26 May 2020


There has undoubtedly been a greater demand for mental health services over the past several weeks. Research undertaken by the Mental Health Foundation has revealed that one-third of UK adults are concerned about their future finances and debt, as well as feeling stressed about future employment.

These issues, in particular, can take a serious toll on both the mental and physical health of an individual. With the majority of us working from home during the COVID outbreak, it is also important that we take steps to keep ourselves safe online whilst protecting our mental health.

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme is kindness, and it has been fantastic to see so many selfless volunteers in the North-east helping individuals and the wider community during the Coronavirus outbreak. From ASDA employees in Peterhead doing shopping for elderly residents in their spare time to the many individuals calling vulnerable residents to make sure they’re not lonely, so many have dedicated their time to helping others.

It is inspiring to hear about the work going on across Banffshire and Buchan Coast. There are many incredible resources that can provide practical advice if you are struggling with your mental health. Exercising and keeping active is particularly important, and finding the time to have a daily walk or take an online exercise class can reduce stress.

The lockdown restrictions have been necessary to reduce and mitigate the massive harm caused by the COVID-19 virus, but the lockdown itself causes harm including loneliness and social isolation, deepening inequalities and damage to the economy. It is clear that we need a way forward and although it is going to be gradual and incremental phases by which lockdown will be eased for many of us it provides a much-needed sense of hope.

The Scottish Government have indicated that caution is still needed and so they will continue to carefully monitor the virus and its spread through contact tracing. However, Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis’ gives practical examples of what people, organisations and businesses can expect to see change over time. Despite lockdown, human contact remains important – keeping in touch with family and friends over the phone or via video calling to check-in can go a long way in boosting mental health.

Further useful information and suggestions for helping others can be found on the NHS Every Mind Matters website: http://nhs/uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters and also at the Mental Health Foundation – If you need to speak to someone Mind has a phone line open from 9am-6pm, Monday to Friday on 0300 123 3393 and the Samaritans also have a free hotline – 116 123.

As we ease out of lockdown and look to getting back into a way of life that we recognise, it is important to look after our mental health and the good mental health of our friends and family. Small acts of kindness can go a long way in brightening up someone’s day! As ever, if you have an issue that I can help you with please email me on

12 May 2020

Democracy Evolving

Democracy and the ability of elected representatives to have their voice heard and make representation on behalf of their constituents is a core function of the Scottish Parliament.

There is a lot of political support and goodwill from across the Chamber to introduce a system of proxy speeches and voting in Scotland. I am immensely grateful to the parliamentary staff who I know are working hard behind the scenes to seek solutions and I hope we will soon introduce a proxy system during COVID-19.

However, scrutiny and a chance to get answers directly from the government is more vital than ever and we simply cannot wait for parliamentary processes to catch up. With the size of the challenges the agricultural sector faces I wanted to ensure that farmers in Banffshire and Buchan Coast were spoken for. It has never been more important that the farming industry has a voice as the worlds production and trade routes are stalled. Farmers are one of our most valuable producers of food and that is particularly true as some of the key markets become more difficult to trade with and food can’t be sourced from other countries.

The Agricultural Bill the Scottish Parliament is currently debating is more vital in content than ever and most critical in its timing. Only by giving our farmers, and all the businesses who work with them, certainty about the support they will receive, will their actions in planning for 2021 and beyond preserve this vital industry.

Of course, I look forward to a time when I can be back delivering speeches in person, but I am immensely grateful to colleagues today for ensuring my voice is heard. I’m also immensely grateful to our carers and I welcomed the news that carers will be benefitting from more financial support from the Scottish Government to recognise the lifesaving work they do every day.

Over 3,100 carers across Aberdeenshire and Moray are due to benefit from a one-off payment during the coronavirus pandemic. This comes as the Scottish Government has revealed plans to invest £19.2million to provide further support to Scottish carers during the Covid-19 crisis. If approved by parliament, around 83,000 eligible carers across Scotland will get an extra £230.10 through a special one-off Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement in June - with around 2,130 in Aberdeenshire and 995 in Moray benefitting from this additional financial support.

All carers are valuable and worthy of support, it’s only appropriate that their hard work is recognised and they are not left to face financial hardship especially in the current climate. I am delighted that the SNP Government have stepped in to support carers even further and give them the recognition they deserve as they provide vital support to family, friends and neighbours across the North-east in these extremely difficult circumstances.

I am pleased that this one-off payment will benefit some of the true heroes in our communities. I know carers are some of those most in need and many have some of the most intense caring roles, providing at least 35 hours unpaid care weekly to a disabled child or adult in receipt of higher-level disability benefits.

Stewart Stevenson
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