Aberdeen CENTRAL

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ABERDEEN CENTRAL CONSTITUENCY (Scottish Parliament)

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KEVIN STEWART MSP

Born and bred in the city, Kevin Stewart was elected as the MSP for ABERDEEN CENTRAL on 5 May 2011, taking the seat from Labour.  Re-elected on 5 May 2016.

Minister for Local Government, Housing (& Planning) from May 2016.  Formerly Convener of the Local Government & Regeneration Parliamentary Committee.

First elected to Aberdeen City Council, for Auchmill ward, in 1999, and led the SNP group for 12 years. Depute Leader of the Council 2007-11.

As Finance & Resources Committee convener, successfully dealt with the Council's  £50million debt, accumulated by previous unionist administrations.   Stepped down as a councillor in May 2012.

                                                                                                                                                                                    

Contact KEVIN STEWART at his CONSTITUENCY OFFICE:                                                                              

3rd 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--5.00pm.

Surgeries:   Every Monday from 2.30pm at the Constituency Office.  Write, phone or e-mail to make an appointment.

E-mail:       kevin.stewart.msp@parliament.scot                                                                           

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SAINT ANDREW'S NIGHT DINNER

NORTHERN HOTEL, 1 Great Northern Road,  ABERDEEN

Friday, November 29.  7.00, for 7.30pm

                                                                   Tickets:  £25.00,  from Hazel Cameron

 

   BREXIT deal ignores SCOTLAND 

Boris Johnson’s proposed "new Brexit deal" would leave Scotland unique among the four UK nations in being completely ignored.

On October 17, Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, commented: "While England and Wales both voted to leave the EU, and would do so under the deal, Northern Ireland is being handed a special deal, effectively keeping it within the single market and customs union – with the power to change their relationship in future. These proposals would leave Scotland unique in having voted Remain, but being dragged out of the EU with no say over its future relationship."

"There is no such thing as a 'good' Brexit deal. The best deal for Scotland and Aberdeen is the one we have just now as part of the European Union. When you compare Johnson’s Brexit deal with Theresa May’s, I cannot see a single thing that is going to lessen the adverse impact of Brexit on our city, and the people who live and work here. Importantly, this proposed deal would leave Scotland unique among the four nations of the UK in facing an outcome we did not vote for, and having no say over our future relationship."

“Aberdeen voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and has been predicted to be the city hardest hit by Brexit. Yet we’ve been entirely sidelined and ignored by the Tory Government throughout this process. It is clearer than ever that the best future for Scotland is as an equal, independent European nation.”                                                                                Cartoon: from a Helsinki newspaper.

### See below for ABERDEEN says "Yes" to EUROPE !

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March & Rally for Independence in Aberdeen

On Saturday, August 17, around 10,000 attended the biggest pro-independence demonstration ever seen in the city and the North-East. 

Organised by All Under One Banner (AUOB), the march and rally were a big success. Apart from a couple of showers, the weather stayed mainly bright and sunny.

Led by a pipe band, the marchers started off from Albyn Place at 1.30pm and walked along Union Street to the rally in the Castlegate.

Several speakers addressed the rally, which lasted from 2.30 to 5.30pm. The Aye Aberdeen group later laid on some musical entertainment.

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Less CRIME in Aberdeen

There has been a considerable reduction in crime in Aberdeen since the SNP Government came to power twelve years ago.

This was highlighted by Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, on March 18.  Figures show that there were 23,322 offences recorded in the city in 2006-07. But this decreased to 12,509 in 2017-18 -- a reduction of 46.4%. This welcome trend is mainly due to the efficiency of a higher number of police officers. On 31 December 2018, the records of the North-East Division (Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray) of Police Scotland showed that there were 3,328 officers on duty in the area.

Nationally, there has been a general downward trend in recorded crime from a peak in 1991, when offences numbered 572,921​In 2008-09, these had decreased by 35% and, by 2017-18, had sunk to 244,504 -- the second lowest level since 1974. Whilst these satisfactory figures are undoubtedly due to the success rate achieved by Police Scotland, they are also affected by the inclusion of additional crimes of handling an offensive weapon, and procedural changes made to the recording of crime during the period. 

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ABERDEEN says "Yes" to EUROPE !

The City of Aberdeen had a 23,256 majority for REMAIN in the EU Referendum on 23 June 2016.  (Turnout: 67.9%). 

                                                                

                                        Remain                     Leave

     City of Aberdeen         63,985  (61.1%)     40,729  (38.9%)                

     Aberdeen North*        57.0%                      43.0%

     Aberdeen South*        67.7%                     32.3%

                 

     ALL of Scotland's 32 local authority areas voted REMAIN.                                        *Westminster Parliamentary Constituencies

 

### Over 6 MILLION signed the petition to Revoke Article 50 and REMAIN in the EU.           

The petition was launched on March 21, and ran until August 20.  Total Scottish signatures were 530,294 by March 26, including 76,600 in Edinburgh.  ABERDEEN NORTH* = 9,321; ABERDEEN SOUTH* = 11,059;  GORDON* = 9,376 signed.                                                                                                                                                            

SINGLE MARKET is vital for Aberdeen and Scotland 

A report by the Centre for Cities think-tank has shown that 61% of Aberdeen’s exports go to the EU, which works out at £18,100 for every worker involved.

Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, commented on 16 October 2018: “This report shows exactly why the Tory plan to tear us out of the EU and single market would be so damaging to Aberdeen and the North-East. The city's economy benefits massively from our membership of the single market, which is around eight times bigger than the UK’s. As much as 61% of our exports go to the continent. Anything that threatens this trade with the EU will undoubtedly hit our economy hard." 

