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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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REMOVAL OF MOBILITY ALLOWANCE BRANDED CRUELEST CUT

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP has branded Tory Government plans to remove the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) from people living in residential care as the Coalition’s ‘cruelest cut’ after speaking out in a debate on the issue in parliament this morning.

Parliamentary questions by Dr Whiteford have revealed that the cut will impact on approximately 60,000 people living in residential care, including an estimated 8,000 users of the Motability Car Scheme.

Dr Whiteford said:

“Removal of the mobility component from people in residential care is one of the cruelest cuts by the Tory Government and will in some cases leave disabled people totally housebound.

“We are talking about a lifeline payment which gives people, including children at residential special schools, some independence.

“Few residential facilities provide free transport, and the component is often used by disabled people to pay for a taxi to essential hospital appointments, to go shopping, or even just to meet friends and take part in activities in their community.

“Removing this allowance is a hammer blow to people’s independence as well as their pockets. It will effectively mean some people can no longer get out and about and will be confined to their residential care home.

“Nobody doubts that welfare reform is necessary, but this cut by the Tories and Liberal Democrats is totally unfair and will impact on the lives of the most vulnerable in society.”

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LOCAL MP LIGHTS UP PETERHEAD

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford performed the switching on of Peterhead’s Christmas Lights this afternoon.

The MP was invited by the ‘Light Up Peterhead’ Committee to perform the switching-on by the town Christmas tree at Drummers Corner. After the switch-on, the Peterhead Salvation Army Band marched to the town’s Muckle Kirk where Dr Whiteford switched on the tree lights there before joining the carol service in the kirk.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“The Light Up Peterhead Committee have done a fantastic job this year and everyone agreed that the Christmas tree in Drummers Corner looks particularly magnificent.

“The Committee have done a lot of work on behalf of the town over the past twelve months and deserve our gratitude, as do the many local organisations, individuals and businesses who have contributed to the cost of the displays.

“The town centre is looking very festive and I hope that it will help to attract more shoppers into the town and give a boost to local businesses in the run up to Christmas.”

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WHITEFORD SECURES COMMONS TIME FOR DEBATE ON FISHERIES

Banff & Buchan MP and SNP Westminster Fisheries Spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford has secured time in the House of Commons for a debate on fisheries after meeting with the Backbench Business Committee, who agreed to the MP’s request to allocate time for a debate.

The move by Dr Whiteford was necessary after it emerged that no Government time was to be made available for a fisheries debate, unlike in previous years.

Dr Whiteford, along with MPs Andrew George (Lib Dem: St Ives), Margaret Ritchie (SDLP: South Down), Dr Sarah Woolaston (Con: Totnes) and Therese Coffey (Con: Suffolk Coastal), took the case for a Fisheries Debate to the Backbench Business Committee and persuaded Members that time be made available, and will now be held on Thursday 2 December in Westminster Hall, contrary to some incorrect reports that a debate had already been secured for December 9th.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

I am delighted that the Backbench Business Committee has been persuaded of the importance of allowing time to debate the future of an industry that is of huge importance to our coastal communities and the wider Scottish economy.

“Fisheries is subject to one of the highest degrees of political management of any industry and it is therefore vital that MPs representing fishing communities have the opportunity to put forward their views to the Minister ahead of the Fisheries Council.

“This situation simply underlines why we need effective Scottish representation at Europe’s top table. I have been in discussions with Scottish fishing representatives in advance of the debate and I will endeavour to make the case for the Scottish fishing industry on Thursday.”

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TURBULENCE FOR TORIES OVER ‘BREEDING’ COMMENTS

Thursday, 25 November 2010

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP has condemned remarks by Tory peer Howard Flight suggesting that welfare changes will encourage "breeding" among poor people.

Dr Whiteford said:

“Howard Flight’s comments are not only offensive and unacceptable they are also a troubling insight into the attitude of Tories on welfare issues. Howard Flight is no stranger to controversy so perhaps it says more about David Cameron’s judgement that he has nominated him for elevation to the House of Lords. Frankly, the prime minister should now reconsider his nomination. The Tories are still totally out of touch which is why the people of Scotland continually reject them at the polls.”

