David Stewart MSP

David Stewart urges Government rethink on contribution to flood alleviation schemes

26 February 2011

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has urged the Scottish Government to rethink its funding contribution to flood alleviation schemes, after one in Elgin cost Moray Council much more than had been expected.
Speaking in Parliament, he welcomed the beginning of work on the £86million Elgin Flood Alleviation Scheme, which when completed will remove a flood risk for hundreds of homes and businesses.
However, he also highlighted Moray Council’s concerns that it will have to pick up a larger share of the cost of the £86million flood prevention scheme than had been anticipated.
Mr Stewart also asked Minister Roseanna Cunningham if she would review funding of such schemes in future.
The council was originally to have received 80% of the cost of the scheme, which would have meant it would have been forced to borrow £17.2million.
However it has now emerged that Scottish Government Ministers are intending handing over 64.5%, which is £55.6million, leaving the council to borrow the outstanding £30million.
The cost of financing that borrowing is estimated to be about £2million a year to the council over a 40-year
period, with £1million of that attributable to the shortfall in funding received from central Government.
Mr Stewart said: “While it’s obviously great news that work has started on the scheme I am concerned at the amount Moray Council is having to contribute towards the cost.
“I hope the Minister will look at the funding of future flood alleviation schemes to make sure the burden on local authorities does not become too onerous.”

Written by davidstewart

February 28, 2011 at 10:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

David Stewart calls for new moves to ease traffic congestion

14 February 2011

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart is again calling on the Scottish Government to consider moves that would alleviate traffic congestion for commuters travelling between Ross-shire and Inverness.

He has argued for some time that an extra lane should be established at the Longman Roundabout for buses and high sided vehicles and for a permanent park and ride facility to be established at North Kessock.

He has also been calling for a passenger ferry service to operate between North and South Kessock while maintenance works are carried out at Kessock Bridge.

However, the Government essentially believes that traffic signalling will solve most of the congestion problems.

In a letter to Mr Stewart, Transport Minister Keith Brown has ruled out the extra lane option although he revealed that methods of providing bus priority at the roundabout were being investigated.

He added that plans for a temporary Park and Ride scheme and for a temporary passenger ferry service were also being considered along with car sharing and additional bus and train services, and Scotland Transerv was in consultation with Highland Council, researching the vialbility of these options.

However, Mr Stewart has heard from a Government sources that the maintenance work on the Kessock bridge is unlikely to start before March 2013, a year later than scheduled.

This allows for more time for consideration on of his proposals before the work begins.

Mr Stewart said: “The Scottish Government’s low cost and minimal option of traffic signallng will only result in increased journey times in the Highlands and have a neative impact on the local economy.

“The Highlands depends to a large degree on the tourism sector, and any bottlenecks created at this important road junction wil be a powerful disincentive to tourists and an impediment to commerce.

“However, the later date for the commencement of work on the bridge means there is more time for the Scottish Government to consider the more comprehensive measures I am proposing.

“I hope Mr Brown will think again about the improvements which need to be made at the roundabout as soon as possible to cope with current traffic growth.

“If major improvements are not made there will be massive traffic chaos during the estimated six month period of maintenance works on the Kessock Bridge, when traffic capacity will be halved.”

Written by davidstewart

February 14, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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.”

Written by davidstewart

January 18, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Online petition for Fairtrade Launched

20 December 2010

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart is urging people to show the Christmas spirit by backing a festive campaign to help people in Third World Countries.

He has launched an online petition in favour of Fair Trade in Highlands and Islands for people to sign over the next couple of months which can be found on the website http://www.hifairtrade.org.uk .

The MSP has been a long-time campaigner against world poverty, supporting Jubilee 2000, an nternational coalition movement in over 40 countries that called for cancellation of third world debt by the year 2000, and the biggest ever anti-poverty movement, Make Poverty History, in 2005.

Now he is throwing his weight behind the new campaign.

Mr Stewart said: “Fairtrade in Highlands and Islands is a campaign to encourage a significant increase in the use of Fairtrade products across the region.

“It aims to support good work being done by volunteers, Fairtrade groups, churches and Local Authorities to encourage Fairtrade.

“Despite the challenges the Highlands and Islands economy faces, most of us are much better off than our counterparts in Africa and Asia.

“Highlanders have always been generous and in this season of goodwill I’m sure they’ll want to support the campaign.”

Martin Rhodes, Director of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, said: “The Highlands and Islands have led the way in so many ways in Supporting Fair Trade for many years.

“I welcome the involvement of so many campaigners from across the region in towns, islands, villages and city communities, schools, faith groups, businesses and local authorities in Fair Trade activities.

“It would be truly remarkable if all the local authority areas in the region were to be successful in achieving Fairtrade Zone status.

“I am pleased to support this petition to help achieve this.”

Written by davidstewart

December 20, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Road Safety Campaign – Sensible Driving Always Arriving

8 December 2010

During the summer of this year Highlands & Islands Labour MSP David Stewart launched a campaign to reduce the number of young people killed or seriously injured on our roads.
A local community group was set up to drive forward this campaign with Mr Stewart, including Diane and Graham Matheson who tragically lost their son Callum in a fatal collision during March 2010.
The campaign had two main strands of education and political intervention, with the ultimate aim of introducing a graduated licence scheme.
Much of the work of this campaign group to date has been published, with strong support being received locally and coming in from as far afield as Wales and Sussex.
Dr Sarah Jones of Cardiff University, who has appeared on radio and television and who has carried out 10 years research into road accident statistics in Scotland and Wales, has provided a great deal of her data to the team and is keen to work with the group.
Next week Drive-IQPRO, a company from Surrey which offers driving courses for learner drivers who want to learn how to drive as safely as possible, are to meet David Stewart at the Scottish Parliament to discuss the campaign and ways that it can enhance the campaign in relation to young driver tuition.
In the coming weeks the local community group, now called the North of Scotland Driver Awareness Team (NOSDAT), will launch further initiatives to address this very important issue.
The team have launched their web site at :

http://www.sensibledriving.org.uk

and anyone interested in this campaign, interested in joining this Group or just interested in the work of the group should access this site to learn more.
David Stewart said: “I am absolutely delighted that our campaign, which only started a few months ago, has grabbed the attention of so many who want to work with us to make our roads safer.”
He continued: “We want to hear from anyone who wants to join or support us further, especially the young road user. Their views really count and I would be delighted to welcome as many as possible to our group”.
Anyone wishing to support or contact the North of Scotland Driver Awareness Team should contact the campaign Co-ordinator Doug Mackenzie at douglas.mackenzie@scottish.parliament.uk.

Written by davidstewart

December 8, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized