29 April 2014

Winning Ways

Sporting excellence topped the leader’s board when Peterhead Football Club took the League Two title earlier this month.

Under the able leadership of Jim McInally, the players at Peterhead FC did themselves proud and showed what can be done with skill and determination when they won this – their first trophy since coming into the national league– and in style, with three games of the season left to play. The team then went on to follow up their title with another fantastic victory over Albion Rovers.

The fantastic title win has also just come off the back of the team’s super striker Rory McAllister becoming the first player from outside the Premiership to win the SPFL Player of the Month Award.

Everyone involved at the club has a lot to be proud of – making sporting history and inspiring youngsters who may yet be the top players of the future. They will be presented with their trophy after their final home game against Stirling Albion in front of their incredibly proud fans.

2014 is set to be a year of sporting legacy for Scotland when Glasgow welcomes the 20th Commonwealth Games to our shores, demonstrating what our country can do as hosts of sporting achievement.

Youngsters from across the Commonwealth, including those from the Banffshire and Buchan Coast, are watching the Baton Relay make its way round the world before it arrives in our largest city, making memories that will last a lifetime. On 29 June it will be touring Banff, Macduff, Fraserburgh and Peterhead, and on 3 July, the baton will be seen by locals in Buckie and Cullen.

The enormous sense of pride that these events create will be replicated on a local level in our towns and villages, and just as the London Olympics of 2012 had lasting ripple effects in sports participation across communities, so too do we hope that the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will inspire our youngsters in the Banffshire and Buchan Coast.

Scotland is the home of many sporting interests, and 2014 also marks the arrival of the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. The world’s golfing stars and media will be focused on Scotland as it hosts for only the second time in the tournament’s history the greatest tournament in match play golf.

Inspiration from these events and the lasting memories they create last for generations. As much as we remember the sporting heroes of our childhood, so our children and teenagers will reminisce for years to come on the Peterhead FC team of 2014, the golfing stars at this year’s Ryder Cup and the sporting spectacles that emerge from the Commonwealth Games.

The lasting legacy of these events is also created in the healthy lives of our young people. A healthier Scotland is something that we all dream of for the future, where life expectancy goes up as diets and habits improve, with better education and a zest for life that comes from regular exercise. And what better way to educate our children than to show them positive role models who excel in what they do. Sporting achievements are one key way that we can realise the ambition to make Scots more active, improving their quality of life, and making our country a healthier place to live.

As Peterhead FC celebrate their fantastic achievement, they should know that their trophies will be remembered for many years to come, and will spur many others on to take to the football field, or work hard at whatever they are doing, in order to achieve their ultimate goal.

15 April 2014

Eat, Drink and be Healthy

The Banffshire and Buchan Coast is full of unspoiled farmland, beautiful coastlines, and classic fishing villages. But beyond this wonderful canvas, the area also boasts hidden treasure in producing some of the best food in Scotland.

The Grampian Food Forum Innovation Awards are held every year to showcase the food and drink of the region from companies based across the North-east. This year’s winners were announced on Thursday, March 20. There were over 33 entries of innovative food and drink ranging from beer to seafood to baked goods from all over the region.
Berry Scrumptious, a local company that has grown out of the local village of Rosehearty, won two of the prestigious awards, one for their Summertime drinks and one for their fudge.

But Berry Scrumptious is only one example of food excellence in the Banffshire and Buchan Coast area. With all the fishing communities around, sampling a wide variety of fresh fish is a must for tourists. The area also has several white fish ports and many large seafood companies. One of the largest is Macrae Foods in Fraserburgh which employs 750 people and supplies a wide range of products.

The area doesn’t do so badly if looking for the perfect tipple either. There are four whisky distilleries across the Banffshire and Buchan Coast, and several companies boast exceptional craft beer. The success of Brew Dog beer began its life in Fraserburgh. The company started with just two young men making craft beer in April 2007, and now it has expanded to 13 bars across the UK with over 200 employees, and is branching out overseas.