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WHITEFORD COMMENTS ON HARRINGTON WELFARE REVIEW

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP today called for improvements to the system that assesses disabled people for work after it was criticised in an independent review by Professor Malcolm Harrington.

Prof. Harrington said the Work Capability Assessments (WCA) were not working as well as they should be, adding that the system was “impersonal, mechanistic and lacks empathy”.

Dr Whiteford, whose own constituents are part of incapacity benefit reforms being trialled in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, said:

“I know first hand from constituents that the current system is causing distress for disabled people and Professor Harrington’s findings suggest that this is a much wider problem. It cannot be acceptable for a system to be so flawed that it could damage the health of people trying to claim sickness benefits.

“While supporting benefit reform, genuinely vulnerable individuals must not become an easy target for Conservative and Liberal 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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BANFF & BUCHAN EQUITABLE LIFE MEMBERS LET DOWN BY “ARBITRARY DECISIONS”

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has expressed disappointment that local residents who lost out in the Equitable Life fiasco have been let down by “arbitrary decisions” made by the coalition government.

Commenting on the Equitable Life (Payments) Bill, Dr Whiteford said that whilst she acknowledged the government had moved quickly to tackle the matter, the good work had been undermined by the overall cap on compensation and the inexplicable decision to withhold compensation from pre 1992 With Profits annuitants.

Commenting on the passing of the Bill Dr Whiteford said

“I acknowledge that the government have moved quickly and provided much more than the previous government, but they have not honoured their pre election promise to abide by the whole of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Ombudsman.”

“The good work done is being undermined by arbitrary decisions to impose and overall cap on compensation, which could lead to some members losing almost 80% of what they should have received. This is blatantly unfair and will hit many local pensioners very hard .”

“The decision to refuse any compensation to those who took out annuities prior to 1992 is even more bizarre. The minister’s explanation amounted to arguing that if maladministration occurred before members knew about it then that was OK. This is patent nonsense. Anyone who was affected by the maladministration should have been included for compensation.”

“Debating the bill has been a frustrating experience since the big elephant in the room has been the overall cap on compensation imposed by the Treasury, which is not in the bill. At the end of this process many policyholders will still feel very aggrieved, and rightly so.”

“Policyholders have been let down by the previous government who failed to do anything for ten years and by the present government who have undermined the compensation scheme. The failure of Parliament to fully follow the recommendations of our own Ombudsman also does nothing to repair the reputation of politics.”

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LOCAL MP’s ANGER OVER TORY WESTMINSTER FISHERIES SNUB

Monday, 15 November 2010

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has reacted with anger to the revelation that the Conservative/Lib Dem London Government have decided not to allow time for a debate on the fishing industry in advance of the Fisheries Council negotiations in December.

The debate has been an annual feature at Westminster for many years with MPs representing fishing communities using the opportunity to put forward constituents’ views to the UK Fisheries Minister in advance of the Fisheries Council.

Dr Whiteford has taken the case for a Fisheries Debate to the Backbench Business Committee and has asked that time be made available for a debate should the UK Government continue to refuse to do so.

The SNP MP has also written in strong terms to Tory Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon urging a rethink.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“This decision by the London Government sends a clear message that nothing much has changed since the days of Edward Heath’s Tories when fishing was described as “expendable” in a Government memo.

“Fisheries is subject to one of the highest degrees of political management of any industry and it is therefore vital that MPs representing fishing communities continue to have the opportunity to put forward their views to the Minister in a debate on the floor of the House of Commons.

“I have therefore written to Richard Benyon urging him to reinstate the annual fisheries debate. I have also taken the precaution of lobbying the Backbench Business Committee asking for time to be made available to discuss this issue of vital importance to the North-east economy.

“However, this episode simply underlines why we need effective Scottish representation at Europe’s top table. If the UK Government cannot even be bothered to find time to discuss fishing, what sort of message does that send to the EU about how fishing is viewed by the UK?”

