Jun 082017
 

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

Fergus Ewing MSP at Braemar Castle with local councillor Geva Blackett and West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine SNP candidate Stuart Donaldson.

Braemar villagers have been hailed as local heroes by leading politicians as examples of how community empowerment works as they celebrate ten successful years of community management of Braemar Castle.

Braemar Community Limited have seen visitor numbers to the 17th century castle soar by over 277% since they took on a 50-year lease on from Invercauld Estate in 2007.

Raising over £500,000 to renovate the building in the past ten years and – as well as repairing the roof – they now have 12 fully-furnished rooms.

And this weekend the community celebrates a decade of delivery for the iconic tourist attraction with a dinner and hog roast ceilidh.

Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing MSP visited the castle on the eve of the party, with local councillor Geva Blackett and West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine SNP candidate Stuart Donaldson.

Mr Ewing said:

“This fantastic community initiative plays such a huge role in the economy of one of Scotland’s most rural communities and draws visitors from around the world. I am delighted to have been able to pay a short visit and will certainly be back with my wife and daughter in the summer to have a proper tour.”

Stuart Donaldson said:

“It’s always a great pleasure to visit Braemar as there is so much going on.

“It’s a truly vibrant community and the work they have done in restoring and improving the castle typifies that.

“Braemar is a small but historic village and there has been terrific buy-in from a huge section of the community to bring visitors back to the castle.

“They are true local heroes who can be immensely proud of the work they have done to restore, improve and promote Braemar Castle.

“I’m delighted they have brought the community together to celebrate the first ten years of community management and I wish them well for the next ten years.”

Councillor Geva Blackett, whose husband Simon is chair of Braemar Community Ltd the community company who run the castle and other projects, is thrilled at the progress they have made since 2007.

Geva said:

“Braemar Castle plays an important role in the life of the village and Stuart Donaldson is very aware of this. But I also wanted the Cabinet Secretary to see for himself how hard everyone here works to ensure Braemar is a sustainable community working together for an exciting future.”

The Earl of Mar initially used the castle as his Highland hunting lodge but after it was partially burnt down in 1689 after becoming the first casualty of the first Jacobite uprising.

The castle has changed several times over the years with a long-list of high profile owners – including a Russian princess and an MP.

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May 052017
 

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

Eilidh Whiteford with local fisherman John Clark.

Eilidh Whiteford, SNP candidate for Banff and Buchan, has renewed calls for a re-think on Aberdeenshire Council’s proposals to end Macduff Harbour’s Night Watchmen service.
Dr Whiteford joined local fisherman John Clark aboard the Banff-registered Reliance II on Wednesday night to see for herself the importance of the watchmen, and the challenges of piloting commercial vessels safely into Macduff Harbour.

Speaking after the visit, Dr. Whiteford said:

“I have already raised this issue with the council, but this evening I was able to see for myself exactly why the watchmen at Macduff need to be retained.

“This is primarily a safety issue. Even in daylight with perfect weather conditions, the entrance to Macduff Harbour is challenging for vessels. The harbour entrance can also be deceiving for skippers less familiar with the port, due to the remnants of the old harbour wall. 

“It’s also a commercial issue. Landings in Macduff have increased greatly since landing restrictions were lifted last year, and it is probably the single most important development towards regenerating economic activity in the town.

“At a time when the council has been putting huge efforts into regenerating Macduff and the surrounding area, it would be entirely counterproductive to undermine these efforts by removing essential personnel who enable commercial fishermen to land safely.”

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May 052017
 

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

Peterhead South & Cruden SNP councillor Stephen Smith has welcomed the upgrade to the footpath linking Morrison Place with Braehead Drive in Cruden Bay, an important access to Port Erroll School.

Following complaints late last year that the existing steps – which had been constructed from wooden logs by the developer of Morrison Place many years ago – were rotten and presented a slip hazard during wet weather, managed to get replacement steps installed by the council’s Landscape Services department.

