Mar 022017
 

Stewart Stevenson MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast has pledged to work with the Arrhythmia Alliance and its sister organisation, AF Association, to demand the creation of a national screening programme for people over 65 at risk of AF. Currently, one in three of all people with AF have not even been diagnosed and are at an increased risk of suffering an AF-related stroke.

Stewart Stevenson at the Arrhythmia Alliance event in the Scottish Parliament.

At a Know Your Pulse event held in Holyrood hosted by the Arrhythmia Alliance and AF Association, Stewart Stevenson MSP supported our call upon the Scottish Parliament to debate the need for an AF screening programme for people over 65 in Scotland.
This event raised awareness of the importance of a simple manual pulse check in helping to detect AF, Parliamentarians who attended had a pulse check and an ECG hand-held recording.

Trudie Lobban MBE, Founder & CEO, Arrhythmia Alliance, who hosted the event, said:

“Manual pulse rhythm checks are a simple, cost-effective way to identify people with irregular heart rhythms, such as AF, which is why we are calling for a debate in the Scottish parliament on the value of screening for AF.

“A manual pulse check, is so simple to do, takes less than a minute and does not cost the NHS – but the benefits in preventing AF-related strokes and unnecessary deaths are enormous. Everyone needs to be aware of their pulse and how to manually check for an irregular rhythm.”

Stewart Stevenson MSP added:

“I was shocked to hear about the numbers of people walking around today completely unaware that they have AF and who could be at risk of a debilitating or life-threatening AF-related stroke.

“I fully endorse the work of the Arrhythmia Alliance and AF Association and their call for a national debate on AF screening in Scotland. The pulse check I had taken showed just how simple and easy it is to identify someone who may have AF.”

AF is the most common heart rhythm abnormality, and is associated with a third of ischaemic strokes, which are typically more severe and debilitating for the patient. Data from stroke registries show that both unknown and untreated or under treated AF is responsible for most of these strokes.

The tragedy is that most could be prevented if efforts were directed towards detection of AF before stroke occurs, through screening or case finding, and the provision of oral anticoagulant medications to prevent clots being formed in the heart, dislodging to be carried to an artery of the brain, blocking the circulation and causing an AF-related stroke.

For more information about the Arrhythmia Alliance and AF Association, please go to: www.heartrhythmalliance.org

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Mar 022017
 

A landmark law to tackle violence against women passed its Third Reading in the House of Commons on Friday with an overwhelming majority of 138 in favour to just 1 against. With thanks to Banff & Buchan SNP.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP with campaigners and MPs after the vote.

Local MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford’s Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill 2017, requires the UK government to ratify the Istanbul Convention – a far-reaching new law that puts legal obligations on the state to prevent violence against women, protect
women and prosecute the perpetrators.

The Convention encompasses many forms of sexual violence and domestic abuse including stalking, harassment, sexual assault and rape, physical and psychological abuse by a partner, forced marriage, forced abortion or sterilisation and female genital mutilation.

The UK signed the treaty in 2012 but has yet to ratify it to make it part of UK law.

The SNP MP for Banff & Buchan, who is the party’s Westminster spokesperson for Social Justice, secured cross-party support for her Bill, which has been championed by women’s equality organisations including IC Change, Women’s Aid, Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, White Ribbon, End Violence Against Women, Scottish Women’s convention, NUS, Girlguiding, and the Fawcett Society.

The Bill also received strong support from the actor and UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson, who this week wrote to all MPs urging them to vote for the Bill.

Commenting after the Bill passed its Third Reading, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“I am delighted that this landmark legislation to combat gender-based violence has received such overwhelming cross-party support and now looks set to become UK law.

“This is a huge and historic step forward in efforts to tackle violence against women and has the potential to transform the lives of thousands of women right across the country.

“Women’s equality organisations and activists have been campaigning for the UK government to ratify the Istanbul Convention for many years now – so today’s vote is a cause for celebration and a testament to their sustained efforts.

“The Istanbul Convention is the most comprehensive and far-reaching framework that exists to tackle violence against women in its many forms and manifestations, and critically, it provides the legal apparatus to hold governments accountable for their progress. This is a powerful vehicle for improving policy, practices and services on an ongoing basis.

“Sexual violence and domestic abuse are neither natural nor inevitable. We can prevent it, we can challenge it and we can hold perpetrators to account. We need to do all these things if we are to end this systematic abuse of women’s basic human rights, and ratifying the Istanbul Convention is a big step in the right direction.

“We have travelled some distance in this struggle but we still have such long way still to go and we need to recognise that Ratification of the Istanbul Convention is a milestone on the journey to equality and justice for women, not an end point.”

Further reading:

 Emma Watson backs SNP MP’s bid to combat domestic abuse.
 Theresa May urges MPs to back Whiteford bill and stamp out violence against women.

