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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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Tory Boundary Changes Will Harm Democracy - MP

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has submitted her response to the Boundary Commission for Scotland’s Sixth Review of UK Parliament Constituencies.

Proposals from the Tory/Lib Dem London Government will see the number of Scottish MPs reduced from the present 59 to 52 and constituencies made much larger as a result.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“I have concerns regarding the size of the constituencies being proposed for Scotland, both in terms of numbers of electors and geographical area. The reduction in the number of elected MPs takes place in a context where they are already outnumbered by unelected members of the House of Lords. I fear fewer MPs serving unwieldy constituencies will only serve to make elected representatives more remote from their constituents.”

Regarding the new boundaries proposed for Banff & Buchan, which sees Ellon and surrounding areas move into the constituency, Dr Whiteford continued:

“Insofar as there will be changes, then reuniting the communities of Buchan into the same constituency makes sense.

“The communities of Buchan, from Fraserburgh to Ellon and from Turriff to Peterhead, were part of the same constituency for nearly a hundred years, so it is logical to use what worked well in the past as a blueprint for trying to make these changes work.”


Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson added:

“Community ties and historic connections are important in defining constituencies.

“I argued successfully when the Scottish Parliament constituencies were being reviewed that it would be quite wrong to name a new constituency stretching westward to Buckie “Buchan Coast”. The eventual name, Banffshire & Buchan Coast, is far more reflective of the communities which make up the constituency.

“Similarly, for the Westminster constituency, the opportunity has arisen to reunite historic Buchan and I am pleased that the Boundary Commission have recognised that with their initial proposals.”

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Whiteford Appeal Over Farepak 'Nightmare Of Christmas Past'

Saturday, 24 December 2011

AFTER FIVE YEARS IT IS TIME FOR A FAIR DEAL FOR FAREPAK FAMILIES

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson and local MP Eilidh Whiteford has issued a Christmas appeal to the UK Government calling for compensation for Farepak families, who are still waiting for reparation five years after the collapse of the Christmas saving scheme.

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 – including many in Banff & Buchan - are still out of pocket.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“The UK Government bent-over-backwards to bail out the banks, and is rightly compensating customers of Equitable Life but hasn’t found a single penny for the Farepak families.

“It is five 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 has already exceeded £8 million.

“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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Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP Delivers Christmas Encouragement To Royal Mail Posties At Peterhead Delivery Office

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has visited Royal Mail’s Peterhead Delivery Office to pass on best Christmas wishes and encouragement to the postmen and women at their busiest time of year.

Eilidh was shown round the Delivery Office by local Delivery Office Manager Garry Saunders and was introduced to all the postmen and women who are working hard doing their bit to sort and deliver the area’s share of the estimated total Scottish Christmas postbag of over 180 million items.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

Kevin Thom; Eilidh Whiteford MP;
James Whyte; Garry Saunders (l to r)
“It was great to meet the hard-working Royal Mail postmen and women at Peterhead Delivery Office and to see at first hand just how much effort they put into delivering the Christmas post for people at this time of year.

“Posties do such an important job at this time of year and I like to thank them for their efforts and wish them all the best over the busy festive period.”

Garry Saunders, Royal Mail Delivery Office Manager at Peterhead said:

“Christmas is the busiest time of year, and our people really do pull out all the stops to deliver the Christmas mailbag. We are pleased that Eilidh came along to witness the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.”

He added:

“The postal staff do a fantastic job at this time of year to ensure that friends and families stay in touch through their Christmas greetings and gifts. And as usual, we urge our customers to post early so that friends and family have longer to enjoy their Christmas greetings!”

It is also vital that people remember the last posting dates for mail. These are:
  • Tuesday 20 December for 1st Class items
  • Saturday 17 December for 2nd Class items
  • Thursday 22 December for Special Delivery items
  • Monday 12 December for airmail items to Western Europe
  • Friday 9 December for Eastern Europe, the USA, Canada and Japan
  • Monday 5 December for mail to the rest of the world
To help Royal Mail at its busiest time of the year, customers are being encouraged to take a few simple steps:
  • Post early – to help Royal Mail spread the workload, post early and order presents early. The last posting dates this Christmas are: December 17 for 2nd Class mail; December 20 for 1st Class mail; December 22 for Special Delivery
  • Use a postcode – A clearly addressed card or parcel, with a postcode, helps Royal Mail sort the item more efficiently
  • Use Special Delivery – For valuable packages and parcels guarantee delivery, Royal Mail’s Special Delivery service is recommended, This means your gift is tracked, traced and insured against loss
  • Parcelforce Worldwide’s Express services – These offer fast international delivery across the world from next working day, and the Scheduled service takes from three working days. Available to 240 countries worldwide, both are ideal for sending valuable and treasured items across the globe. For more information visit www.parcelforce.com
  • For more information about Christmas with Royal Mail visit: http://www.royalmail.com/ or call 08457 740 740.