"The EU and its Investment Bank have disbursed around £469million in Aberdeen and the surrounding area in the past few years, via a range of initiatives including payments to farmers, cancer research, the AWPR, Aberdeen South Harbour, the Aberdeen Bay turbines and hydrogen buses. Losing out on that much of financial support is going to inflict major harm. Indeed, Aberdeen is expected to be the hardest hit in the UK, and explains why the city voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU"

“We’ve already been warned that the catastrophic 'hard Brexit' that the Tories are fully intent on delivering will cost Scotland 80,000 jobs and £11.2billion per year from our economy by 2030. The Tories must respect our country's vote to remain in the EU, by fully considering the detailed compromise proposals laid out in Scotland’s Place in Europe. Anything else would be nothing less than yet another betrayal of Scotland. Last week, it was announced that up to £18million of European cash would be used by the Scottish Government to set up an Advanced Manufacturing Fund to help small and medium-sized businesses."

### More information on the UK PARLIAMENT and EUROPEAN UNION pages.

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AAB secures boost for new STOCK EXCHANGE

Plans to launch Scotland’s first stock exchange since the 1970s have taken a major step forward.

The country lost its only remaining exchange, in Glasgow, when it was swallowed up by its London counterpart in 1973. However, last year, the entrepreneur Tomas Carruthers launched his Project Heather, with the aim of "establishing a major contributor to sustainable economic growth both in Scotland and the UK, as well as providing a destination for impact investors and issuers globally.” Since then, there has been a flurry of national and international interest from businesses looking at a possible listing in the new exchange, which will be headquartered at 39 George Street, Edinburgh. 45 jobs will be initially created for the HQ and its sub-offices in Glasgow and Aberdeen.

On March 21, Douglas Martin, head of corporate finance at the Aberdeen-based accountancy and business advisory company Anderson, Anderson & Brown (AAB), announced that he and colleagues Brian McMurray and Stuart Cooper had helped to facilitate a seven-figure equity investment to support the launch. A further institutional investment round is expected to kick-off in the coming months. Mr. Martin said:  “We are delighted to have secured the investment for Project Heather which will help to re-establish the Scottish Stock Exchange after almost 50 years. Brian and Stuart have worked closely with Tomas and his team during this process and we look forward to continuing the relationship and supporting the launch of Project Heather later this year.” 

AAB, which also has offices in Edinburgh and London, has some 280 staff, including 19 partners, and turnover last year came to around £22 million. Project Heather is in partnership with Euronext N.V., one of the world's largest stock exchange operators, which will run the Edinburgh operation on its "Optiq" trading platform. Tomas Carruthers commented: “Working closely with Anderson, Anderson & Brown, securing this initial round of investment funding is enabling us to work on bringing a Scottish Stock Exchange to full fruition and launch in the second half of this year. We believe a stock exchange, built on the principles of raising capital, will have a positive impact on society and the environment." 

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86,000 HOMES delivered since 2007                                                                                                  

Scotland is experiencing the highest levels of activity in the affordable house-building sector since the early 1980s.

The SNP believes that everyone in Scotland deserves a warm, affordable home. 

Our Government is: building more homes; helping people buy their first home; tackling fuel poverty; ensuring tenants in the private rented sector are not required to pay unfair rents; and working to end rough sleeping and homelessness.

Here's how this Government is living up to its commitments:--

► Since 2007, the SNP Government has delivered more than 86,000 affordable homes -- 59,131 for social rent, 20,403 for affordable home ownership and 6,575 for affordable rent.  It is on track to deliver 50,000 in the current Parliamentary term.
Aberdeen has benefited from the delivery of 2,425 affordable homes, including 1,192 for social rent, since 2007.

► Around 20,000 families have been enabled to buy their own home through Home Ownership schemes – three quarters of them under the age of 35. In 2016-17, the SNP Government invested £160million in schemes that will help 5,000 households buy a home.

► Our Government has already ensured that nobody in Scotland has to pay the Bedroom Tax. New powers will be used to abolish it once-and-for-all, protecting over 70,000 households.

► Our Government has provided additional funding through the Scottish Welfare Fund, to support 18 to 21 year-olds following the Tory decision to remove their Housing Benefit.

► Our Government has passed a new law to allow for the creation of rent controls in areas with high rents. Private sector letting agents' fees, over-and-above the rent and a deposit, will be unlawful.

► 15,500 social houses for rent have been safeguarded by ending Right to Buy. Councils have been enabled to build new homes for the first time in years – with 7,169 new council homes delivered.

► By the end of 2021, the SNP Government will have committed £1billion to tackling fuel poverty. Energy efficiency measures have already been installed in almost one million households.

► Our Government has set a new national objective to end rough sleeping –- backed up by a new £50million fund.

The SNP has achieved a lot in the last 11 years, but we know there is much more still to do. That’s why, over the next five years, we will build on our achievements to deliver a housing system fit for the 21st century.

Kevin Stewart, the Minister for Local Government, Housing & Planning commented: “Increasing the supply of affordable homes is a key commitment by the SNP Government. We will provide the certainty that local authorities and the sector need to accelerate this progress. Making sure everyone has a safe, warm and affordable home is central to our drive for a fairer and more prosperous Scotland. In the three years to 2017, our Scottish Government has delivered five times more social rented properties per head of population than the Tories have in England. We are determined to accelerate housing supply for communities throughout our country. I am confident we will continue to increase affordable housing, with our ambitious target to deliver 50,000 homes during the lifetime of this Parliament, backed by £3billion of investment."

