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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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LOCAL HEALTH SERVICES TAKE TORY TAX HIT

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Health services used by people in Banff & Buchan will be hit by a multi-million pound tax bill as the Tory Government’s VAT rise kicks in at the beginning of January. The VAT increase is opposed by Banff & Buchan SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford, and MSP Stewart Stevenson.

Added to the increase in National Insurance payments that the NHS is picking up the total cost to NHS Grampian is around £4 million.

Because the NHS employs a high number of people it is particularly exposed to the National Insurance changes.

In total the Scottish NHS will have to pay around 17 million pounds in extra National Insurance payments to the London Treasury this coming year and a further 26.5 million pounds increase in VAT payments. A total of over 43 million pounds being lost from frontline services directly to the London Treasury.

In the election the Tories claimed they would scrap Labour’s tax on jobs and immediately after the Tory government’s budget David Cameron told Moray SNP MP Angus Robertson that “our action on national insurance contributions has saved the NHS money”. However backtracking by the Tories have left the rise in place.

Commenting on the multi-million pound tax bill directly hitting local health service users SNP MSP for Banff & Buchan Stewart Stevenson said:

“The Tory government is hitting NHS Grampian with a multi-million pound tax bill and the people who will suffer are the patients.

“This is a double tax bombshell for the NHS – a grotesque Christmas present where the NHS has to pay the UK Government back for the misleading pledges of the Westminster parties.

“Labour introduced the damaging changes to National Insurance, the Tories have left it in place and it is Scotland’s public services and our economy that will pay the price.

“The cost to NHS Grampian is equivalent to over 150 nurses salaries per year.”


Local MP Eilidh Whiteford added:

“The Prime Minister claimed he was saving the NHS money when in fact he is costing it millions.

“Whilst all the London parties have shown they can’t be trusted on tax it is the SNP which is the party that stands for Scotland's people and Scotland's interests. While Tory, Labour and Lib Dem planned to take taxes from Scotland’s NHS the SNP has worked hard to put more money into our health service to ensure it remains the first quality service we all want to see.

“Our public services across Banff & Buchan are being hit by massive tax bills in the coming year over and above the huge budget cuts coming from Tory-led government and people in the North-east are facing a double whammy on public services.”

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WHITEFORD APPEAL OVER FAREPAK ‘NIGHTMARE OF CHRISTMAS PAST’

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Banff & Buchan MP and SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson, Eilidh Whiteford, has issued a Christmas Eve appeal to the UK Government calling for compensation for Farepak families, who are still waiting for reparation four years after the collapse.

Comparing the UK Government’s response to bailing out the banks with Farepak, Dr Whiteford has written to Business Secretary Vince Cable, asking why 20,000 Scottish customers, who lost their Christmas savings in 2006 are still out of pocket.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“The UK Government bent-over-backwards to bail out the banks but hasn’t found a single penny for the Farepak families, many of whom are in Banff & Buchan.

“It is four years since Farepak collapsed, but that nightmare of Christmas past is still being felt by many low income families. Savers are likely to recover just 5p in the pound, while the final bill for the administrators and their legal advisers could reach £3m.

“It is simply disgraceful that, years after the company collapsed, that customers are still waiting for their money back.

“The UK Government needs to bring forward compensation for these families, particularly given that it was its failure to secure adequate consumer protection through regulation that allowed the Farepak Christmas crisis to happen.

“UK Ministers should step in without further delay to secure compensation for those who lost out so badly.”

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SNP SEIZE ON NEW LIBDEM MINISTER REVELATIONS

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The SNP have seized on further damaging revelations that senior LibDem Ministers, including Scotland Secretary Michael Moore, have privately condemned coalition policies on welfare reform and university tuition fees in recordings made by undercover reporters.

Commenting SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

"This is devastating for the Lib Dems in Scotland - Michael Moore has shown them to be utterly devoid of principle. Their duplicitous conduct over tuition fees and painful welfare reforms, which Michael Moore voted for publicly but privately condemns, shows why the LibDems just can’t be trusted. These revelations are not just hugely embarrassing they are the death knell of the LibDems as a progressive party either north of south of the Border."

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BAN ‘FAIR-WEATHER FIRMS’ FROM ROYAL MAIL BID - MP

Monday, 20 December 2010

Local MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has called for “fair-weather firms” who abandoned deliveries to addresses in Scotland because of the winter weather to be banned from bidding for Royal Mail under privatisation plans.

The SNP MP – who is a member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee which is currently examining postal services in Scotland - said the suspension of deliveries by private delivery companies underlined the difference between private firms and Royal Mail whose universal service obligation ensures that deliveries continue in all conditions.

