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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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PORTSOY BOAT FESTIVAL SUCCESS PRAISED BY LOCAL MP

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has praised the organisers of the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival on yet another highly successful event.

The MP was joined by MSP Stewart Stevenson and Portsoy councillor Ian Gray as they toured the various stands and exhibits.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

"The organising committee deserve our praise for delivering yet another spectacular Scottish Traditional Boat Festival.

"The glorious sunshine certainly added to the tremendous atmosphere and there was a real buzz, not only around the event but also the whole town. Portsoy can be rightly proud that it has a visitor attraction of national importance which draws visitors from not only the length and breadth of the country but also internationally."

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LOCAL MP ATTENDS ST COMBS GALA

Monday, 28 June 2010

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford dropped in on St Combs Gala on Saturday to show her support for the community event.

The village hall, usually at the centre of the gala activities, was lost to a fire last year but a marquee took its place at this year's gala. Plans are moving forward for a replacement facility which will improve on the facilities available in the previous hall.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

"My congratulations go to the gala organisers for an excellent event. The loss of the village hall in last year's fire was a devastating blow to the village but the community spirit is alive and well and people are determined that the village will benefit from a better facility in its place.

"Events such as these are really important in the community calendar, especially in smaller communities. The volunteers who give up their time to organise galas and the people who turn out to support them can be proud of the part they play in village life."

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MP HAILS MAGNIFICENT EFFORT AT TURRIFF 'RELAY FOR LIFE' EVENT

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford attended the closing ceremony of the 'Relay for Life' event at The Haughs, Turriff yesterday (Sunday). The 24 hour-long event ended at midday yesterday where the organisers revealed that over £135,000 had been raised from the Turriff effort.

Dr Whiteford attended the launch of the event in Turriff back in February and was delighted to be asked back by the organisers to speak at the closing ceremony.

Commenting, the local MP said:

"This is a truly staggering amount to have raised and everyone involved can be very proud indeed of their efforts.

"The fact that so many people of all ages, and from across the community, turned out for this event reminds us that most of us have had our lives touched by cancer, directly or indirectly.

"Relay for Life is a great reminder that treatment is improving all the time and many people are recovering from cancer nowadays. Taking part is a great way to remember those we've lost, and through fundraising, provide hope for the future. Above all, events like Relay for Life let those currently undergoing treatment know that they have the support of the whole community behind them.

"I'm delighted to support the Relay for Life and congratulate the committee on a truly magnificent effort."

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WHITEFORD OPENS HATTON GALA

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford performed the official opening of Hatton Gala yesterday (Sunday).

The Gala Queen and her attendants set off from Northfield conveyed by vintage tractor and led by Ellon Pipe Band where they did a circuit of the village before arriving at the village hall where the local MP performed the crowning ceremony and officially opened the gala day.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

"My congratulations go to the gala organisers for an excellent event. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and the weather really helped things along as I know that the last few years have seen the event confined to the village hall due to rain.

"Events such as these are really important in the community calendar, especially in smaller communities. The volunteers who give up their time to organise galas and the people who turn out to support them can be proud of the part they play in village life."

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MP PRAISES ARDALLIE SCHOOL'S GREEN FLAG ACHIEVEMENT

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford praised a local school's achievement on being awarded its second 'Green Flag' at an event last week.

Ardallie School received a visit from the MP on Friday as part of its celebrations.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

"This is a tremendous achievement for a small rural school and the pupils and teachers deserve our congratulations.

"Scotland has set the most ambitious climate change targets in the world and we all have a responsibility to live more sustainable lives that don't compromise the quality of life of future generations. It's highly encouraging, therefore, that our schools are demonstrating a real commitment to sustainability and greener thinking.

"Through the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, Scotland is committing to driving forward changes and our schools have a key part to play – as ably-demonstrated by Ardallie School."

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MP PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE WITH CANCER

Banff and Buchan MP, Eilidh Whiteford pledged her support for children and young people with cancer on Wednesday 23 June at CLIC Sargent’s parliamentary reception in the Members Room of the House of Commons.