Commenting, Cllr Stephen Smith said:

“This is an important footpath as it serves as a safe route to school and means primary school children avoid the busy A975 which runs through the village.

“The steps had served well since the developer installed them at the time Morrison Place was constructed but I was receiving complaints they were not only past their best but were now presenting a slip hazard during wet weather and were also rotting away.

“I contacted the council’s Landscape Services department asking them to assist and I’m pleased to say they have done a really excellent job in renewing and upgrading the steps.”

Fellow ward councillor Stuart Pratt added:

“This is a job well done and means that the most regular users of the path – the pupils and parents at Port Erroll School – can continue to have a safe route to use, away from heavy traffic.”

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Apr 282017
 

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

Aboyne, Upper Deeside & Donside SNP councillor Geva Blackett has written to Aberdeenshire Council’s Director of Infrastructure Services, Stephen Archer, requesting that the cost of a functional bridge on the A939 at Gairnshiel is built into the council’s Capital Plan as a matter of urgency to save the Grade 1 listed bridge currently in use.

In her letter, Cllr Blackett says:

“Almost exactly five years ago, this beautiful bridge was closed for some weeks to allow extensive – and expensive repairs – to take place and not for the first time.

“The resulting 40-mile detour caused chaos for motorists and had a severe impact on the fragile economies of Braemar, Ballater, Strathdon and Tomintoul.

“Now we find that despite the 18 ton weight limit imposed, even more expensive and extensive repairs are required in the near future and as traffic increases with the Snow Road linking Grantown to Blairgowrie gains in popularity, so too will the need for major repairs as the bridge is no longer fit for purpose”

Cllr Blackett’s letter points out that when the current bridge was built after the 1745 Jacobite uprising to form part of the Military Road, cars, coaches and 38 ton lorries did not exist. 

“Imagine for one moment a Chippendale chair” continues Cllr Blackett’s letter

You would not allow the public to continually sit on it and break it; you would say that people can look at it and admire it but if they want to sit down they should use the functional chair placed alongside. The same argument should be applied to this bridge which plays an important part of our built heritage, is of historical importance and could be a tourist attraction with picnic tables and proper parking”

Cllr Blackett’s case for an adjacent bridge is supported by a candidate from Perth & Kinross and by a candidate from Moray, both of whom have written to Aberdeenshire Council.

Alison Mullholland standing for Blairgowrie & the Glens Ward in Perth & Kinross said:

“I understand that historically, repair work necessitated by previous damage, took some weeks to be completed. During which time, the resulting forty mile diversion curtailed the number of tourists travelling along the A93 through Glenshee to Blairgowrie and west to Kirkmichael and beyond.

“Therefore I would strongly support consideration of an adjacent replacement bridge, thus facilitating the repair and subsequent preservation of the beautiful and historical Gairnshiel Bridge, whilst allowing all forms of traffic access via the new bridge.”

Angus Anderson standing for Moray’s Speyside Glenlivet ward said:

“The purpose of my writing to you today is to make you fully aware of the significant financial impact businesses in Tomintoul and beyond will suffer should the bridge have to continually close for repairs. One business owner advised me that over one hundred and fifty coaches visit his shop each year and virtually all of them arrive via the A939 from Aberdeenshire.

“There is also obviously a preservation and historical concern given the bridge’s age and status and I would urge you to consider that too. I support Councillor Blackett’s request that a new bridge be factored into the Capital Plan and thus reassure the businesses in Tomintoul and beyond that Aberdeenshire Council is taking a long term and pragmatic approach to the importance of this bridge to the Snow Road route.”

A 60 second video by Cllr Blackett is also being released on social media.

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Apr 202017
 

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

As the closure date of Monday 8th May draws nearer for the Fraserburgh Branch of the Clydesdale Bank, local campaigners are calling for the bank to reverse its decision to withdraw services from the town.