Dr Whiteford has also supported an Early Day Motion (EDM) on the issue in Parliament tabled by an SNP MP.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“The difference between fair-weather firms who abandoned deliveries and Royal Mail who are battling through the winter weather to meet their obligations to people in Banff & Buchan totally reinforces the case to keep the post public.

“The companies that cancelled Christmas deliveries are not up to the standards of the universal postal service, and they should not be allowed to bid for Royal Mail under the UK Government’s privatisation proposals.

“We already know that Vince Cable is considering scrapping Saturday deliveries and switching to five day a week delivery – the absolute minimum allowed under European regulations. It is simply inconceivable that the universal service obligation could survive in its current form after privatisation.

“Any reduction in the universal service obligation will be hardest felt by people in rural areas like Banff & Buchan, and crucially businesses, who rely about these deliveries. More so, at a time of economic turbulence it is absolutely crucial that businesses in rural areas have access to high quality mail services.

“The universal service obligation is vital to individuals and small businesses throughout Scotland and must not be put at risk by privatisation. This should be a wake up call to Vince Cable to reconsider his plans and abandon plans to sell off this vital national resource. At the very least he should make it abundantly clear that no company which is prepared to simply abandon services in Scotland will be considered as a purchaser of any part of Royal Mail.

“Royal Mail cannot be viewed as just another company. It provides an essential public service, especially to smaller communities and small businesses who do not have access to alternative carriers.”

Note:

The text of Angus MP Mike Weir’s EDM is detailed below:

Mail Deliveries

That this House congratulates Royal Mail employees in their sterling efforts to keep mail deliveries going in Scotland despite the recent atrocious weather; contrasts this with the decision of several private delivery services to abandon all attempts to deliver in Scotland; believes that this demonstrates the difference between Royal Mail’s social obligations under the universal service and the attitude of private operators; calls upon the UK government to abandon plans to privatise Royal Mail or, at the very least, to state that no company which has shown itself unwilling to continue deliveries in these circumstances would be considered as a purchaser or partner of Royal Mail.

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LOCAL MP URGES UK TRANSPORT SECRETARY TO ACT ON FUEL SUPPLIES

Friday, 17 December 2010

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has contacted UK Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond to urge a further relaxation of the restrictions placed on driver hours to enable essential fuel supplies to get through.

The SNP MP has acted after being contacted by constituents and fuel suppliers who are experiencing shortages of fuel due to the extreme weather conditions.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“In rural Aberdeenshire and Banffshire, which have once again been hit with severe weather conditions, supplies are simply not reaching the people who most urgently need them. Suppliers report that the weather conditions of recent weeks have created a backlog of orders, with the extended cold snap creating unprecedented demand.

“Suppliers are telling me that journeys are at present taking 3-4 hours longer than normal to complete, and that they are doing their best, but cannot reach some rural areas quickly enough in these conditions.

“I have therefore contacted the UK Transport Secretary, who has responsibility for the regulations which cover lorry drivers, to urge that a further relaxation of the restrictions on working hours be allowed in order to cope with these pressing circumstances.”

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WHITEFORD RAISES DRACONIAN FARM PENALTIES IN COMMONS

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has raised the issue of draconian farm penalties in the House of Commons.

The SNP MP was speaking during DEFRA Questions, where Minister of State Jim Paice MP agreed that the penalties which could be imposed are out of all proportion.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Dr Whiteford said:

“One of the main issues that is raised repeatedly with me by farmers is the whole issue of cross compliance and the very heavy penalties farmers face for very minor infringements of no material consequence whatsoever, and does the Minister share my view that these penalties are out of all proportion, and will he raise it with the Commission as a matter of urgency.

Responding, DEFRA Minister of State Jim Paice MP said:

“I entirely share that view that these penalties are entirely out of proportion. I have raised it with the Commission and more importantly both I and many other Ministers of Agriculture have raised it in the context of the review of the CAP which has just commenced. We have expressed firmly to the Commission that the next system of CAP must be much more simple for individual farmers and for member states to implement.

Commenting afterwards, Dr Whiteford said:

“This is a serious issue and one which is a cause for much concern amongst farmers all across Scotland.

“Some very minor mistakes indeed may lead to a huge penalty being handed down which simply cannot be justified in the overall context of the original error.

“I am encouraged by the Minister’s response but action speaks louder than words and I hope we will see real priority and progress on this issue as part of the CAP negotiations.”

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LOCAL MP HAILS BANFF CHRISTMAS EVENT

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Local MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has congratulated the organisers of Saturday’s Christmas Lights Switch-On and Victorian Theme Day on a successful event.

Dr Whiteford judged the best shop window display and best dressed Victorian adult and child as part of the day’s festivities. The event, which was organised by Banff, Macduff & District Business Association and the Banff & Macduff Christmas Lights Committee drew a steady crowd of shoppers to Banff town centre.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“I was delighted to be asked to participate in the day’s activities. There were some great costumes on display as people really got into the spirit of the event.