Eilidh Whiteford MP committed to support CLIC Sargent’s vital work by signing a pledge along with other parliamentarians. She said:

“It is vital that we support the work that CLIC Sargent does to support children and young people with cancer and their families across the UK.”

Lorraine Clifton, CLIC Sargent’s Chief Executive said:

"We are delighted that Eilidh Whiteford was able to attend and pledge her support for the work that we do. This was a fantastic opportunity for the young people we support to speak directly to MPs and Lords about their experiences.”

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WHITEFORD WARNING ON CHANCELLOR’S INCAPACITY CUTS

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, has warned that coalition government plans to cut sickness benefits must be based on genuine medical evidence.

Dr Whiteford said:

“George Osborne’s language suggests he is only concerned with reducing the number of claimants, regardless of the needs of individuals, or of the medical evidence.

“While supporting benefit reform, genuinely vulnerable individuals must not become an easy target for Con/Dem cuts.

“There are already huge questions over the assessment process with people undergoing chemotherapy, in some cases terminally ill people, being ordered to attend back-to-work interviews.

“Return-to-work initiatives can benefit both the economy and the individual, but people should only return to the workplace when they are genuinely able and when correct support measures are available.

“Existing safeguards are not working and, with major reforms in the pipeline, we need real guarantees to ensure that that people living with genuine incapacity and ill health are spared added stress and uncertainty.”

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TORIES BACK PEDALLING TO HARD RIGHT POLICIES OF 1980S

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Commenting on the suggestion by UK Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, that longterm unemployed people living in council homes could be offered incentives to move to areas where there are jobs, SNP Work & Pensions Spokeswoman Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are on a tandem – pedalling straight back to the ‘get on your bike’ hard right policies of the Thatcher years.

“13 years of Labour Government have left the most vulnerable in society in a perilous position. Instead of endangering economic recovery with short-sighted cuts and reverting to policies which proved disastrous in the 1980s, the new coalition Government should be investing in growth and job creation across the UK.”

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WHITEFORD SECURES COMMITMENT ON SINGLE FARM PAYMENTS

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford today won an assurance from DEFRA Secretary of State Caroline Spelman that the UK Government will seek to maintain Pillar 1 support for farmers in the current reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The SNP MP raised the issue in the House of Commons during questions to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Dr Whiteford also asked the Secretary of State how she intended to work with the Scottish Government.

Commenting, Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

"I welcome the Secretary of State's response to me today which should offer reassurance to North-east farmers in the current climate of uncertainty surrounding CAP reform.

"While SNP MPs will continue to call for Scotland and other devolved administrations to have a direct voice in EU negotiations, we appreciate the Secretary of State's willingness to consult and listen. I hope that this progress will be backed up by concrete action."


Transcript from Hansard:

Dr Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): May I also welcome the right hon. Lady and her team to their posts? I believe that her talks yesterday with the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment were very constructive, but will she clarify for the benefit of the House how she intends to work with the devolved Administrations? In particular, how does she see the future of pillar one support in the common agricultural policy reform process?

Caroline Spelman (Secretary of State for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs): I thank the hon. Lady for that question, and I can tell her that discussions with her honourable colleague from Scotland were indeed very constructive. I made it clear to him that I would always consult before taking a position ahead of any Council meeting. I added that we will have very close and good contact with all the devolved Administrations, and I said specifically that I am confident that pillar one and direct payments will continue.

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WHITEFORD SECURES MEETING OVER ENERGY DISCRIMINATION

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Banff and Buchan SNP MP, Eilidh Whiteford, has welcomed a commitment from the Secretary of State for Scotland for a meeting over discrimination against Scottish power generators.

Speaking at Scottish Questions today (Wednesday), Dr Whiteford hit out at discrimination in connection charges which threatens to close one third of the plant at Peterhead Power Station in her constituency.

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) announced in March that they will be forced to close unit 2 of Peterhead Power Station in 2011 unless there is a change in the pricing regime which has Peterhead paying £20 per kw for a grid connection while London power stations are subsidised by £3 per kw.

