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27 November 2012

Scottish Maritime Academy

The official opening of the new Scottish Maritime Academy in Peterhead last week served as a reminder of the high regard in which the fishing tradition of the north east is held across the world.

Students from across Scotland, Europe and the world will be coming to study at the Banff and Buchan College Peterhead Centre of Maritime Excellence, in the hope of developing the skills and expertise which have made Peterhead one of Europe’s premier fishing ports.

The impressive facility, overlooking the marina, offers a wide range of nautical training and even incorporates a state of the art bridge simulator.

The stunning new facility symbolises the commitment to the future of the fishing and maritime industry in the north-east. Moreover, this is a great boost for the local economy, which will benefit from an influx of people working, studying, or visiting in the area as a result.

However, with a tradition of world-leading knowledge and expertise, it is bizarre that Scotland does not have full control over its maritime and fisheries policies, nor indeed makes its own representations in the decision-making processes of, for example, the controversial European Common Fisheries Policy.

Bafflingly, even those who generally oppose Scotland having control over our own affairs, have called for a regional approach to fisheries management which would see those with the best knowledge of, and greatest stake in, local fisheries having crucial decision making powers.

Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott, for example, was recently quoted as saying “Scottish fishermen need an active government focused on their interests."

For Scotland to have complete control over its own fisheries and maritime policy, not to mention all other policy areas, is the logical conclusion at the heart of the discussion surrounding regional fisheries management.

However, surely the same argument can be applied to a host of other policy areas where the Scottish Government is currently prevented from acting as a result of the current devolution settlement, leading to calls for the anti-independence parties to acknowledge the simple fact that it is people in Scotland who are best placed to take decisions affecting Scotland.

There is no doubt that we need regional fisheries management, because the Common Fisheries Policy in its current form has failed either to protect fish stocks or support livelihoods in coastal communities.

Quite simply, the people best placed to make decisions on managing the North Sea are the Governments of countries surrounding it, who by definition have the greatest stake in developing a profitable, sustainable industry.

What the anti-independence parties should acknowledge, however, is that this fact is just as true across the political spectrum. If an anti-independence party spokesman can recognise the importance of self-governance when it comes to fishing, they should acknowledge it is also true in a host of other areas.

By definition, the people who are best placed to take decisions on Scotland’s economy, taxes and benefits, to name but a few areas, are the people of Scotland.

That is why we need the powers of an independent Scotland, as only a Yes vote in 2014 will give people in Scotland the opportunity to make all of our own policy decisions.

13 November 2012

Carbon Capture and Storage

It was announced recently that Peterhead Power Station, along with a project in Grangemouth, are the two Scottish projects to have made it through to the shortlist of four Carbon Capture and Storage initiatives (CCS) which will now be considered for financial support in the new year.

Carbon Capture and storage technologies represent a vital step in reducing carbon emissions and tackling climate change by physically restricting harmful emissions from conventional power stations and storing them underground. The Peterhead project would see carbon capture and storage technology fitted to the existing facility, reducing emissions into the atmosphere.

Additionally, the Peterhead Power Station project has been included as a reserve application for €1.5 billion of European funding through the NER300 scheme, while the Sound of Islay Tidal project has full candidate status.

I firmly believe that Peterhead has an extremely strong case to make and I would certainly hope that the UK Government will fully recognise that when it makes its decisions in 2013.

Naturally we, in the north-east hope that the Peterhead project is ultimately successful in its applications, and can reap the benefits of jobs and investment in the local area as a result. However, the fact that there are three major projects in Scotland competing for funding, shows the potential our country has to implement the technology successfully.

Scotland is fortunate to have some of Europe’s largest carbon storage capabilities, as well as generations of expertise in renewable energy and off-shore engineering which combine to make us ideally placed to successfully implement carbon capture technology as part of Scotland’s broad energy portfolio and ambitious environmental targets.

Sadly, Westminster has a sorry track record when it comes to supporting innovative carbon capture projects. In the past jobs and investment have been allowed to slip away at Peterhead and Longannet as dithering and indecision led to previous backers pulling out in 2007.

People in Peterhead remember all too well that they have been let down before by dithering at Westminster, so what is most important is that history is not allowed to repeat itself. A swift decision, hopefully in favour of these initiatives will be good news for the local area and the environment alike.

Ask Your Pharmacist

From 5th – 12th November I and my parliamentary colleagues will be supporting Ask Your Pharmacist public awareness week. The National Pharmacy Association is hoping to draw attention to the pharmacy-based healthcare services available to everyone, and to encourage men, in particular, to take a more active interest in their healthcare.

With the help of an accessible pharmacy team in your local area, men and women can do more to stay well. By talking face-to-face with a pharmacist, we could all learn more about using our medicines more safely and effectively, and by consulting your local pharmacist about your health and well-being in general, many of us could be better informed about using the NHS services which are available.

The success of last year’s Ask Your Pharmacist week saw an increase in people’s awareness of the availability of the local pharmacy’s services from 25% to 73%. Most pharmacies now have private consultation areas and often do not require appointments, and I certainly hope people will continue to recognise the important role local pharmacies play in the healthcare chain, often alleviating the need to visit the GP. To find out more about Ask Your Pharmacist Week, visit www.npa.co.uk or talk to your local pharmacist!


Stewart Stevenson
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