“The organisers put in a huge amount of effort and deserve our gratitude

“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 VOTES AGAINST TIME-CHANGE PLAN

Friday, 3 December 2010

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has today condemned proposals to change daylight savings time after Tory, LibDem and Labour MPs backed a Private Members Bill which seeks to leave Scotland with darker mornings.

The Bill, which now moves to Committee stage, would require the UK Government to conduct a cross-departmental analysis of the potential costs and benefits of advancing time by one hour for all, or part of, the year. If this analysis found that a clock change would benefit the UK, the Bill requires that the Government initiate a trial clock change to determine the full implications.

Speaking in the House of Commons earlier today during the debate, the Banff & Buchan MP referred to the dangers of roads remaining icy for longer as a result of the time change. She said:

“The benefits of the measure are rather untested and are outweighed by the dangers of driving in hazardous conditions, which have not been properly considered. Some of the evidence we have heard demonstrates that the methodology is rather flawed and the evidence is incomplete.

“The other factor that has not been considered is that, when the experiment took place in the 1960s, road fatalities in the North of Scotland did, indeed, increase. That happened despite the fact that, during the same period, speed limits, drink-driving legislation and seat belts were introduced. Unless we believe that none of those measures had any impact on road safety, we have to take some of the evidence on road safety with a big pinch of salt. Early mornings are a hazardous time to be on the roads. We cannot just isolate the one issue of darkness and extrapolate from that without considering the wider context.”

Commenting afterwards, Dr Whiteford said:

“The progress of this Bill is literally a wake-up call to the prospect of dark mornings for everyone north of Manchester, and has been pushed through by MPs from the south with no regard to the impact these changes would have on the quality of life for people in the north.

“The evidence put forward supporting this change is dubious at best and the proponents of this Bill have ignored the sound reasons why this change was abandoned after being trialled in the 1970s, and more recently by other European neighbours who found that the shift had a damaging effect on safety, health, energy consumption and commerce.

“This change would be acutely felt in Scotland, raising real safety and quality of life concerns, and this is now a real test for the Tory Government and its claims of a respect agenda for Scotland. It is also outrageous that this step is being taken without any consultation with the devolved administrations.”

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WHITEFORD LEADS WESTMINSTER DEBATE AHEAD OF EU TALKS

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Leading the fisheries debate in Westminster today, SNP Westminster Fisheries spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP said that the fishing industry must at last be treated as a serious political priority by the UK Government.

The Banff & Buchan MP secured time in parliament for a debate on fisheries ahead of crucial EU talks, and after it emerged that no Government time was to be made available for a fisheries debate, unlike in previous years.

Dr Whiteford used the debate to call for action to end discards with a ‘catch-less and land-more’ approach which incentivises conservation and reduces discarding.

Commenting Dr Whiteford said:

“This is a crunch time for Scottish fishing and the industry must be treated as a serious political priority by the UK Government.

“With the prospects from the Fisheries Council offering a grim outlook for parts of the sector, including likely reductions in Total Allowable Catches for some of our key stocks, this debate comes at a crucial moment.

“The UK Government must finally acknowledge the abject failure of the CFP in its current form. It has failed the fishing industry, it has failed as a conservation strategy, and it’s failed our coastal communities.

“The real challenges we face now have to be seen in the context of a Common Fisheries Policy that for over 30 years has been systematically damaging our marine ecosystems, eroding the livelihoods of fishermen, and is inconsistently applied across the European Union. It is simply not fit for purpose. It’s my belief that we will not realise an economically and environmentally sustainable fishing industry until the CFP is replaced with a workable model of fisheries management.

“There is a growing consensus in the fishing industry, among fishing leaders, scientists, and environmental NGOs that a Regionalised approach offers a better way forward than the one-size-fits-nobody approach we have at the moment.

“Scotland has been at the forefront of pushing alternatives to the culture of discards imposed by Europe's flawed fisheries policy that forces fishermen to dump good quality fish back overboard, dead into the sea. This is a waste of a valuable food and economic resource. Nobody gains from discards, it is an abhorrent practice that can't be tolerated.

“This is a consequence of a European policy that determines quotas and catches based on what is landed rather than what is caught. It is why, in Scotland, have been saying that the way forward must be to 'catch less, land more'. That is, a system where fishermen catch fewer fish in the first place, yet land more of what they do catch. It is estimated that a system of no discarding cod and haddock could add as much as £16 million to the value of North Sea fisheries.

“A priority for the upcoming EU negotiations must be extension of the catch quota scheme trial led by the Scottish Government to one where any fisherman can take part, and to benefit from an increased 'catch quota', as well as extension of the scheme to cover other stocks such as haddock, whiting and plaice.”

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