SSE are being forced to pay an additional £7 million pounds per year on their older generator which is rendering that part of the plant uneconomic and if it closes it will reduce station capacity by a third to 1200 MW and cost over 50 jobs.

Dr Whiteford said:

“We should say enough is enough to this anti-Scottish bias which works against the development of clean, renewable energy in Scotland by forcing generators to pay millions of pounds more to use the grid.

“Scotland has overwhelming energy potential but our future wealth is being sabotaged by these unfair charges which discriminate against Scotland. Peterhead has to pay £29 million a year for the right to produce power while an identical power station in London would be paid £3million to set up shop. This ridiculous position must be brought to a halt.

“The transmission charging regime has already cost the country dear by slowing up renewable energy projects and now it threatens 600 MW of existing power at Peterhead and vital local jobs.

“The power currently lies with the London Government who regularly defend this anti-Scottish bias. The previous Labour Scottish Secretary ludicrously claimed that connection charges were not a problem for Scottish power generation, but I am pleased that Michael Moore has agreed to look at this afresh.”


Notes:

1. Background

The locational charging methodology levies higher charges on generators furthest from the main centres of demand for connection and use of the grid. This favours generation in the southern part of the UK and presents an inbuilt bias in the UK transmission regulatory system against Scottish based generation.

As a result, Scottish generators produce 12 per cent of UK generation, but account for 40 per cent of the transmission costs, or about £100 million per year more than their fair share.

The average national grid transmission charge in each local authority area is available at: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/Apps2/Business/PQA/default.aspx?pq=S3W-27749

2. A transcript of Dr Whiteford’s exchange with the Scotland Secretary is set out below:

Dr Eilidh Whiteford: Is the Secretary of State aware that Peterhead power station pays £29m every year in transmission charges while a similar facility in London would attract a subsidy of around £3m per annum and that as a consequence Scottish & Southern Energy are planning to make 50 job losses at the Peterhead plant. Does he accept the transmission charges regime is discriminatory and is discouraging investment in renewable energy in the very parts of Scotland best equipped to produce it and will he – when he comes to the North East of Scotland as he has just pledged – agree to meet with me and with representatives of the management and workforce at Peterhead power station to discuss the transmission charges regime and the future of the Peterhead plant?

Secretary of State for Scotland (Michael Moore): As far as the transmission charging regime is concerned, she’ll be aware that this is primarily a matter for the National Grid, it is an issue that others have raised with me and OFGEM as well. It’s something I’d be keen to talk about further with her and others from the Scottish Government. There have been representations from all sides of the House on this – already it’s been a busy few days and I look forward to taking forward those discussions in the most appropriate form in the future.

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LOCAL MP HOLDS FIRST BANFFSHIRE SURGERY

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford held her first Banffshire surgery at the weekend. The MP chose to support the wonderful community facility that is Banff Castle by choosing it as the venue.

Dr Whiteford's surgery was held on Saturday morning with all appointment slots being fully booked. Other surgeries are planned across the constituency in the coming weeks.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

"I have now held surgeries in the four largest population centres of Banff, Turriff, Fraserburgh and Peterhead in the four weeks since the election.


"I would have to say that not many MPs can boast that they hold their surgeries in a castle, but in Banff Castle we have a magnificent community facility which is available for public hire and I was delighted to lend my support to the hard-working committee there by hiring the venue for my surgery.


"I'll be holding other surgeries across Banff & Buchan in the coming weeks and if anyone has a problem they think I can help with in the meantime then please do get in touch with me at House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA or by e-mailing me on eilidh.whiteford.mp@parliament.uk"

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LOCAL MP CALLS FOR GREATER RECOGNITION FOR CARERS

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Banff & Buchan SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford has teamed up with ITV’s This Morning celebrity GP, Dr Chris Steele MBE, to support this year’s Carers Week (14 - 20 June) and celebrate the contribution made by people Banff & Buchan constituency and throughout the country, who provide unpaid care for someone who is ill, frail or disabled.

The theme of Carers Week is ‘A Life of My Own’ with calls for greater understanding and support for the army of carers who provide vital care for their families, friends and communities. In doing so, many sacrifice much in their own lives, unable to do the little things that most of us take for granted. All too often, these unsung heroes also suffer ill health.