A key issue is the retention of the cash dispenser (ATM), given that in other towns where the Clydesdale Bank has closed branches and withdrawn its ATMs, other banks have followed suit, reducing service provision and customer choice.

Fraserburgh man and SNP candidate for Fraserburgh & District David Donn, who organised a petition, commented:

“We’ve seen recent examples of bank closures where Head Office have pointed to the existence of other banks and ATMs in the town and basically said to the local community, ‘You’ll be fine as our rivals are still here’.

“Within sometimes a very short time thereafter, we’ve seen closure announcements from other banks in the same locality.

“Portsoy and Cullen are good examples where the Clydesdale Bank closed and locals were told you still have other banks to fall back on. Now, there are no banks at all in these places. If the Clydesdale Bank can close down its Fraserburgh Branch there’s no guarantee other banks won’t follow suit.

“We need a minimum of a cash machine locally to continue to provide Clydesdale customers with a service. We can’t rely on other financial institutions to still be here.”

Fraserburgh SNP councillor Brian Topping said:

“Bank closures have been a feature of the last few years but many of us thought a town the size of Fraserburgh would be immune from this so it’s come as a real blow to the community.

“We know that once the decision is made it’s unlikely to be unmade but the least the Clydesdale Bank can do is give some consideration to its loyal customers in the Broch and maintain the ATM service.”

Fraserburgh SNP councillor Charles Buchan added:

“I really commend David on the petition he organised and I hope the bank bosses will pay heed to the view of those who signed it.

“It’s very disappointing that the Clydesdale Bank has so far failed to give any kind of commitment to its customers in Fraserburgh except for pointing them in the direction of the Post Office.”

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Apr 132017
 

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

(L to r) Pastor Neil Cameron of Apex Church; Cllr Stuart Pratt and Cllr Stephen Smith.

Local SNP councillors Stuart Pratt and Stephen Smith have shown their support for Peterhead FC’s impressive range of community engagement programmes.
The club launched a new initiative with Peterhead Boys Club to give away 200 free season tickets and made presentations to the latest graduates of the ‘Football Fans In Training Programme’ at an event at Balmoor this week where the various national football trophies were also on display.

Commenting, Cllr Stuart Pratt – a regular at Balmoor Stadium – said:

“Peterhead Football Club do a huge amount throughout the year in terms of youth engagement and supporting their local community.  But even someone like myself who manages to attend most of Peterhead’s home games didn’t realise quite how much the club actually does.

“It is a very impressive list and the initiatives launched this week can only further strengthen the link between club and community.”

Cllr Stephen Smith, who made the trip to Hampden last April to support Peterhead in the final of the Petrofac Cup versus Rangers, added:

“The event was a very good showcase for the club and I’m grateful to General Manager Martin Johnston for inviting me, along with others who are active in the community, which helps strengthen those community links.”

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Apr 012017
 

Cllr Fiona McRae and Cllr Anne Allan at the new Peterhead Travelodge in Chapel Street.

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

Local councillors Fiona McRae and Anne Allan have hailed the opening of the new Travelodge in Peterhead as a tremendous boost for the Town Centre.
The new hotel in Chapel Street officially opens on Tuesday at a ceremony to be attended by Aberdeenshire Provost Hamish Vernal, amongst others. 

The development has transformed a semi-derelict part of the Town Centre and has saved the eastern façade of the street from demolition.

Commenting, Cllr Fiona McRae said:

“The former flats in Chapel Street have been a long-running issue and it’s great to see this development come to fruition with a new business coming to Peterhead and redeveloping the site.

“This is a huge boost for the regeneration of Peterhead Town Centre, brings life back to what was previously a very run-down building, and also brings another quality brand to Peterhead.”

Cllr Anne Allan added:

“While I’m delighted that Aberdeenshire Council has over £1.5Million allocated to assist with regeneration in Peterhead, private investment is a huge part of the process and this is an excellent example of that. 

