland affected by parental alcohol misuse, the charity is urging everybody to take responsibility to protect children. Anyone concerned about a child living with alcohol-fuelled abuse this summer can call the free and confidential helpline ParentLine Scotland on 08000 28 22 33. Alison Todd, Deputy Chief Executive at CHILDREN 1ST, said: “Our message is that it is everybody’s responsibility to protect children from violence fuelled by alcohol misuse, particularly as families prepare for the summer holidays. Every day, CHILDREN 1ST supports children to recover from the trauma of abuse and violence caused by parental alcohol misuse. The impacts include low self-esteem, anxiety, poor health and emotional well-being, with children often subject to physical and emotional abuse or witness to violence between their parents “
Kevin Stewart, MSP for Aberdeen Central, gave his full support to the campaign. He commented: "It is totally unacceptable that at least 80,000 children in Scotland are growing up with their childhoods blighted by adults’ drinking –- and worse, adults becoming abusive and violent towards them. There are too many situations involving alcohol which result in a child witnessing violence or bearing the brunt of it themselves. The CHILDREN 1ST campaign is needed not only to highlight the issue, but also to encourage us all to do more to protect children. We can start by making sure anyone concerned about a child knows to call ParentLine Scotland. It’s awful to think that many children grow up feeling anxious about their summer holidays, rather than looking forward to them. These are days that should be filled with happiness and laughter, but they are often ruined by aggression, violence and anger due to alcohol. I’m supporting CHILDREN 1ST campaign so that, in the future, more children will hopefuly be allowed to enjoy their holidays free from parental abuse.”
The large Broadford Works site is bounded by Maberly St., Ann St. and Hutcheon St., lying just north of Aberdeen city centre. The former Richards textile factory's old mill buildings have lain empty since 2004. Dating from the 1800s, some have a Conservation A-listing, which protects them from demolition.
In the eight years since the factory closed, the buildings have been the target for numerous acts of fire-raising, vandalism, graffiti and general anti-social behaviour. The long-derelict works are in the Aberdeen Central constituency of Kevin Stewart MSP. On 28 May 2011, and again on 15 June 2012, Mr. Stewart wrote to the site owner, Mr. Ian Suttie, calling for urgent action to secure the site until its redevelopment. Aberdeen City Council has since served a Dangerous Buildings Notice on the owner, and several measures have been taken to prevent entry, and monitor the movements of individuals who still succeed in gaining access. The move followed the tabling by Mr. Stewart of a number of Parliamentary Questions on the subject of dangerous buildings. He said: "Local residents and businesses are rightly worried about the goings-on at Broadford, and the lives of those in the emergency services have been put at risk far too often when dealing with the criminal acts that have been taking place there."
Mr. Suttie received planning permission for housing on the site and, on 1 December 2011, gained the support of Historic Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland and the Prince's Regeneration Trust for his intention to redevelop the site as an "urban village." It is envisaged that £95million will be spent on providing 517 homes, shops, a restaurant, nursery and underground car park. The plans were initially rejected by Aberdeen City Council's Development Management sub-committee on 19 July 2012, but objections were later withdrawn on 26 December 2012.
On 8 February 2012, KEVIN STEWART welcomed the announcement by Transport Minister Keith Brown of improvements to two notorious traffic bottlenecks: the HAUDAGAIN roundabout in Aberdeen and the INVERAMSAY railway bridge over the A96, near Inverurie in Aberdeenshire.
£3million was allocated for re-designing the Haudagain junction, while £5million will go towards the expected £12-15million cost of road realignment and upgrade of the bridge at Inveramsay. Mr. Stewart, the former chairman of NESTRANS (NE Scotland Transport Partnership) commented: “I have campaigned for these improvements for a very long time and am pleased that an SNP Government is going to deliver on these projects. This is great news for Aberdeen and the North-East as a whole.”
WINNING FOR SCOTLAND!
The SNP won all three ABERDEEN constituencies in the General Election on 5 May 2011.
Election Result: ABERDEEN CENTRAL
Kevin Stewart SNP 10,058
Lewis Macdonald Lab. 9,441
Sandy Wallace Con. 3,100
Sheila Thomson Lib. Dem. 2,349
Mike Phillips Nat. Front 201
SNP GAIN FROM LAB. Maj. 617 Turnout 43.8%