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Jan 272017
 

With thanks to Kenneth Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford.

The SNP MP for Banff and Buchan, Eilidh Whiteford, has called for the UK Government to come clean to Parliament following the revelations that the Prime Minister knew of a failed Trident test just weeks before a vote on renewal of the UK’s WMDs last year.
PM Theresa May refused four times on Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show to answer the presenter’s question on whether she knew about the test failure before the vote was taken.

Parliament voted to renew the deterrent, which experts believe could cost more than £200bn.

SNP MPs opposed the renewal, while Labour were divided. Each missile is estimated to cost £17m, and only five tests have been carried out since the year 2000.

During an Urgent Question to the Defence Secretary yesterday, Michael Fallon MP refused to confirm the details of the failed test, whilst a US Official confirmed the information to CNN.

Dr Whiteford said:

“Whilst the Defence Secretary was refusing to confirm any information during today’s Urgent Question, a US official briefed news channel CNN on the details of the failed test mission.

“It is simply not acceptable that the UK Government has not come clean on the facts of this failure, but US press outlets have received an update from officials in the White House.

“The Prime Minister has real questions to answer about why parliament has not learned about this failure until now, despite knowing the about the failure when she came to Parliament to force a vote on the renewal of the deterrent.

“Notwithstanding the immorality and expense of weapons of mass destruction, capable of incinerating cities, the Government’s stonewalling of legitimate questions about whether the system is working properly only fuels concerns about Trident.”

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Jan 272017
 

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson.

With thanks to Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP.

The UK Government spent around £100 million on a competition for developing ground-breaking carbon capture and storage technology before scrapping the plans, a report from the National Audit Office has revealed.
The scheme would have seen emissions from heavy industry stored permanently underground, with Peterhead widely expected to win the £1 billion contract, which would have brought 600 jobs to the area.

It was scrapped at the eleventh hour by former Chancellor George Osborne – betraying the party’s explicit manifesto promise on the technology. 

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson, has said the latest revelations show how little the Tories care about investment in green energy technology and jobs in the North-east.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“These latest revelations from the National Audit Office are extraordinary, and show how that the Tory betrayal of the North East has not just cost jobs but has cost a fortune to deliver nothing.

“Just yesterday, the Scottish Government launched its climate action plan, setting ambitious targets to further reduce our carbon emissions and to tackle climate change. But today we are given yet another reminder that the Tories are happy to put the development of innovative, ground-breaking technologies to waste.

“CCS technology has great potential to play a leading role in tackling climate change, yet the Tories are complicit in stifling investment to develop this technology, as well as showing their complete lack of interest in developing and protecting jobs in the North-East of Scotland.”

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Dec 162016
 

With thanks to Kenneth Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford.

Eilidh Whiteford and Stewart Stevenson with Broch Postal Staff Dec 2016.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP and Stewart Stevenson MSP visited the Fraserburgh Delivery Office on Friday morning to see first-hand the operation of delivering Christmas post and to pass on season’s greetings to its hardworking staff.
Dr Whiteford and Mr Stevenson were shown around the office by Delivery Office Manager, Chris Share, and were introduced to the postmen and women, who are pulling out all the stops to sort and deliver mail in the Fraserburgh area over the Christmas period.

The Festive Season is Royal Mail’s busiest period, as millions of people shop online for gifts and send Christmas cards and parcels.

As Royal Mail’s 500th anniversary draws to a close, this Christmas provides an opportunity to reflect on the centuries of hard work  delivering to every single address in the UK.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“At no other time is the hard work and dedication of postmen and women clearer than during the festive period.”

Stewart Stevenson MSP added:

“I thank them for the extraordinary lengths they go to ensure Christmas cards and presents are delivered to loved ones on time, and for all they do year-round.”

Chris Share, Royal Mail Delivery Office Manager, said:

“It was a pleasure to show Dr Whiteford and Mr Stevenson our Christmas operation and to hear their kind words of encouragement and support.”

“We are extremely proud of our postmen and women for all their hard work during the Festive Season and for continuing our proud history of delivering Christmas mail.”

The last recommend posting dates for Christmas are:

Second Class – Tuesday 20 December 2016
First Class – Wednesday 21 December 2016
Special Delivery – Thursday 22 December 2016

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Nov 042016
 

MartinFordatUTGWith thanks to Martin Ford.

Aberdeenshire councillors Paul Johnston and Martin Ford have welcomed support from sustainable transport charity Transform Scotland for the re-opening of the Buchan rail line to at least Ellon.

Writing to Councillors Johnston and Ford, Paul Tetlaw, rail spokesperson for Transform Scotland, said:

“In our view Aberdeen is very poorly served by rail and cities of comparable size in continental Europe would most likely enjoy a suburban rail network and some form of tram or metro system. So we would certainly support plans to re-open the railway from Dyce at least as far as Ellon.