 

SELF-BUILD LOAN FUND

People who want to build their own homes will be able to apply for financial aid from the Scottish Government's $4million Self-Build Loan Fund.

Announcing the opening of the fund on 7 September 2018, Local Government, Housing & Planning Minister Kevin Stewart said: "We know that many people are interested in building their own homes. In some cases, it is the best way for families to tailor their homes to their needs. However, we also know that it can be tough to secure funding and get the right advice, which is why we set up the Self-Build Loan Fund to help those that need to access finance."

"Following a successful pilot in the Highlands, we decided to roll the fund out to people across the country. This is now open for applications, and I want to see people make full use of this fund." The Highland Small Communities Housing Trust, headed by Ronnie MacRae, will administer the fund on behalf of the Scottish Government. 

### For more information, log onto the HSCHT website. 
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Obituary:  Margaret "Marnie" Corall (1916-2019)

We have been very sad to say goodbye to an Aberdeen centenarian, whose lifelong dedication to Scotland was an inspiration to members in the city and far beyond.

Margaret Flora Munro was born on 26 May 1916 at Blairdhu, near Redcastle in the Black Isle, Easter Ross. Following school, she trained as a children's nurse and worked in England and Dundee. While in Aberdeen, she met Tom Corall, her husband-to-be, at a dance in the city's Beach Pavilion.

The late 1950s saw them at Rosemarkie in the Black Isle, where they ran the Beach Cafe. But they eventually moved to Aberdeen in 1961 and made their home in a traditional granite house in Rosemount Place.

Tom Corall, who had been very active in the SNP, died in 1991, but Marnie continued to campaign for Scotland's independence. In 2016, she was delighted to open the Aberdeen Central constituency office of Kevin Stewart MSP. Paying tribute, Kevin said: "Mrs. C. was an amazing woman and an inspiration to me." 

Marnie Corall passed away at the Deeside Care Home on January 1, at the age of 102. She is is survived by her son, John Corall, who served as an SNP Aberdeen City Councillor from 2007 to 2017, another son and a daughter.

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"I would walk 500 MILES"                                                                                                                  

Hundreds gathered in Aberdeen's Castlegate on Sunday, 23 September 2018, to welcome those taking part in the 500 Miles march for independence.

Organised by Dave Llewellyn, the seven marchers were inspired by the song recorded by the Proclaimers -- who sent them a goodwill message.

They started off from Kyleakin in Skye on Sept. 15. Then walked to Ullapool, Inverness (18th), Nairn, Elgin, Fraserburgh (22nd), Peterhead, Ellon, Aberdeen (23rd), Forfar, Dundee, Scone, Stirling (30th), Glasgow (Oct. 2) -- and finished in Edinburgh on Oct. 6, in time for the major march and rally in the capital.                           

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Protection from UK AUSTERITY

Over the last four years, the Scottish Government has acted to protect the poorest people in our country from the draconian welfare reforms pursued by Westminster. 

Kevin Stewart, the Minister for Local Government, Housing & Planning, highlighted the amount of support given. On 16 July 2018 he said:  "Despite continued cuts to Scotland’s budget, over the past four years the SNP Scottish Government has spent nearly £400million plugging the gaps created by Tory austerity, to try to keep people from further hardship."

 

Financial Year:                                       2015-16                    2016-17                     2017-18                   2018-19    
 
Discretionary Housing Payment                £35.0million               £35.0million                £59.1million               £63.4million
Scottish Welfare Fund                             £38.0million               £38.4million                £38.0million               £38.0million
Fairer Scotland                                        £8.0million                 £8.0million                  £6.9million               £25.8million     

TOTAL:                                                  £81.0million             £81.4million            £104.0million           £127.2million

Source: Scottish Parliament Information Centre.

 

### See also LABOUR helps to pass the WELFARE Bill on the UK PARLIAMENT page.

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MAJOR TRAUMA Centres are opened                                                                                                   

A Major Trauma Centre (MTC)  was opened at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary on 1 October 2018. This was followed by the Dundee Centre on November 19. Those in Edinburgh and Glasgow will open in 2020-21.

Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, said: "It was fantastic to be with Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jeane Freeman (pictured), to open Scotland’s first Major Trauma Centre. It was also humbling to hear from patients about their healthcare experiences. The new centre will help improve the journey of patients and their families, and is great news for the North & North-East." The network will ensure that those seriously injured get the best possible care and chances of recovery, whatever their location. 

The new specialist centre at Foresterhill will be equipped and staffed to provide care for patients suffering from major traumatic and life-threatening injuries, incurred by such things as falls or serious vehicle collisions. Backed by a £15.2million investment, the Scottish Trauma Network will also include the Scottish Ambulance Service and existing trauma services. There will be a gradual increase in funding over five years, with an anticipated budget of £27million by 2021-22. Dr. Iain MacLeod, Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine and Unit Clinical Director for the MTC, said: "This collaborative way of working draws all the professionals and components together across the north of Scotland -- from pre-hospital admission with the Scottish Ambulance Service to our community-based rehabilitation teams once the patient has returned home. It's an exciting and innovative approach to trauma medicine, which keeps our adult and paediatric trauma patients very much at the heart of each component of their healthcare journey."

The £30million Elective Treatment Centre at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary has also substantially increased capacity for routine procedures required by elderly patients in the North-East, such as hip or knee replacements and eye cataracts. Announcing the new centres in 2016, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:  “People in Scotland are living longer than ever before. That’s undoubtedly a good thing, but we must make sure that we put the right healthcare and support in place to ensure that they can continue to lead active, healthy and independent lives. That’s why it is so important to make sure our health services are fit for the future, and why we are committing £200million for five Elective Treatment Centres at key hospital sites across the country."