Dr Whiteford met up with Dr Chris at the House of Commons to pay tribute to carers, and to urge that they receive more support in their caring roles. Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“A trip to the cinema, or even a full night’s sleep – these are luxuries for many of the thousands of carers in Banff & Buchan. I am supporting Carers Week and all those helping to raise awareness of carers, and their priceless contribution they make to our local community. I hope that as a result of Carers Week, many more carers will find out about services and support that exist to help them.”

Dr Chris, who has long been a champion for the health and wellbeing of the country’s millions of carers, said:

“I am delighted to give my continuing support for Carers Week and its focus on a carer’s right to ‘A life of my own’. Many non-carers take their free-time for granted, whether it’s going to the cinema or meeting with family and friends. As a GP I have met many carers who have never received any help or respite.

“I know how carers’ own health and well-being has suffered as a consequence and just how isolated they can feel. Who is caring for the carers? Change is needed at grassroots level and Carers Week is vital in raising awareness and promoting carers’ issues.”


Other celebrities supporting Carers Week, all of whom have had experience of caring, include: Lynda Bellingham, Cilla Black, Jonathan Dimbleby, Gloria Hunniford, Sir David Jason, Claire King, Phyllida Law, Miriam Margolyes, Esther Rantzen, Angela Rippon and Tony Robinson.

Carers Week is organised by a partnership of 7 national charities: Carers UK, Counsel and Care, Crossroads Care, Help the Hospices, Macmillan Cancer Support, Parkinson’s UK and The Princess Royal Trust for Carers.

For information about Carers Week, including local events and activities, and where carers can find information and assistance, visit http://www.carersweek.org/ or call 0845 241 2582.

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Constitution and Home Affairs - Dr Eilidh Whiteford [Maiden Speech]

Monday, 7 June 2010

House of Commons
Monday 7 June 2010
The House met at half-past Two o’clock
PRAYERS
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
... ... ...
Constitution and Home Affairs

Mr Speaker: I inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of Ms Harriet Harman. Once moved, that amendment will limit the scope of debate to the issues mentioned in it. Older hands can expect to be called to order by the occupant of the Chair if they go beyond the scope of the amendment. New Members making maiden speeches can expect some customary latitude.
... ... ...
8.47 pm

Dr Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I am grateful for the opportunity this evening to address the House for the first time, and it is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd), whom I congratulate on making such an engaging contribution to this evening’s proceedings.

It is perhaps appropriate that I contribute to this part of the debate on the Gracious Speech, because I am the first Member for Banff and Buchan to make a maiden speech in the Chamber since the significant constitutional changes that brought about devolution and the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. Part of my duty this evening is to pay tribute to my predecessor, the right hon. Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland. My right hon. Friend made an inimitable mark on this House. He continues to serve the people of north-east Scotland as MSP for Gordon, and he continues to make his mark on what remains a live and dynamic debate about the constitutional future of these islands. I have no doubt that Alex Salmond will play an instrumental role in shaping the emerging debate, which is now gathering momentum, on new powers for the devolved Administrations. I have no doubt also that, when future generations reflect on the history of Scotland, Alex Salmond’s central place in the story of our own times will be assured.

However, some of Alex Salmond’s greatest strengths as a Member lay in the diligent service that he gave his constituents in Banff and Buchan. He worked hard to win the respect of his constituents across the political spectrum, and I aim to do likewise. I grew up in the Banffshire port of Macduff, I am now immensely honoured to represent my home area, and I shall seek to emulate the high quality of representation to which the people of Banff and Buchan have grown accustomed over the past 23 years.

Turning to this evening’s debate, I am the first to concede that constitutional change can be a dry subject. However, for my constituents, a very great deal is at stake in our constitutional arrangements. Banff and Buchan’s local economy depends heavily on agriculture, fisheries and energy and the manufacturing industries associated with them. People do hard physical work to produce tangible goods and services, and, although the oil and gas industry has brought a degree of prosperity to the area over the past 30 years, many people—especially women—still work in low-paid jobs in the processing and manufacturing sectors. Many of our older residents therefore face very frugal retirements, despite having worked hard all their days, and keeping warm in winter is a challenge for many. The constituency has been badly affected by the recession; in fact, we have experienced among the sharpest increases in unemployment anywhere in the UK.