“You are in the fortunate position that the former track bed is largely in local authority ownership. In contrast large parts of the Borders railway had been dispersed into multiple ownerships and it is estimated that as much as 40% of the cost of re-opening the Borders line was incurred through having to retrieve and suitably re-instate the sections of the route that had been lost.
 
“There are other lessons to be learned from the Borders line – and these may well have parallels for you. The passenger forecasts for the re-opened stations in the Borders were hopelessly pessimistic. Indeed it is probably true to say that of all the recent rail re-openings across the UK the projections for the stations at Tweedbank and Galashiels were by far the most inaccurate.

“Passenger numbers at Galashiels have in reality been five fold those projected while those at the Tweedbank park and ride site are ten fold the projections. Clearly such errors in the projections led to a poorer business case for the railway and politicians found themselves needlessly having to defend the case for the re-opening. Had the correct projections been used then it would have been clear to all concerned that the railway would be a great success and would be much welcomed by people in the Borders.
 
“The parallels that I would draw in your case are for potential stations in Ellon (Galashiels) and a park and ride beyond (Tweedbank). It is interesting to note that from day one the car park at Tweedbank has been full and overflowing – clearly demonstrating that people are quite prepared to drive in from surrounding towns and villages and then leave their car and take the train into the city.
 
“As a final point I would draw attention to the declared ambitions at both national and local government level to increase the use of public transport and decrease the reliance on the car. It is therefore clear that only a scheme that improves the public transport offering will deliver on these ambitions, any further road building will simply ensure yet greater car use with all the negative impacts on air quality, public health and congestion.”

Mr Tetlaw came to Aberdeen last week for a meeting with Nestrans but also met Cllr Ford and Cllr Johnston during his visit.
 
Cllr Martin Ford said:

“The very positive comments from Mr Tetlaw highlight that re-opening the Buchan line presents less of a difficulty than other lines where the track bed has been sold off piecemeal to multiple owners. Also, that we must not underestimate the potential for park-and-ride when forecasting likely levels of use.”

Cllr Paul Johnston said:

“The proposal to re-open the Buchan line to at least Ellon is gaining more and more support.”

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Oct 152016
 

MartinFordatUTGWith thanks to Martin Ford.

A new option is to be included in on-going studies looking at the possibility of re-opening the former Buchan rail line from Dyce to at least Ellon.
The suggestion of re-opening the Buchan line as far as a park-and-ride station just north of Ellon was put forward by East Garioch councillor Martin Ford at the North East of Scotland Transport Partnership (Nestrans) meeting on 30 September.

The Dyce to Ellon section of the long-closed Buchan rail route has been regarded as the most likely to meet value-for-money criteria for possible re-opening.

In making the proposal for a short additional length of line at the Nestrans board meeting, Cllr Ford cited the passenger numbers on the re-opened Borders line. While overall levels of use of the new Borders Railway during its first year have been well above predictions, passenger numbers have been highest and most above forecast at Tweedbank, the park-and-ride station at the end of the line.

“The unforeseen popularity of long-distance park-and-ride on the re-opened Borders Railway is noteworthy,” said Cllr Ford.

“The success of Tweedbank as a park-and-ride station has contributed disproportionately to the overall success of the Borders Railway.

“The Borders line experience suggests it is well worth looking at the possibility of replicating the model of re-opening to a terminus that provides a convenient park-and-ride facility for the area beyond.

“For the Buchan line, that could mean continuing the railway to a station just beyond Ellon which is easily accessed from the north by bus and car.”

The A948 north of Ellon passes close to the alignments of both the former Boddam branch and the Formartine and Buchan line to Fraserburgh and Peterhead.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“I believe there is a good case for re-opening at least the southern part of the Buchan railway, but it’s crucial to identify the option with the best benefit:cost ratio to maximise the chances of getting the go-ahead.

“The continuation of the Borders Railway two miles beyond Galashiels to provide a popular park-and-ride facility at Tweedbank has made a major contribution to the success of that rail re-opening. We need to investigate whether doing something similar at Ellon could boost the case for re-opening the railway from Dyce.”

The Nestrans board at its meeting on Friday agreed to continue feasibility studies into future transport options for the Aberdeen/Ellon/Peterhead/Fraserburgh corridor, and to include re-opening the Buchan rail line from Dyce to a park-and-ride station just north of Ellon as one possible option for consideration.

Mid-Formartine councillor Paul Johnston welcomed the Nestrans decision.

“Park-and-rail evidently has potential not just for north of Ellon but also for the B999 corridor at Udny and the A947 corridor at Newmachar. So it’s important to look at all the options,” he said.

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Oct 062016
 

With thanks to Kenneth Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford.

eilidh-whiteford-with-banff-academy-pupils

Dr Whiteford with four of the Banff pupils who will benefit from the Project.