► Following on from the new Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital in 2004, there has been considerable development at or near the Foresterhill site:--  The Aberdeen Dental School, in Westburn Drive, was opened by Alex Salmond in Jan. 2010 * The CLAN charity opened its nearby Westburn Road cancer support centre in Oct. 2011 * A new, £110million state-of-the-art Emergency Care Centre came into operation in Nov. 2012 * The new multi-storey car park has space for 1,000 vehicles * The £163.7million Baird Family Hospital and ANCHOR Centre, which will replace the present Maternity Hospital, are scheduled to open in 2021.

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  Historic BROADFORD building demolished

The former Broadford textile works, just north of Aberdeen city centre, has been closed since 2004 -- and the site still remains undeveloped 15 years later.

The derelict factory is bounded by Maberly Street, Ann Street and Hutcheon Street. Some of the old mill buildings date from the 1800s, and are judged to be worthy of a Conservation A-listing, which protects them from demolition After the works closed, the poorly-guarded site became the target for numerous acts of fire-raising, vandalism, graffiti and general anti-social behaviour.

In 2012, Ian Suttie's First Construction company was granted approval to develop an "urban village" on the site. The £50million development was to consist of 517 homes, shops, a restaurant, nursery and a 569-space underground car park. After much haggling, it appeared, on 6 October 2014, that a deal had finally been struck  between Aberdeen City Council and Mr. Suttie, who agreed to contribute to local road improvements and to the Strategic Transport Fund. However, work on demolishing 32 buildings on the site -- some of them fire-damaged -- didn't commence until 26 October 2015. The intention was to preserve eleven of the most historic structures, including the 1808 Grey Mill (pictured), the oldest iron-framed mill in Scotland, and the fourth oldest in the world. 

Unfortunately, Mr. Suttie subsequently decided not to proceed with the development, and ownership of the site passed to the Inhabit property investment company in summer 2017. On March 16,  the developer said that it intended to lodge plans to transform it into 460 homes, plus accommodation for 430 students, shops and offices. However, this would involve demolition of about 40% of the Grey Mill, with only the southern wall and gable being retained as a "facade." This suggestion was roundly condemned by Dominic Fairlie, of Aberdeen Civic Society, who said: “I think it is absolutely despicable, and they should be forced to keep the Grey Mill. As property owners they have an obligation, particularly with listed buildings, to repair. The Grey Mill is an important building and there’s no reason why it can’t be repaired. Yes, it would cost money, but perhaps they need to spend the money. Why should people in Aberdeen accept that a historic building should be knocked down and replaced with something that is inferior?” Alas. Mr. Fairlie's protest fell on deaf ears, as -- true to form -- the City Council agreed to the demolition on 20 September 2018.

Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, who has been constantly pressing both the site owners and Aberdeen City Council for action, commented: "I hope that all of these works are going to be closely monitored by the Council to ensure that there is no damage to any of the listed buildings on the site. I have asked Historic Environment Scotland  to assure me that a close eye will be kept on the scheduled elements within the site to ensure that these listed buildings are protected. Broadford Works has the largest cluster of Grade A listed buildings in the UK, and everything possible must be done to ensure that our heritage is preserved. I hope that Historic Environment Scotland will ensure that this happens.”   

### See also STRATHCONA HOUSE demolished, on the ABERDEEN DONSIDE page.

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HOMELESSNESS action group

An action group, which will identify the changes needed to end rough sleeping and transform the use of temporary accommodation, has been announced by Local Government & Housing Minister KEVIN STEWART. 

Speaking on 22 September 2017, Mr. Stewart said: “We want to see an end to rough sleeping, and the appointment of our Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Action Group will lead the way in recommending the actions and legislative changes we need to tackle homelessness and the use of temporary accommodation. We are committed to eradicating rough sleeping, and are aware that this requires more than just the provision of housing. Every individual has their own unique needs and challenges. To achieve this, we need to ensure we have a joined-up approach across all sectors to improve prevention. Scotland has led the way in ensuring rights for homeless people, and we want to continue to lead the way and transform the outcomes for those that feel they are stuck in a cycle of homelessness and poverty.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, will chair the action group, and a panel of members will be appointed shortly. He said: "It is an honour to be asked to chair this action group, which will bring forward solutions to help end homelessness. The Scottish Government has rightly identified that a renewed effort is required to stop more people experiencing different forms of homelessness. Its £50million Ending Homelessness Together Fund, along with its commitment to end rough sleeping and transform the use of temporary accommodation, will change people’s lives.  We know the scale of the problem, and this group will focus firmly on delivering solutions which prevent, tackle and end homelessness for people. There’s some hard work to be done, but I believe the expertise and knowledge of those on the group means we will be up to the challenge, and I look forward to quickly getting to work."

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UNION STREET buildings to get facelift

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is to provide Aberdeen with a grant of £1.2million, which will go towards the rejuvenation of buildings in the city's iconic main street.

The money will go towards the city's Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme, which will focus on restoring and bringing back into use vacant and underused historic buildings. The scheme is designed to aid sustainable economic growth, "by supporting projects that develop an area’s sense of place." Unfortunately, the 16th century Provost Skene's House "sense of place" has been completely destroyed, as a result of the municipal vandalism of Broad Street by the current Aberdeen City Council.