There’s a lot going on currently in terms of investment in Peterhead. Work will begin shortly to upgrade the area at the Clerkhill shops; we’re seeing plans for a new academy move forward; Peterhead Port Authority are continuing their expansion, assisted by Scottish Government funding; and we’re seeing new businesses such as Travelodge moving into the Town Centre.  It’s all very encouraging and I’m keen to see more done, but this is a good start.”

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Mar 242017
 

Stewart Stevenson, has contacted ALDI to voice local residents’ concerns re. new store.

With thanks to Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP.

Concerns from local residents over the apparent lack of any visible progress in developing the former Kirkburn Mills site in Peterhead have prompted local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson to contact ALDI Stores.

ALDI secured planning permission to build a store on the site but, to date, this prominent piece of land on the approach to Peterhead Town Centre remains undeveloped.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am pleased that ALDI have confirmed once again their commitment to Peterhead and it does appear that work is going on in the background in order to get to a position where construction on the site can start.

“This site on the main approach to Peterhead Town Centre has lain vacant for too long and has been a source of vandalism around the perimeter hoardings.  ALDI recognise that the local community is keen to see this move forward and I trust we can see some evidence of this on the ground before too long.”

In his letter to Mr Stevenson, ALDI Managing Director Richard Holloway said:

“Having recently received planning consent, we are now undertaking a series of complex tests to fully assess the works required to build a store on the site. We are of course working to start construction as soon as possible and understand from previous engagement that the community are eager to see the store opened.”

Peterhead North & Rattray SNP councillor Anne Allan added:

“I’m grateful to Stewart Stevenson for keeping the pressure on ALDI. With the council having granted planning consent, I think everyone in the town is keen to see progress made and the site developed in the very near future.”

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Mar 242017
 

With thanks to Aberdeenshire SNP.

Local resident Heather Coull has been selected by SNP members in Westhill & District ward to join Councillor David Aitchison in seeking election to represent the ward on Aberdeenshire Council.

Councillor Mandy Allan, who has represented the Ward since 2007 is stepping down at the forthcoming election owing to work commitments.

Heather Coull was born in Aberdeen and has lived all her life in Aberdeenshire. Heather, aged 38, is married and is the youngest daughter of two school teachers.

Heather is committed to lifelong learning. She studied at RGU where she successfully achieved both BA and MSc degrees. 

As a former oil and gas industry worker, Heather has the experience and background to identify with a large number of residents in and around the Westhill area.

A member of Westhill & Elrick Community Council, one of Heather’s main priorities and areas of focus if successful in being elected will be in supporting and championing community groups in Westhill and the surrounding villages to achieve their ambitions via community choice budgeting.

Commenting, Heather Coull said:

“I am delighted to be selected as an SNP candidate for the Westhill & District ward and if elected I aim to carry on Mandy Allan’s good work and work together with David, and indeed the other Westhill councillors, as a strong team for our local area.”

David Aitchison was elected as a councillor at the 2012 election and was formerly a surveyor in the civil service. David who is married with 3 children grew up in Eyemouth and worked in Edinburgh, Nottingham and Durham before moving to Westhill over twenty years ago.

Since being elected David has served on the Infrastructure Services, Scrutiny & Audit and Education & Children’s Services Committees. Since June 2015 he has been Chairman of Aberdeenshire’s Infrastructure Services Committee and Vice-Chairman of NESTRANS, the North-east transport partnership.

Commenting on his selection David Aitchison said:

“It has been a privilege to represent Westhill & District and I am delighted to be a candidate to represent the ward again.

“In my two years as an administration senior councillor I have been able to oversee policies on regeneration, planning and economic development which will benefit Aberdeenshire.

“Westhill is now at a crossroads in terms of its development. It is time to consider what we want our community to look like in the future. If re-elected I will continue the dialogue that I am already having on this issue and work with partners and residents to create a vision for the future which Westhill deserves.”

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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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