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has lauded staff and organisers, following the official launch of the Chevron Boatbuilding Outreach Programme at the Portsoy Boatshed yesterday.

The Chevron Outreach Project, launched today, will provide 14 to 16 year-olds with an out-of-school opportunity to develop skills in boat building.

The Boatshed, part funded by Aberdeenshire Council, Portsoy’s Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) and the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) has developed a formerly disused building on Shore Street into a purpose built facility for boat building to be enjoyed by the whole community.

The Boatshed was opened at the 2016 Scottish Traditional Boat Festival.

Speaking after the opening ceremony, Dr Whiteford said:

“The project is an absolutely fantastic resource which will give youngsters in the Banff area the kind of real, hands on training and life skills that employers really value. It builds on the good work done establishing the Boatshed, and credit is due to the staff and volunteers at Portsoy Community Enterprise, staff at Chevron and Banff Academy for bringing the project to fruition.”

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Sep 162016
 
MartinFordatUTG

East Garioch councillor Martin Ford.

With thanks to Martin Ford.

Campaigners in favour of re-opening the Buchan line railway at least as far as Ellon are demanding that fair forecasts of passenger numbers are used to evaluate the projected benefits of rebuilding the line.
In response to the announcement that the re-opened Borders railway has carried its first million passengers in its first year of operation, East Garioch councillor Martin Ford commented:

“There must be no bias against re-opening the rail line to Ellon or beyond in the evaluation of future transport options for the Fraserburgh/Peterhead/Ellon/Aberdeen transport corridor,”

While the verified passenger numbers for the whole of the first year of operation are not yet available, it is clear the re-opened Borders line is far busier than the forecast levels of use predicted when re-opening was being considered.

“The passenger numbers using rail stations and lines that have re-opened have generally been above – often well above – the forecast numbers used to decide whether the re-opening was a value-for-money investment,” said Cllr Ford.

“Essentially, the predictions of passenger use have been, pretty consistently, far too pessimistic.”

The North East of Scotland Transport Partnership (Nestrans) reports that following re-opening passenger numbers at Laurencekirk station were more than double the projected usage.

“The pessimism in the forecasting of expected use amounts to a bias against rail re-openings and risks seeing proposed schemes blocked when they would be successful,” said Cllr Ford.

“Fortunately the Borders line re-opening went ahead anyway despite the poor forecasts of passenger numbers. But hopes for re-opening the Buchan line must not be put at risk by underestimating its attractiveness to passengers.”

Cllr Ford and Mid-Formartine councillor Paul Johnston have now written to Nestrans director Derick Murray seeking assurances that better methods of predicting passenger numbers will be used to quantify the expected benefits of re-opening the Buchan line railway to Ellon or beyond.

“The business case for re-opening the railway, as opposed to other options, must not be unfairly damaged by underestimating the number of people who would opt to travel by train if that choice was available,” said Cllr Paul Johnston.

“No-one expects passenger number forecasts to be exactly correct every time. But the pattern of repeated underestimates strongly suggests the methods being used are not accurately reflecting actual behaviour. So lessons must be learnt from the success of the Borders line re-opening and revised methods for forecasting expected passenger use applied in future.

“The desire to bring back the Buchan line must not be derailed by faulty forecasts,”
Cllr Ford Added:
“There is every reason to believe a re-opened railway to Ellon would be a great success.”
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Aug 042016
 

With thanks to Kenneth Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford.

Eilidh-Whiteford-Parliament2Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has backed a Chartered Trading Standards Institute campaign against scammers who prey on vulnerable customers.

Scam Awareness Month has been running over the summer to highlight different techniques used by unscrupulous criminals to part members of the public with their money.

Thousands of people across the UK every year fall victim to scams, with detriment estimated at £5-10 billion annually and growing.

The problem is amplified by the fact that only 5% of victims report such frauds to the authorities. Many suffer in silence, embarrassed at having been scammed.

The theme this year is ‘listening to your gut feeling’. Trading Standards are calling on consumers to act on their initial caution and suspicion that often comes when they get an unexpected phone call, email, mailing or knock at the door.

Dr Whiteford said:

“I am pleased to support what is a hugely important campaign to raise awareness of how these criminals operate. Whether it’s by e-mail, telephone or letter, everyone should be aware that not everyone who contacts you has your best interests at heart.

“The message is a simple one. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Never trust anyone who asks for your passwords or PIN. And if you have any doubts whatsoever about who you’re dealing with, don’t hesitate to leave the conversation.

“Scammers utilise email, telephone, and letter and can even turn up on your doorstep. Listen to your gut feeling, and if you have any doubts whatsoever, don’t proceed with the transaction – whatever it may be.”

For more information about Scam Awareness Month, visit http://www.tradingstandards.uk/events/ScamsAwarenessMonth2016.cfm

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