21 August 2012

Exam Results

Last week, young people across Scotland were handed by their postie an envelope which would potentially affect the course of the rest of their lives.

Exam results day is a source of the most polarised of emotions for pupils, students and their families as they take stock of their achievements, and inevitably compare them with their expectations.

While, results and expectations are different for everyone, what every student receiving their results has in common is the need to ask him or herself the question “what next?” Happily however, all of the possible answers to this question are potentially routes to success and fulfilment of potential.

Scotland’s inspiring young people have more options than ever to consider when thinking about their prospects for the future. Some will opt to join the workforce immediately, others to develop a trade through a modern apprenticeship while many choose to pursue further education.

What we, in Scotland, can all be proud of is our tradition of investing in our young people, and providing for them the sort of options which will best allow them to flourish as young men and women, and us all to flourish as a nation.

The Scottish Government has been and remains unwavering in its commitment to providing a work, training or education opportunity for every single 16-19 year old in Scotland.

To achieve this, the Scottish Government has implemented an ambitious programme of measures to ensure for our young people the brightest possible future. This includes appointing the UK’s first dedicated Minister for Youth Employment, in conjunction with the broader strategy to continue large-scale investment in Scotland, bringing job opportunities for us all.

Also, we in Scotland can be proud of our unstinting rejection of tuition fees and our commitment to ensuring young minds remain in education based on their ability to learn, not their ability to pay. On top of this, the Scottish Government has supported the creation of 25,000 new-start Modern Apprenticeships in 2011/12 alone.

Each of these is part of the £1.5 billion per year investment in post-16 education and training that underlines the Scottish Government’s commitment to allowing our young people to continue becoming successful, confident learners, effective contributors and responsible citizens.

Freshwater Fisheries Consultation

We are well aware in the North East of the importance of the fishing industry to our economy, and our communities. However, aquaculture and freshwater fisheries also play an important economic and social role throughout Scotland, particularly in rural areas. That’s why the Scottish Government has recently consulted on new legislation that will aim to ensure both sectors have a viable, long term future.

Engagement with the consultation has been broad and encouraging, and 1342 responses were received on proposals for the introduction of an Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill, the findings of which have now been published.

Fish and shellfish farming is a growing industry that directly employs more than 1,500 people, with salmon being Scotland’s largest food export. In 2010 150,000 tonnes of farmed salmon was produced, worth around £540 million. Scotland's freshwater fisheries are world famous and their management supports one of the largest wild salmon populations in Europe, while Scottish brown trout fisheries are also an important tourism draw.

Naturally, I welcome the strong level of engagement in this consultation, reflecting the desire of the respondents that we have a balanced and proportionate Bill, building on the successes we already have in these sectors. The provisions within the Bill will ensure that farmed and wild fisheries – and their interactions with each other – are managed effectively, maximising their combined contribution to supporting sustainable economic growth.

Indeed, some of the proposals are challenging and ambitious – but this reflects the Scottish Government’s firm desire for both sectors to succeed. I believe this now gives us the platform for a positive way ahead and I look forward to introducing the Bill to Parliament this autumn.

7 August 2012

Supporting our Veterans

Recently, I welcomed the distribution to various healthcare providers of a leaflet drawing attention to the issues faced by many of our ex-service personnel. This leaflet contained new advice and specialist information for both healthcare workers and our armed forces veterans and is intended to work alongside the veteran healthcare guide, which is available online, to help ensure that healthcare workers can identify veterans and ensure they receive the best, and most appropriate care.

Making sure that veterans are known to health workers is an important part of ensuring that they are able to access specialist services through the NHS, including priority treatment for service-related conditions where needed and advice on physical and mental recovery relating to health concerns specific to veterans.

Ensuring that healthcare providers are fully aware of the support and priority treatment that is available to veterans will go a long way towards ensuring that as many veterans as possible are accessing the help they are entitled to.

It is important that we do everything we can to support our veterans. After everything they have given on our behalf, we have a duty to ensure that they have all the support and care that they may need. Making sure that veterans have access to all the information they need is an important part of making the readjustment back to civilian life.

This is a positive new source of advice for Scotland’s veteran community and a further demonstration of the Scottish Government’s determination to do all that it can to support our veterans.

Out and About

Our lengthy wet spell has so far failed to put a dampener on summer activity in the North East and recent weeks have seen a host of well-attended events going ahead. The New Deer Show, the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival, Peterhead Scottish Week and various local galas and pageants have seen local people, and those from further afield, come together to celebrate all aspects of our culture. With plenty more shows and events still to come in August, a good turn-out (hopefully aided by better weather and an influx of visitors) will serve to boost our local economy and heighten the profile of the North East as a fun, friendly and welcoming place to live, work and visit.

On the subject of entertainment, Peterhead F.C. also managed to put in a spirited performance against SPL side Dundee F.C., before losing narrowly on penalties in the Scottish Communities League Cup. However, despite the club facing Premier League opposition attendance, away fans notwithstanding, was not as high as might have been expected.

With so much football, from all over the world, so readily available on TV, clubs across the country are struggling with dwindling attendances. In a bid to reverse this trend August 11 sees the culmination of the national SellOutSaturday campaign, which is aimed at encouraging all of us to go along and support our local football team, no matter who they are or how well they might be doing. From Forres to Forfar, Peterhead to Pittodrie, many of us will have experienced the magic of seeing our team stride out on a summer’s day in front of a crowd bristling with excitement and expectation for the new season.

Just as attending the town gala or agricultural show brings us together as a community, by going along with friends and family to support our local team we can ensure they will be there for future generations to cheer on.

Mine’s a Bovril!

Stewart Stevenson
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