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SNP COMMENT ON WELFARE WHITE PAPER

Thursday, 11 November 2010

ENCOURAGEMENT BACK TO WORK ONLY HALF A SOLUTION

SNP Work and Pensions Spokesperson, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, has warned that the programme of benefit reform set out today is ‘only half a solution’ to the problems facing the unemployed across the UK.

Dr Whiteford welcomed enhanced support for job seekers but warned that the programme would stall if the UK Government did nothing to support job creation.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“Reform of the benefits system is long overdue and some of the measures set out today – particularly the universal credit – are very welcome however, what Ministers put forward today was just half a solution.

“This plan is predicated on massive and immediate growth in employment – a development which no credible forecaster is predicting.

“We must look at how best we get people back into the workplace, but reforms must be undertaken with care and common sense. Apart from anything else, this Tory/Lib Dem idea could well cut across other initiatives, such as prisoners having to do hard work through tough punishment in the community, which both the UK and Scottish Governments are pursuing in order to cut reoffending rates.

“The Tory/Lib Dem assumption does appear to be that everybody on benefits is somehow cheating the system or work-shy – what the Con Dem coalition should be working on most is creating real jobs.

"UK Ministers cannot embark on a back-to-work programme if there are no jobs to go to. Indeed, the decision by the Con Dem coalition to slash public spending too hard and too fast has put thousands of public sector jobs at risk and endangered the Scottish recovery.

“The Con Dem coalition have got their priorities all wrong – they should be focusing on supporting recovery and job creation, instead of spending cuts which are too fast and too deep and will actually worsen unemployment rates.”

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MP MEETS WITH CONCERNED RESIDENTS OVER WARDEN SERVICES

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has met with residents of sheltered housing complexes in Turriff to discuss their fears that warden services will be withdrawn as a result of impending council cutbacks.

Representatives from sheltered housing complexes at Deveron Court, Dawson Court and Erroll Court joined with the residents of Sim Gardens to welcome their constituency MP and express their fears that they will be left to fend for themselves if their wardens are removed as part of a council cost-cutting exercise. Dr. Whiteford conducted an open ‘question and answer’ session, before moving from table to table to chat with the residents personally.

The Banff & Buchan MP told the meeting that she had already written to the Chief Executive of Aberdeenshire Council to advise him of her own concerns at the rumours which were circulating in the sheltered housing community.

Residents stressed the important part which the wardens played in their lives as a reassuring influence – as well as their critical role in the day-to-day operation of the complexes, including helping with the organisation of events, reading mail to partially-sighted residents, assisting with domestic accidents and spillages, and being on hand for medical emergencies.

Many speakers said that they paid quite substantial sums in ‘Supporting People’ charges, and questioned how the Council could potentially remove the warden service when they were effectively being charged for it as part of their tenancy agreement. Several residents also expressed scorn at the manner in which a recent consultation exercise was conducted on the Council’s behalf with regard to service provision.

Dr. Whiteford listened intently to the worries being expressed, and assured the residents that she would be pursuing their concerns vigorously.

Commenting on the meeting later, Dr Whiteford said:

“I was very interested to meet with the residents personally, and hear directly of those issues which are the most important to them.

“It is often said that a civilised society may be measured by the way in which it treats the most vulnerable members of its community, and that will surely be the trial which Aberdeenshire Council will face as it addresses the difficult decisions which it will have to make in the coming months.

“I have since received an assurance from Aberdeenshire Council’s Head of Community Care that no decisions have been made on the issue of warden cover, and I will be taking further issue with the Chief Executive on a number of factors which should support a presumption against such cuts.

“I would also be particularly keen to ensure that our elderly and infirm residents are not subjected to undue worry and stress as part of that process, and trust that Aberdeenshire Council will do all that it can to allay their fears, by assuring them that they will be fully consulted on any proposals affecting their care.”

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WHITEFORD WARNS CON/DEMS OVER HOUSING BENEFIT CUTS

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Speaking in a debate on the impact of proposed changes to housing benefit this evening, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP warned that changes would hit already hard-pressed families.

Dr Whiteford said:

“These are the wrong cuts being made at the worst time, and will hit low-paid households the hardest.

“Tory and LibDem Ministers either do not care or do not understand the impact that these cuts will have on families across Scotland who will be left worse off at an already difficult time. There is no doubt that in some circumstances people will be made homeless as a result of these changes.

