15 May 2018

Harbour vision shows town is 'open for business'

Fraserburgh has unveiled an ambitious project to modernise and diversify its harbour.

This is brilliant news for the region.

The multi-million pound vision aims to show the world that the town is 'open for business' with hopes it will attract not only workers to the region but also giant cruise liners.

I am delighted that in the course of the next six months there will be a consultation which will be held to help develop a master-plan.

It will then be used to help shape future developments.

It is important residents in the area make their views known.

As I understand, so far some of the ideas suggested have included a new fish market and anew breakwater to bring in ships larger than the likes the town hasn't yet seen.

There has not been a major change in the landscape of the harbour for more than 100 years - fishing and fish processing is, of course, the backbone of the community but I look forward to seeing how the town can diversify too.

It is exciting to think how the port could be transformed over the next couple of decades.

It is important everyone has the opportunity to put their voice forward, particularly as we await the impact of Brexit and the changes it will bring to all sectors.

Last week, I appeared on the television programme Politics Scotland to discuss the ongoing negotiations regarding our exit from the European Union.

The Scottish Government must stand its ground and continue to get the best deal inits negotiations for Scotland and its people.

To simply give way on them would have a real lasting negative impact on the country for years to come.

1 May 2018

Pressure will increase against bank closures

The Royal Bank of Scotland is still very much a hot topic of discussion for people right across the north-east and indeed Scotland.

Many people feel there has been a failure to consult those who use their local branch both on the closures and about the mobile banking vans which will come into force as a replacement.

Earlier this week, my colleague Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin took part in a meeting in Mintlaw to discuss the impact of bank closures across the area with businesses.

The Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee were holding a meeting to build a broader picture of just how bank closures have been impacting.

Now Unite the union has called for a 'moratorium regarding the RBS closures.

Both myself and many other MSPs will be supportive of this move.

Unite said a moratorium should be held to fully assess the decision to close more than 50 branches in Scotland.

RBS has previously said the closures of branches would save £9.5 million a year.

But as the organisation announced record profits for the first three months of the year, it is right of Unite to question why these closures are so necessary.

Many elderly people are worried about how they will access online banking and farmers are concerned about the ease of putting cheques in -to their nearest branch from mart sales.

Let's hope the call for a moratorium is taken seriously if it could deliver real answers for the constituents affected.

Our Pets

During Parliament, I visited and met with a charity organisation called Blue Cross for Pets.

The charity was coming along to highlight the impact of online adverts selling dogs, cats and rabbits.

In the north-east there were more than 5000 online adverts last year.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast had the second highest number of adverts with 794 of that total breakdown which spanned from Aberdeen down to Angus and Dundee.

Concern over online adverts stems from how the animals might have been treated prior to their sale and also that they're going to go to a good, safe home.

The charity highlighted one advert where French bulldogs were being sold collectively for more than £11,000.

Prospective pet owners should not be put off buying pets online, but the charity would like to ensure they have the right knowledge of what they should expect and the key questions they should be asking sellers.

This includes whether the pet has been vaccinated, whether they have any behavioural issues, whether a breeder had a license to sell the animals and that their welfare has been taken care of.

The charity has called on the Scottish Parliament to urgently change the legislation to protect pets sold online.

It's an important discussion to have and one I shall be watching with interest.

17 April 2018

We can only hope the bank will listen

Earlier this week residents across the north-east found out that RBS were making further changes to how they operate in local areas.

Due to the bank closure in Banff, a mobile banking van will now visit the area twice weekly on a Monday and a Wednesday for one hour and one hour 15 minutes respectively over the two selected days.

For other areas, some mobile banking will only be available for 45 minutes at a time.

RBS did not carry out any consultations, nor issue a press release or hold a meeting with MSPs so that they could inform constituents through information from a senior RBS stakeholder.

The information was buried in a small sentence on their website.

Since RBS announced months ago that it would be closing branches, local communities - supported by their SNP MSPs - have rightly complained.

It was because of that hard work that SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford was able to secure a reprieve for 10 of these branches.

The latest round of changes is in addition to the 52 branches across Scotland that are scheduled for closure.

Since this latest announcement, my north east colleagues and I have written to the chief executive of RBS calling for a meeting.

Many constituents feel understandably angry that RBS, an organisation which was bailed out by this country less than a decade ago, does not seem particularly considerate of the impact this will have on people, particularly the older generation.

In the letter to Mr McEwan, we said:

"It is our view that timetabling a mobile bank to spend 45 minutes per week in those settlements which are losing a branch. is wholly insufficient.

"That the communities of Ellon, Turrlff and Dyce face having the services previously provided by an RBS branch replaced by a weekly 45-minute visit by a mobile bank is of critical concern.

"Furthermore, the current mobile banking facilities employed by RBS are inaccessible for many of the most vulnerable customers for whom their RBS branch was an essential service.

"Of further concern is the decision to reduce existing mobile banking services across the region.

"It is regrettable that such services in Banff will be limited to a collective time of 75 minutes on a Monday and 60 minutes on a Wednesday, and that services in across south and west Aberdeenshire will collectively be reduced by 55 minutes per week.

"Without a branch RBS customers rely on this mobile service, and we ask that RBS reconsider its decision to further reduce the services it provides to these rural communities.

"We urge you to meet with us to discuss these concerns, and that you ensure future changes to RBS services crucial to communities are made only after consultation with those communities."

We can only hope that RBS will listen and understand our concerns now.

Stewart Stevenson
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