Events such as the Grampian Food Forum Innovation Awards ensure that the food in North-east Scotland isn’t overlooked. The Turriff Show is a popular agricultural show held during the first week in August. The show attracts 30,000 people every year and won the Farmers Guardian Show Business competition last year. It will be celebrating its 150th anniversary this year on 3 and 4 August.

Other examples are the Keith Agricultural Show that will be held this year from 10 to 11 August. And the New Deer Show, another popular farming festival, will be held from 19 to 20 July.

It is not just the culinary delights of Banffshire and Buchan Coast that should be enjoyed and celebrated. When tourists visit Scotland they want to see highlights such as the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. If they are going to venture up North it’s often to see the mountainous Highlands, Loch Ness, or the Inner or Outer Hebrides. Banffshire and the Buchan Coast need to be on that radar.

The North-east is a lot more than just mountains and lochs. Farmland and beautiful countryside offer an unspoiled landscape to be admired by any visitor to the region.

Over the last few decades, festivals have helped bring people up to this part of the country. The Scottish Traditional Boat Festival will be on 27-29 June and is an example of what this part of the world has to offer. As well as excellent food and drink, visitors are treated to a wealth of history and fun activities.

Scotland is famous for its agricultural festivals – the biggest being the Royal Highland Show. Since holding its first show at Queensberry House in Edinburgh’s Canongate in 1822, it has become a must in any serious food lover’s calendar.

On a smaller but no less important scale, the Turriff Show boasts the rich variety of innovative food and drink from closer to home, demonstrating that being on a smaller scale does not deter from quality. Let’s eat and drink and toast to the fantastic produce of the North-east!

1 April 2014

Fine Faroes Fishing?

After four long years, North East fishermen have finally gained access to the Faroese waters to try their luck at a big catch.

Earlier this month, a £3m deal between the Faroes and the EU was finalised with the Scottish fleet, in the first fishing agreement of its kind since 2010. The welcome agreement means that fishing boats will now be able to access Faroese waters from April 1.

The deal will also lessen pressure on North Sea and West Coast fisheries, which can only be welcomed.

It was the recent Mackerel International Agreement that got the tide flowing again on the deal after four years in the shallows after Iceland and the Faroe Islands upped their quotas in 2010, and it cannot be underestimated how beneficial this will be for the North East.

Mackerel quotos for EU, Faroese and Norwegian fishermen have been thrashed out, and although Scottish fishermen have made their own sacrifices along the way in order to broker a deal, stocks are going up.

The Faroe Islands will receive 12.6 per cent of the total allowable catch, with the EU and Norway sharing 71.8 per cent. A further 15.6 per cent has been set aside for Icelandic and Russian catches. So far, no deal has been reached with Iceland, but the hope is that further talks will take place.

While some fishermen may not agree with the size of the Faroese quota, the deal will undoubtedly add more security to the industry in these uncertain times.

The agreement also adds extra quota for the Scottish fleet available in Faroese waters. In tonnes for the UK fleet, the biggest catch in the stock stakes are the vitally important whitefish stocks such as Blue Whiting at 880 tonnes, followed by cod and haddock at 817 tonnes and Saithe at 696 tonnes.

Flexibility in where to fish will also be increased, as the focus will not solely be on the North Sea and West Coast as the main waterways to fish.

Traditional stocks of haddock and whiting now have the chance to be replenished as the catching opportunity offered to the Faroes includes 15,000 tonnes of blue whiting, with the Scottish fleet benefiting from 2,000 tonnes of whitefish, including cod, haddock and saithe.

The fact that an important part of the long-standing mackerel wars has finally been resolved will also be key to regulation of the fishery, and ensuring that it is carefully managed again, for the benefit of all.

Scottish boats will now have access into Norwegian waters with immediate effect which will hopefully make 2014 a more rewarding one for Scotland’s fishing industry and those particularly in the North East.

It’s true to say that the Scottish fishing industry will still have its fair share of challenges in the years to come, but this is an end of hostility that we can welcome, and a good catch in turbulent waters.

Stewart Stevenson
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