“The Tory/Lib Dem coalition have their priorities all wrong – they should be focusing on supporting recovery and job creation, instead of spending cuts which are too fast and too deep and will actually destroy employment.

“Yes, we must look at how best we can reform the benefits system, but such reforms must be undertaken with care and common sense.

“The Tory/Lib Dem assumption does appear to be that everybody on benefits is somehow cheating the system or work-shy – what the Con/Dem coalition should be working on most is creating real jobs.

“While the coalition cuts services and support, the SNP is the only party with a clear commitment to protect family incomes. By freezing the council tax, delivering the living wage to NHS and government employees and turning the unfair policies of successive Labour, Lib Dem and Tory Westminster administrations into a fair system for the people of Scotland.”

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MP & MSP HAIL ‘FANTASTIC’ FANTASMAGORIA

Banff & Buchan representatives Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP and Stewart Stevenson MSP have hailed Saturday night’s street performance in Fraserburgh of ‘Fantasmagoria’ as ‘absolutely fantastic’.

Around 400 young people took part in the colourful parade which was watched by an estimated 6500-7000-strong crowd as it wound its way around Fraserburgh town centre. Both Dr Whiteford and Mr Stevenson were among the crowd to see the parade start off from the Dalrymple Hall.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“This was a wonderful spectacle to witness. A huge amount of work had obviously been put in by the young people to their costumes, the floats and the music.

“I don’t think the Broch had seen anything quite like it before and the efforts of the performers were clearly appreciated by those who turned out on such a cold night to see them.”


Local MSP Stewart Stevenson added:

“I’m delighted for the young people involved that they received such strong support from the townspeople of the Broch for their efforts.

“An estimated audience of around 7000 is an absolutely fantastic achievement and all those involved in making Saturday night’s event such a success deserve our congratulations.”

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SNP COMMENT ON WELFARE REFORMS

Sunday, 7 November 2010

CON/DEMS SHOULD PRIORITISE REAL JOBS

Commenting on the preview of welfare reforms in the Sunday press, including forcing long-term benefit claimants to do manual labour, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

"The Con/Dem coalition have got their priorities all wrong – they should be focusing on supporting recovery and job creation, instead of spending cuts which are too fast and too deep and will actuallydestroy employment.

"Yes, we must look at how best we get people back into the workplace, but such reforms must be undertaken with care and common sense. Apart from anything else, this Tory/Lib Dem idea could well cut across other initiatives, such as prisoners having to do hard work through tough punishment in the community, which both the UK and Scottish Governments are pursuing in order to cut reoffending rates.

"The Tory/Lib Dem assumption does appear to be that everybody on benefits is somehow cheating the system or work-shy – what the Con/Dem coalition should be working on most is creating real jobs."

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MP SEES AWARD-WINNING 'Walkodile'® IN ACTION

Friday, 5 November 2010

Banff & Buchan MP Dr. Eilidh Whiteford recently had the opportunity to see a demonstration of the award-winning 'Walkodile'® in action at Peterhead. 

Children of the First Class Nursery in Peterhead were very enthusiastic about demonstrating the unique road-safety device, which facilitates the safe conduct of small groups of children by foot. 

The product's inventor, local woman Elaine Stephen, gave the MP a demonstration of the unique advantages of the product, and briefed the MP on the many awards which both she, and the 'Walkodile'®, had won for the invention and its development. 

Commenting on the demonstration, Dr. Eilidh Whiteford said: 

"I have followed the development of the 'Walkodile'® with considerable interest, and it was a great pleasure to finally see it in action for myself.  Elaine's invention has made a contribution to the road safety of small children. 

"I was particularly impressed by the very positive and constructive comments from the existing users of the product.  The 'Walkodile'® is now enjoying global recognition and is being exported world-wide.  It is a huge success, both as a safety device, and as a business model.  I wish Elaine continued success, and Peterhead should be proud to be the home of this innovation." 

Elaine Stephen said:

"The main reason I came up with my idea was to make sure the children in my care were as safe as possible.  Taking large groups of unpredictable young children outside class is not an easy task." 