Union Street is in the Aberdeen Central constituency of Kevin Stewart MSP. On 3 March 2017, he commented: "It is welcome news that Historic Environment Scotland is keen to play its part in supporting the future of Union Street, and to help return the city centre to its former sparkling glory. I am looking forward to seeing this large-scale clean-up, which I hope will be carried out on time and to budget. Showing pride in our city is something we can all share. This particular project demonstrates how much better off we are when the Council and its partners work with the Scottish Government and bodies like HES, to do best by Aberdeen and its people."

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Cutting BUSINESS RATES

The Scottish Government plans to cut business rates overall, by £155million, in 2017-18.

Small businesses will pay nothing. The Small Business Bonus Scheme (SBBS) was introduced by the SNP Government in 2008. To date, small businesses have saved £1.2billion.

Around 3,500 business premises, with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £18,000, will benefit from a 25% discount on their bills. For those businesses paying rates, the standard ‘poundage’ rate has been cut -- from 48.4 pence in the pound in 2016-17 to 46.6 pence in 2017-18. Only the very largest businesses will pay more. 

To address any disproportionate increase in rateable values in the hotels sector, the Scottish Government will cap bill increases at 12.5%. This relief will also be extended to pubs, clubsrestaurants and cafes. Altogether, some 8,500 properties in Scotland will receive proportionately more support for their sector than is available in the rest of the UK.

The Scottish Government has provided local authorities with additional funds, which can be used to address individual or highly localised impacts of the revaluation process. Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has announced that any Council wishing to offer local relief will have the support of the Government in developing its plans.

Since 2015, the fall in the oil price has had an adverse impact on some businesses in the North-East. In recognition of this, the Scottish Government will cap bill increases for office space in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire at 12.5%. Around 1,000 properties will benefit. The Government has provided support to Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City and other Councils, to help them use their powers to offer further rates relief at a local level. Aberdeenshire Council has proposed a rates relief scheme of £3million – despite Tory opposition. 

A package of support will be available to the renewables sector. There will be up to 100% relief for qualifying community, renewable and new-build schemes, and a lower payment threshold for community schemes from 1 MW to 0.5 MW. Small-scale hydro projects, producing up to 1 MW, will have their bills capped at 12.5%. Stand-alone heating schemes will have 50% rates relief.

On 21 February 2017, Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, commented: "I welcome the Scottish Government's decision to introduce a national rates relief package for the hospitality sector, which will see a 12.5% cap on any increase. It is also gratifying that Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has recognised the economic pressures in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, and has announced that office premises in our area will also see a 12.5% cap applied."

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Transforming the PLANNING system

Plans for major changes to the country's planning procedures were published on 10 January 2017.

The Scottish Government has set out 20 proposals for revamping the system, which will support economic growth, delivery of houses and increase community involvement in planning decisions. The proposals build on recommendations of an independent review carried out by a panel of experts last year. Key changes include zoning more land for housing, promoting self-build and removing the need to apply for planning permission for other types of development. The consultation will run until 4 April 2017, and will pave the way for a bill later in the year.

Minister for Local Government & Housing Kevin Stewart launched the consultation while on a visit to the Pennywell development in Edinburgh. He said: “Planning affects everyone’s lives, from making sure we have the right types of homes to driving forward regeneration. We need a strong and efficient system to support these aims and for long-term economic growth. These proposals will mean we are better placed to make high quality development happen sooner and in the right places. I firmly believe that Scotland's planners can lead the delivery of great places, empower communities and provide a stable environment for investment through the uncertain times we live in. I would encourage everyone with an interest in planning – developers and businesses, professionals and local authorities, communities and members of the public – to tell us what they think of our proposals for change.”

Consultation at:--    https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/planning-architecture/a-consultation-on-...

Kevin Stewart video at:--    https://www.facebook.com/KevinStewartSNP/videos/1864984723748608/

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"RIGHT TO BUY" ends 

The Right to Buy scheme, which allowed tenants in Scotland's social housing to buy their homes, was scrapped on 31 July 2016.

Making the announcement, Minister for Local Government & Housing Kevin Stewart said: "The end of Right to Buy marks a major milestone in the Scottish Government’s efforts to build a sustainable housing policy for the future. It is absolutely vital that people can access social housing when they need it most. Since Right to Buy was introduced in 1980, nearly half a million council and housing association homes have been sold to their tenants. By ending the scheme, we are protecting up to 15,500 social homes from sale over the next ten years, and safeguarding this stock for future generations."

“The Scottish Government is doing everything possible to maximise our investment in housing, and to deliver on our ambitious target of 50,000 affordable houses (including 35,000 social homes) over the lifetime of this Parliament. With thousands of people on waiting lists for council and housing association houses, it was only right for us to scrap this scheme, as we could no longer afford to see the social sector lose out on badly needed homes. Giving everyone access to a good quality, affordable home is a priority for this Government, and we will continue to assist people into home ownership through a range of shared equity schemes, including Help to Buy (Scotland) and Open Market Shared Equity, to help thousands of households to own their own homes.”

Dr. Mary Taylor, CEO of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations said: “SFHA is delighted that all forms of the right to buy policy in Scotland have now come to an end --  and this hasn’t come a moment too soon. Right to buy has had its day and has no place in modern Scotland."  Between the years 1979-80 and 2014-15, a total of 494,580 council and housing association homes were sold under the Right to Buy scheme. in Scotland -- homes that were no longer available to later generations who wanted to rent in the social housing sector.

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Bringing more VISITORS to Aberdeen

More should be done to encourage people to visit Aberdeen.

