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14 January 2020

Food Matters

A Happy New Year to everyone!

Unfortunately, the decade has begun with more of the same disappointment from the Conservatives in power. News broke this week that food parcel usage has soared across Scotland.

I’m not sure when the Tories will wake up, but urgent action from the UK Government is critical as foodbank use reaches crisis point across the North East. Almost 600,000 food parcels were handed out in Scotland over 18 months seeing a 22% rise.

It’s a sign of the times that people are dependent on food donations in a rich country – and an indictment on welfare reform which has left people with no other choices.

The need to remove the unfair two-child limit and benefit cap has never been more urgent.

The UK Government must take tangible steps to reversing austerity from an increase in the National Living Wage, an uprate of all benefits in line with inflation, and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

In stark contrast to Westminster austerity, the Scottish Government has been working to develop a social security system with dignity and fairness at its heart – introducing a raft of benefits to provide much needed financial support to low-income families, including a brand new benefit which will provide eligible families with £10 a week for every child under 16 by 2022.

While food banks such as the ones in Peterhead and Macduff do an excellent job of providing support for those who need it, the fact that they even exist is a damning result of UK Government policies which are actively driving people into desperate situations.

The UK government needs to wake up to the cost of this crisis and stop shunning responsibility before more families and children are pushed into poverty.

24 December 2019

‘Peace on earth and goodwill to all’

I have always been a bit of a Christmas sceptic if truth be told.

I’ve not quite bought into the consumerism, the Santa hats and controversial it may be I don’t even rate a turkey Christmas dinner…

However, if I was in the habit of writing my letter to Santa it would go something like the following: This year I would like an NHS Protection Bill because our health service is the backbone of our society and I want to stop the threat of a Tory-Trump trade deal.

I’d like a Parental Leave Expansion Bill because I believe an additional 12 weeks should be ring-fenced for the father in order to encourage take-up as well as increases in statutory maternity and paternity pay.

I’d also want to see the introduction of an equal living wage to increase the national minimum wage to at least the level of the real Living wage, and to end age discrimination in the legal minimum wage.

I wouldn’t just be asking for new things though, I’d like to see reform with the two-child cap on tax credits and rape clause scrapped from our culture. I’d like to see an end to the benefits freeze and halt the flawed rollout of Universal Credit.

While I jest about Santa, there is a very serious point that I am trying to make about the country we will have next Christmas and for Christmases to come.

As I reflect on the past year I look forward to 2020 encouraged by the work the SNP are doing nationally and proud of what we stand for. We are calling on a boost to the economy, the protection of our public services, tackling poverty, delivering real action on climate change, and respecting Scotland's right to choose our own future.

This stands in stark contrast to the UK Government who wish to "take a wrecking ball" to public services, living standards, and the economy.

I might not believe in Santa, but I’m proud to believe in a party that wants the very best for the North-east. It has been my privilege to serve as your MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast this year.

The message of Christmas I do support is one of hope and that is the special part of Christmas time that I am keen to focus on regardless of political parties.

‘Peace on earth and goodwill to all’ has never gone out of date, unlike cheesy Christmas hits, and it feels particularly important this Christmas time.

So may I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas and my best wishes for the New Year. I look forward to continuing to work hard as your voice in parliament over 2020.

Stewart Stevenson
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