The 'Walkodile'® will feature as part of National Road Safety Week later this month, when it is planned to have a nationwide co-ordinated walk by users of the device, and will feature in Global Entrepreneurship Week.

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LOCAL MP RAISES MACKEREL DISPUTE AT COMMONS QUESTIONS

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has raised the mackerel dispute with the UK Fisheries Minister in the House of Commons.

The SNP MP used the opportunity of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Question Time to urge the UK Government to take a robust line in defence of our historic fishing rights.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Dr Whiteford said:

“I am sure that Ministers share my disappointment that last week’s talks aimed at resolving the mackerel dispute between Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway and the EU ended without resolution. The ongoing uncertainty is causing great distress to the pelagic fleet and parts of the processing sector in my constituency, where much of the industry is based. Those people have much to lose and little to gain in the negotiations.

“Will the Minister update the House on the outcome of those negotiations, and assure us that the Government will take a robust line in those talks to defend our historic fishing rights and to ensure that the EU does not acquiesce to the unreasonable and environmentally destructive demands being made by Iceland and the Faroes?"


UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon gave an assurance to the Banff & Buchan MP that both he and his department would take a firm line with the Icelandic and Faroese proposals.

Commenting afterwards, Dr Whiteford said:

“I am grateful to the Minister for his assurance. However, we need to keep pressing for strong action from the EU over the unilateral quotas set by Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

“Our fishing communities need strong action - and it's also what needs to be done to protect the health of our mackerel stocks. That's why we need a strong Scottish voice speaking-up for the historic rights of our coastal communities.”

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LOCAL MP TO PRESENT COMPUTER EQUIPMENT TO SCHOOLS

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford will present four local schools with computer equipment as part of the Tesco ‘Computers for Schools’ scheme on Friday 5 November (tomorrow) at 2.00pm at Tesco, South Harbour Road, Fraserburgh.

Store Manager Fraser Wenseth will meet the MP on arrival and teachers and pupil representatives from Fraserburgh North School, St Andrews School, South Park School and Inverallochy School will be on hand to receive their equipment.

Dr Whiteford commented:

“I am delighted to be handing out computer equipement to local primary schools.

“‘Computers for Schools’ has been running for nearly 20 years now and a lot of very welcome additional equipment has gone into Banff & Buchan schools during that time. I think it is important that large national chains recognise that they have a duty to put something back into the community and I congratulate Tesco on this excellent initiative.”

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WHITEFORD RAISES POSTAL CONCERNS IN COMMONS

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has raised continuing concern regarding the Tory and Lib Dem plans to sell-off the Post Office and the possible impact on rural areas during a debate in Westminster. 

Speaking during the debate in the House of Commons, Dr Whiteford said: 

"I represent a very rural constituency, and one thing that we have seen over recent years is new businesses springing up and using the internet to sell goods further afield than the isolated rural areas in which they are based.  I am very concerned that the loss both of the universal service commitment and of Post Offices is inhibiting business growth.  That will absolutely undermine existing small businesses and disincentivise new ones, not only in the Post Office network but in the wider rural economy." 

Responding to the debate, the Minister responsible for the Post Office, Edward Davey, confirmed that the UK Government would announce its policy statement soon. 

Speaking afterwards, Dr Whiteford commented: 

"The Post Office plays a vital part in the life of local communities, and the UK Government needs to follow the lead of the Scottish Government and do much more to secure the future of the network in challenging times. 

"While the UK Government claims that there will be no more closure programmes, the fact is that the current privatisation plans threaten the future of deliveries, jobs and services. 

"We need clarity from Ministers over the implications that the Postal Services Bill will have for the network and how, for example, plans for mutualism will work. 

"With so many Post Offices interlinked with other businesses, for example, located in branches of supermarkets or newsagents, it is difficult to see how this diverse structure can easily work as a mutual organisation. 

"The UK Government should follow the lead of the Scottish Government who are doing what they can to support the network through initiatives like the business bonus scheme to provide rates relief and the Post Office diversification fund. These are concrete examples of how relatively small sums of money can be utilised to help strengthen the Post Office network."

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