Kevin Stewart,  the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central said:  “Tourism used to be a big part of Aberdeen's economy, when the city did a very good job of encouraging people to visit again and again. Many will remember when thousands of people came to visit "The Silver City with the Golden Sands", because they knew what a magnificent place our city was and what fun could be had here." As with many similar resorts, Aberdeen's visitor numbers declined sharply when holidaymakers took advantage of ever-cheaper air travel to more exotic destinations like Spain, Greece and Florida. In more recent times, development of the offshore oil industry resulted in a large number of business visitors.

Due to the current downturn in the oil and gas industry, some of Aberdeen's hoteliers are struggling to get bookings, and Mr. Stewart has asked for further efforts to boost the city both as a business and tourist destination. The MSP has written to Malcolm Roughead, the chief executive of VisitScotland, and Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, calling for collaboration on how to achieve a higher profile for the city in national and overseas advertising. Mr. Roughhead has informed the MSP that Aberdeen is to receive the second highest level of tourism funding in Scotland, and that work is ongoing to establish VisitAberdeenshire, to promote tourism across both the city and shire.    

On 30 May 2016, Mr. Stewart commented: "It is encouraging that VS has recognised the challenges facing the city's hotels. Increased promotion means they will now become more competitive, while there should be many new customers for our shops and restaurants. With the high quality on offer at these and our tourist attractions, I believe that our city will soon start to rebuild its reputation as somewhere worth visiting. Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire are in a wonderful corner of Scotland. The landscape, culture, historic architecture and beaches deserve to be seen and experienced by many more from home and abroad."  

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Kevin is Minister for LOCAL GOVERNMENT & HOUSING

Following the appointment of the new SNP Cabinet on 18 May 2016,  KEVIN STEWART (Aberdeen Central) is the new Minister for Local Government & Housing.

He will effectively take on the roles of two MSPs who recently retired from the Parliament -- Marco Biagi (Local Government) and Margaret Burgess (Housing).

Mr. Stewart and Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman will be responsible to the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security & Equalities, Angela Constance. The team had their first meeting at St. Andrew's House shortly after being appointed.

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TAX OFFICE closure

HM Revenue & Customs plans to close its 17 offices in Scotland by 2021, with the net loss of over 2,000 jobs. The UK Government says it will replace them with two large "regional centres" in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The Aberdeen office -- at Ruby House, near Golden Square -- faces being axed by 2021, with 120 losing their jobs. The Inverness centre will also go by 2018, with the loss of about 50 positions. Apparently, staff in those offices will not automatically move to one of the new regional centres, and most could be made redundant.

On 21 March 2016, Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, called on the UK Government to reverse its decision to close the Aberdeen office. Mr. Stewart commented: “A city of Aberdeen’s size should have its own, dedicated HMRC office so that Aberdonians can easily access services. The staff at Ruby House have specialist knowledge in dealing with oil and gas workers, including divers, and I fear that these specialisms will be lost if functions are moved elsewhere. For these reasons, the UK Government must keep the office open.”

Motion by Kevin Stewart MSP in the Scottish Parliament on 21 March 2016:

ABERDEEN'S HMRC OFFICE. That the Parliament condemns the UK Government's decision to close the HMRC office in Aberdeen as well as other facilities in Scotland; believes that a city of Aberdeen's size should have its own, dedicated HMRC office so that citizens can easily access services; understands that the staff at the Aberdeen base have specialist knowledge in dealing with oil and gas workers, including divers, that may not exist elsewhere, and calls on the UK Government to reverse its decision and keep Aberdeen's HMRC office open.

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Flagrantly SHORT-CHANGED by Westminster

The Scottish Government is investing a total of £379million in the infrastructure of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

Aimed at securing the North-East's economic future, there will be a total of £504million invested in innovation, digital connectivity and infrastructure across the area. The City Region Deal for Aberdeen, announced on 27 January 2016, will see £250million being pumped in over the next five to ten years, which will be funded 50-50 by the Scottish and UK Governments. On top of its £125million share of the Deal, the SNP Government has allocated a further £224million for road and rail improvements, £20million to "unlock" housing sites and a £10million boost for digital connectivity.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "Given the current situation in Aberdeen, with significant job losses announced in recent weeks by the oil and gas industry, it is vital that both Governments send a strong and unequivocal signal that we fully support the region’s position as a global oil and gas hub. The City Region Deal includes plans for a new innovation hub, which will assist Aberdeen in making the transition from an operations base to a global centre for technology and R&D investment. It would also anchor the oil and gas industry as a major success story for the Scottish and UK economies now and in years to come. This deal will also pave the way for diversifying the economy -- building on existing strengths in bio-pharmaceuticals, agri-food and drink. Digital connectivity, supporting the harbour expansion at Nigg, and investment in housing and transport, will also all play an important role in supporting and growing the economy of the Aberdeen city region for the future."

Before anyone gets carried away by the apparent magnanimity of the UK Tory Government, a half share of £250million actually falls far short of the bonanza that Aberdeen and the North-East were initially promised. In June 2015, Kirsty Blackman, the SNP MP for Aberdeen North. led a Commons debate on the issue, during which it was revealed that the Aberdeen City Region was set to benefit to the tune of £2.9billion, consisting of direct grants and borrowing powers. On 28 January 2016, Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, said: "Once again, Westminster has over-promised and under-delivered. David Cameron often tells us about the 'broad-shoulders' of the UK. We’ve heard the same from other opposition politicians. But where were those 'broad-shoulders' today? Don't get me wrong. This latest investment – indeed, all investment into the region – is very welcome. But, all too often, the UK Government views Aberdeen and the North-East as nothing more than a cash-cow.  Over the years, the London Treasury has benefitted by no less than £300billion from direct taxation of North Sea oil, which has flowed straight to Westminster. It’s clear that the North-East deserves more than what was on offer from this Tory Government today."

"In these tough economic times, the funding announced will be in addition to the £1billion that the Scottish Government is already investing in Aberdeen and the North-East. Existing investment includes £170million for improvements to the Aberdeen--Inverness railway line and £745million for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route. Next Monday, the First Minister will be in Aberdeen for meetings with the oil and gas industry, and to announce fresh Scottish Government support for the North Sea."

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We should control our NORTH SEA OIL

Two academics, who specialise in energy, have called for control of the remaining oil and gas in our marine sector to be transferred to the Scottish Government.

In their special report, published on 19 January 2016, Professors Peter Strachan and Alex Russell, of Aberdeen's Robert Gordon University, highlighted the current plight of the industry. They said: “In the absence of Westminster showing a willingness to help maximise economic recovery from the North Sea, full control of energy and oil within the Scottish sector should be transferred to the Scottish Government, and tax receipts for economic activity taking place within the country should be part of the funding arrangements for Scotland.”

"Despite there still being enough resources in the region to generate the same amount of revenue as that collected in the past 45 years, the UK Government has virtually abandoned the industry.  It is important to stress to Westminster that the industry needs urgent assistance, so that once prices rise again there is an industry left for governments to exploit, to achieve the full maximum economic return on past investments. The UK Government has reaped the enormous amount of £300billion in direct tax income and the oil industry has made significant profits from the North Sea. There are still 22billion barrels of oil and gas still in place in the Atlantic and the North Sea that can generate at least the same amount of income once oil prices rise."

“It is not a case of if oil prices will rise, but when. The economic fate of Scotland should not be imperilled by the mistaken and short-term decision making of the oil majors, to merely get some payback from their proven reserves, rather than taking the longer-game stance of retaining staff in order to continue to explore for new reserves. Neither should it be imperilled by a UK Government that should be incentivising the industry, by matching investment funds pound-for-pound, and by agreeing to impose exactly the same taxation regime on the industry as on any other industry. In January 2015, Fergus Ewing (Minister for Business, Energy & Tourism) set out the urgent need for an exploration tax-credit incentive. But we’re now a year on -- and still waiting for Westminster to act on a system the Norwegians implemented a number of years ago.”

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£205,000,000,000 to replace TRIDENT !                                                                                            

The cost of renewing the UK's nuclear weapon system, based at Faslane on the Firth of Clyde, has been put at a staggering -- and almost unbelievable -- £205 BILLION*.

In July 1980, UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher personally negotiated a secret deal with US President Jimmy Carter to replace the submarine-borne Polaris missiles, which had been based at Faslane (just 25 miles from Glasgow) since 1968. The first of the four current Vanguard-class submarines, which carry the Trident nuclear missiles, came into operation in 1994.  Although they are not  due to  be mothballed until 2032, construction of their four replacements is planned to begin in Barrow-in-Furness in autumn 2016, in order to become operational by 2028. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described this so-called nuclear deterrent as "useless, expensive, immoral and obscene." She added: "It is nothing but a political and military ego-trip. Over the years, the SNP and the wider peace movement have built up an overwhelming case against Trident on both moral and economic grounds. Since the General Election, my colleagues in the SNP Defence Group and I have been building the military case against Trident. It has been easier than we first thought, because Trident -- despite being such a massive drain on the UK defence budget -- is not actually a military weapon. It is a political weapon which can never and will never be used."

Under the slogan Teachers before Trident, Nurses before Nukes and Bairns before Bombs, Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, raised the issue at Holyrood.

Motion by Kevin Stewart MSP in the Scottish Parliament on 26 October 2015:

TRIDENT RENEWAL. That the Parliament notes reports that indicate that the UK faces a bill of £205billion to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system; believes that it is morally indefensible to spend such sums on weapons of mass destruction at any time, but particularly during a period of Conservative austerity, which has led to the slashing of social security budgets, the demise of tax credits and a rise in the use of foodbanks; believes that the UK Government should put teachers before Trident, nurses before nukes and bairns before bombs; calls on the Prime Minister to cancel his nuclear weapons replacement programme immediately, and urges him to bring forward plans to scrap Trident to free these islands of nuclear weapons.

*The costs of replacing Trident:--- Manufacturing four successor submarines – £31billion; Contingency fund – £10billion; Missile extension programme – £350million; Replacement warheads – £4billion; Infrastructure capital costs – £4billion; In service costs – £142billion; Conventional forces directly assigned to support Trident – £1billion; Decommissioning – £13billion. TOTAL = £205 BILLION.

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Labour's "UNDERFUNDING" claims disproved

If ever given the opportunity, the Labour Party in Scotland would set up a "Cuts Commission", whose remit would be to find some way of abolishing some or all of the most popular measures introduced by the SNP Government at Holyrood. 

These include free medical prescriptions, free personal care for the elderly, concessionary bus passes and the ending of university tuition fees. However, the SNP's equally popular 'freezing' of Council Tax bills has led to some recent backtracking by the 'Red Tories'. Some of the unionist party's bosses now realise that it would be politically unwise for Labour to press for local authorities to be allowed to charge what they like. Instead, their tactic has been to claim that the SNP Government has short-changed councils by  "underfunding the freeze."

