David Stewart MSP

Archive for January 2011

Call for Action over Fuel Poverty

18 January 2011

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has called for action to help the estimated 750,000 Scottish households living in fuel poverty.
He made his plea following his speech in the Scottish Parliament Debate on Electricity Market reform.
Mr Stewart said the costs of domestic heating oil to consumers was already sky high with huge mark-ups by distributors.
This is a particular problem in the Highlands and Islands.
He added: “The report this week by Save the Children concluded that families on low incomes are paying £1,300 more per year for basic goods and services, such as heating.
“This was a rise of more than 20% from the previous survey in 2007.
“The charity said about one fifth of the “poverty premium” came from fuel
bills alone.
“Why? Gas and electricity companies routinely charge more for repayments meters than direct debits. “Low income families are often forced to use repayment meters to manage their budgets.
“With expected rises in gas and electricity prices over next year, fuel poverty (defined as spending more than 10% of their household income on heating) will increase in Scotland.”
Mr Stewart went on: “Power giant Eon is increasing electricity charges by 9% next month.
“Yesterday’s Scotsman reported that critics such as EnergyShop.com felt, ‘energy suppliers are not taking chances with their profits and offloading the bulk of their increased costs on the consumer.’
The MSP welcomed Ofgem’s investigation into power companies’ charges for domestic customers, which are due in March.
However he stressed that with 2011 only in its infancy poor consumers have been under siege by Christmas price hikes and the new year VAT increases.
Mr Stewart said, “We know from studies by Consumer Focus Scotland that 750,000 households are living in fuel poverty.
“Heating a home is a necessity, not a luxury.
“I would strongly support vigorously adopting the new European Union legislation to allow Ofgem to force the big six energy suppliers to disclose the price they pay for energy.”

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Written by davidstewart

January 18, 2011 at 8:13 pm

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David Stewart urges Transport Minister to drop proposals to cut Freight Grants

4 January 2011

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart is writing to the new Transport Minister Keith Brown urging him to drop a proposal to cut Freight Grants in the Draft Budget.
He has raised the matter after the Chairman of HITRANS Duncan MacIntyre told the Government he was worried about the proposal within the Draft Budget to reduce support for freight grants from £10.3m in 2010-11 to £2.9m in 2011-12.
This sees the complete suspension of Freight Facilities Grant (FFG). Mode Shift Revenue Support (MSRS) and Waterborne Freight Grant (WFG) only will continue.
HITRANS proposes the continuation of FFG at a similar level to today and says the economic and environmental gains far outweigh the modest £7.4m saving sought.
They say it is vital that the Government continues to support the promotion of sustainable rail and water based freight movement within the Highlands and Islands in its bid to reduce emissions, to overcome the competitive disadvantage of rurality and to enable rail assets to be used to their full potential.
David Stewart said: “Freight Facilities Grant (FFG) has been used to fund a number of Highlands and Islands schemes including the Tesco/Stobart/Russell rail operation to Inverness taking 20 lorries per day each way off the A9, oil to Fort William and Lairg, and floating piers for the current Caledonian Canal timber trial.
“Capital grants are vital in helping to offset the higher development costs associated with terminal development and intermodal equipment.
“I believe the benefits of these FFGs to the economy of the Highlands and Islands more than outweigh the savings made by cutting them and will be calling on Mr Brown to drop this proposal.”

Written by davidstewart

January 4, 2011 at 4:40 pm

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MSP’s hopes to host summit on apprenticeship completion problem

4 January 2011

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart is trying to organise a summit which would hopefully solve the problem of apprentices failing to finish their training if their employers go out of business.

Mr Stewart wants to host a meeting of Skills Development Scotland, Jobcentre Plus, local authorities and
business representatives, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and local colleges to discuss how apprentices finding themselves out of work can complete learning the skills which can drive the economic recovery in the coming years.
His proposal comes following a series of blows to the region’s construction industry this year, first with the collapse of HQC and then Rok, resulting in the loss of several hundred local jobs.
The Government’s Adopt an Apprentice Scheme – where employers are be paid up to £2,000 to recruit a redundant apprentice and enable them to finish their apprenticeship – has been operating since June last year.
In addition employers in the construction, manufacturing and engineering sectors can also Safeguard an Apprentice. This initiative offers employers £75 per week wage subsidy to retain a current apprentice where the company is experiencing difficulties as a result of the economic downturn.
However Mr Stewart, while recognising that the two schemes have helped some apprentices to reach their qualifications, believes that more could be done.
He has tabled written parliamentary Questions asking about the take-up and effectiveness of the Adopt an Apprentice scheme.
Mr Stewart said: “I think everyone is aware of the problems facing the construction industry in Scotland and I am concerned that as a result of that some apprentices may not be completing their training.
“While I acknowledge that there are schemes around which have helped some people it is extremely difficult for others to access them.
“Clearly there is a pressing need for a solution which would enable apprentices in this position to reach completion and I believe that a way forward may be found in terms of a multi agency approach involving Skills Development Scotland, Highlands and islands Enterprise and local colleges.
“I propose to hold a summit of all interested parties to see how we can ensure these bright young men and women, who are such a valuable commodity to our economy, can complete their training.”

Skills Development Scotland and North Highland College officials have said they would be willing to attend the summit.

Written by davidstewart

January 4, 2011 at 4:15 pm

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