The constitution matters to Banff and Buchan because our key industries are directly affected by decisions made at European level negotiated on our behalf by UK Ministers—too often, I am sad to say, not very effectively. In my view, further constitutional change is a necessary precursor to improving the lives and prospects of the people I represent.

The fishing industry is at the heart of our local economy, and it is the lifeblood of our coastal towns and villages. About two thirds of the UK’s fishing industry is based in Scotland, and much of it is centred around Banff and Buchan, where Peterhead remains Europe’s premier white fish port and Fraserburgh is Europe’s largest shellfish port. The fishing industry also supports thousands of onshore jobs in fish processing, retail and supply. These continue to be exceptionally difficult times for the fishing and processing industries. In the past 10 years, the white fish fleet has halved and many of the current fleet are struggling to stay in business. The underlying problem is the European Union’s common fisheries policy, which has been an unmitigated disaster at every level. The CFP is not fit for purpose. It threatens the economic viability of the industry and the social fabric of our communities, and it is causing untold environmental damage. Our fishing industry needs urgent action now to create a sustainable future.

As hon. Members will be aware, management of fisheries is a devolved issue, but the key decisions that set the policy framework are made by EU member states. Scottish fishermen have been repeatedly let down by UK Governments in EU negotiations. Just a few weeks ago, at a time of crisis for the industry, we saw the Scottish Fisheries Minister prevented from attending international talks on the CFP, while an unelected peer attended on behalf of the previous UK Government. Perhaps no issue highlights more acutely the limitations of our current constitutional arrangements. Fishing is far more important to the communities I represent than it will ever be to the UK as a whole. Although I regret that there is no mention of fisheries in the new Government’s coalition agreement, I hope that they will take steps to redress the exclusion of the devolved Administrations from fisheries talks and will, in doing so, put some flesh on the bones of their much publicised, and today rather emaciated-looking, respect agenda.

Banff and Buchan’s agricultural producers face similar representational challenges in ensuring that decisions made in Brussels reflect their interests and needs. Turriff is the most sizeable of Banff and Buchan’s rural towns and is home to one of the UK’s largest agricultural shows and a range of industries, including a large meat processing plant that supplies premium produce to supermarkets across the country. Turriff is of course more well known for the famous “Turra Coo”, which formed part of a celebrated protest by local farmers against the taxation policies of the Liberal Government back in 1913. Perhaps there is a warning there for the present Government to mind how they treat Scottish farmers.

The realities of physical geography mean that there are distinct issues for farmers in different parts of the UK. Agriculture is also largely a devolved issue, but the practice of recent years has often been for UK Ministers to conduct negotiations with the EU Commission, the presidency and other member states without the presence of devolved Ministers. Once again, I would urge the new Government to bring the democratically elected representatives of the devolved Administrations around the table. As the EU reforms its common agricultural policy, the UK needs to move away from the “one size fits nobody” approach of recent years, which does a grave disservice to those among my constituents who earn their livelihoods from the land.

The other major source of employment in Banff and Buchan is the oil and gas sector, onshore and offshore, most notably at the St Fergus terminal. However, as we look ahead, we have to acknowledge that our future prosperity lies in renewable energy. Banff and Buchan is exceptionally well positioned to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the development of offshore wind, wave and tidal power. We have the location and a skilled workforce experienced in offshore technology. However, to make the most of these opportunities for green jobs, we need to challenge the current discriminatory transmission charges regime, which disincentivises the production of renewable energy in the very areas of the UK most equipped to produce it. We also need the UK Government to release the fossil fuel levy to enable the investment in the infrastructure that is necessary to realise our potential and to build a prosperous future.

I have no doubt that I will return to these issues in the weeks ahead, and I look forward to bringing the concerns of Banff and Buchan’s constituents before the House in future.

8.54 pm

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