These claims have been completely disproved by independent research, which clearly demonstrates  that the Council Tax freeze has been fully funded by the Scottish Government. Analysis by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) shows that “the money provided by the Government to freeze the Council Tax has resulted in local authorities receiving more income than they would have done by increasing rates by the Retail Price Index percentage." Indeed, the report says that the funding given to Local Government was such that “it could be said that the freeze, over the period 2008-14, was overfunded."

On 22 September 2015, Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, commented: “This new independent expert research has completely demolished years of bogus claims from Labour. The fact is that the Scottish Government has fully funded the freeze -- by supporting council budgets and boosting family incomes. That key Labour figures have spent eight years condemning a freeze which benefits the poorest people, while spreading completely inaccurate claims, is testament to a party which has completely lost its way. Labour now appears to be more interested in negative politicking than in putting forward any serious vision for Scotland."

“The public sector in Scotland has faced tough challenges in recent years, with Tory cuts passed down from Westminster. The Scottish Government has done everything it can to support front-line services, and it is right that we pay tribute to the council staff who work so hard to provide these services. With independent experts completely rubbishing Labour’s position on the Council Tax, it’s time for the party's leaders to apologise for their grossly misleading claims –- and take the opportunity to completely rethink their negative brand of politics.”

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Vulnerable protected by WELFARE FUND

The Scottish Welfare Fund is one of the urgent measures the SNP Government has been compelled to create in order to protect vulnerable people from Tory cuts.

Since the fund was introduced in April 2013, almost 9,000 people in Aberdeen have benefitted. In 2014-15, more than 6,000 Aberdonians were assisted, and over £1million spent  -- an increase of 34% from last year. Grants from the fund are used to help the vulnerable to pay for essentials like food and energy bills. More than a third of the grants were made to disadvantaged people such as lone parents, and those with disabilities or mental health problems.

Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, is also a member of he Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee, which scrutinises the changes that are being made. On 30 July 2015, he commented: "Vulnerable people in Aberdeen are struggling to make ends meet, in the face of a relentless assault on the poor waged by the UK Tory Government. These grants from the Scottish Welfare Fund are a real lifeline for needy families and individuals in our area. Crisis Grants from the fund help people who are struggling to buy essential items, like food and clothing and with paying their energy bills."

“Of course, Scotland should not be in the position of having to mitigate the social security cuts of a Tory government. The SNP is doing everything possible to protect and support vulnerable people. But there is so much more that we could do if full social and economic powers were in Scotland’s hands."

For further information, log onto:  www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Social-Welfare/swf/SWF31Mar2015

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NICOLA calls in

After attending an oil & gas summit meeting at the AECC on 2 February 2015,  First Minister NICOLA STURGEON visited two of Aberdeen's most essential voluntary organisations.

Aberdeen Cyrenians

The FM visited their Summer Street base to discuss the impact of welfare reforms on the North-East’s most vulnerable citizens.

Established in 1968, the Cyrenians run two residential projects in the city, which provide 29 accommodation places for those affected by homelessness,  or experiencing mental health or substance misuse problems.

For more information: www.aberdeen-cyrenians.org

                                                                                                                      

                            Barnardo’s Scotland

Nicola met the staff at their busy Union Street shop.

Dr. Barnardo's has been working in Scotland for more than a century. 

Its purpose is to reach out to the most disadvantaged children, young people, families and communities -- to help ensure that every child has the best possible start in life. 

More information at:   www.barnardos.org.uk/scotland

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Success of CONCESSIONARY TRAVEL scheme

The Scottish Government is to continue its support for concessionary travel for the elderly and disabled.  

In January 2015, Transport Scotland and the bus industry agreed that £414million will be invested over the next two years to ensure the scheme continues to provide free bus travel for the over-60s, the disabled and injured service veterans. Figures provided by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) show that nationally 1,143,860 people over age 60 and 155,368 disabled benefited from the policy last year -- a total of 1,299,228.

Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, warmly welcomed the announcement.  On 27 January 2015, he commented: “The SNP Government’s deal to ensure that concessionary bus travel continues in coming years is hugely significant – and the statistics show just how important this investment is to the 44,550 senior citizens and 5,000 disabled people in Aberdeen, who rely so much on their bus passes. Concessionary bus travel gives people, whose mobility might otherwise be restricted, a greater sense of independence and helps them remain in contact with their friends and family. Funding for the scheme has increased every year since its introduction.  Last year, it allowed the elderly, disabled and armed services veterans to make almost 147million journeys."

### If ever given the opportunity, the Labour Party in Scotland would set up a "Cuts Commission", whose remit would be to find some way of abolishing some or all of the most popular measures introduced by the SNP Government at Holyrood. These include: the Council Tax freeze, ending of university tuition fees, free medical prescriptions, free personal care for the elderly -- and concessionary bus passes. This is being widely seen as a clumsy attempt by Labour to undermine the achievements of the SNP Government: by suggesting that somehow Scotland is "too poor" to afford the luxuries of "something for nothing" universal benefits. UK Labour has done little or nothing to oppose the stringent austerity measures enacted by the Westminster Tory administration, and is at pains to prevent Scotland being seen to be enjoying comparative prosperity as a result of its more efficient and financially prudent Government.  

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WINNING FOR SCOTLAND!

The SNP won all three ABERDEEN constituencies in the Scottish General Election on 5 May 2016.                       

Election Result:     ABERDEEN CENTRAL

Kevin Stewart                      SNP                11,648                     

Lewis Macdonald                 Lab.                 7,299 

Tom Mason                          Con.                 6,022  

Ken McLeod                     Lib. Dem.             1,735        

 

SNP HOLD.              Maj.  4,349.              Turnout 46.7%