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Fisheries Talks Underline Need For Scottish Voice In Europe

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

SNP Fisheries Spokeswoman, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said the outcome of the EU fisheries talks underlined the damage done to Scotland’s relationship with the European Union by the behaviour of the UK Government.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“Scotland’s Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead worked through the night to ease the pressure on the Scottish fishing fleet but it is clear more could have been achieved if Scotland had started from a stronger position at the talks.

“There can be no doubt that the irresponsible political posturing of the UK Government made securing the concessions we needed at these fisheries talks more difficult.

“An independent Scotland would be able to take our own seat at the top table and negotiate the best deal for Scotland.”

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MP Helps Deliver Christmas Cheer To Sheltered Housing Residents

Monday, 19 December 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford joined members of the Rosehearty Bonfire Committee in delivering Christmas food hampers to elderly residents of Malcolm Forbes Court, Pitsligo Street, Rosehearty yesterday (Sunday).

Each year, the Rosehearty Bonfire Committee raise money at their fireworks display which is used to buy the hampers, which are delivered to elderly residents at Christmas.

Commenting afterwards, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“It was a pleasure to help the Rosehearty Bonfire Committee with their annual hamper delivery to the older residents in the village and the Committee are to be commended for such a worthwhile initiative.

“The hampers I helped to deliver were very well-received by the residents at Malcolm Forbes Court, as I am sure they were throughout the village.”

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Whiteford Highlights Farmers' Frustrations In Commons Debate

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

EGG IMPORTS UNDER FIRE

As the implementation date for a new European Council Directive edges ever closer, SNP Member of Parliament for Banff & Buchan, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, has spoken out in the House of Commons on the inadequate legal framework to enforce the new Directive and protect Scottish farmers.

The Directive, which sets down minimum standards for improving the welfare of laying hens and prohibits the use of conventional ‘battery’ cages, is due to come into force on 1st January 2012.

Egg producers in Banff and Buchan have invested heavily in upgrading their facilities in line with the requirements of the Directive. However, it is clear that not all eggs produced in the EU will be compliant by the implementation date. This has led to concerns that ‘illegal’ eggs and egg products could find their way into the UK market, and undermine UK and Scottish farmers.

The SNP’s Dr Whiteford commented after speaking in a Westminster debate, attended by the UK Government Minister for Agriculture and Food:

“What has emerged from the debate today is that no powers exist for the EU or any member state to introduce a ban preventing non-complaint eggs from being traded.”

“It is incredible that we are powerless to stop illegally produced eggs from entering our country, when the producers of those eggs have had 12 years to bring their production up to standard.”

“I welcome the representations that have been made to the European Commission on this issue, and the steps taken by the UK and Scottish Governments to mitigate the worst effects of this Directive, but I share the frustration of farmers in my own constituency, and across Scotland, who will have their investment and their competitiveness undermined.”

“There has been a complete lack of foresight from the European Commission in failing to put enforcement measures in place for egg producers that did not comply with this Directive. The Commission and member states with compliant industries are now practically impotent to prevent the import of illegally produced eggs.

“Valuable lessons must be learned from this experience to ensure that we do not implement new European rules to see other EU members flout them with impunity."


Dr Whiteford had previously won assurances from the Chief Executives of Tesco, Morrisons and ASDA that none of their eggs or own-brand egg products would be sourced from non-compliant eggs.

European Council Directive 1999/74/EC will come into effect from 1 January 2012. The Directive sets down minimum standards for improving the welfare of laying hens and prohibits the use of conventional (‘battery’) cages.

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MP Visits Fraserburgh Birthing Unit

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Commenting following her visit to the Birthing Unit at Fraserburgh Hospital on Friday, Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

“This was a very useful visit and it was helpful to meet staff and see at first hand the facilities that are currently available.

“The consultation document highlights the shortcomings in existing provision and the limitations of the birthing unit. However, as we saw with the severe weather last week, Fraserburgh is some distance from acute NHS services and NHS managers have to take account of the practical realities of our geography and climate when they plan services.

“It is really important that women who have used or who plan to use maternity services in the Fraserburgh area make their views known. It is only possible to build services around women’s needs if women speak out about the kind of provision they want to see.”

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Whiteford Given Assurance On Mintlaw Post Office

Thursday, 8 December 2011

ROYAL MAIL BOSSES SAY NORMAL HOURS TO RESUME FROM WEDNESDAY

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has received an assurance from Royal Mail bosses that Mintlaw Post Office will resume normal opening hours with effect from next Wednesday.

The MP contacted Royal Mail last month after the Post Office branch was closed pending an investigation into alleged irregularities. The move left the largest village in Buchan without a Post Office service for several days and Royal Mail bosses arranged for temporary opening hours to be put in place on three days per week.

Following feedback from the community that this was inadequate to meet the needs of the Mintlaw area, Dr Whiteford continued to push for a resumption of normal service.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“I made further representations to Royal Mail and I am pleased to confirm that normal opening hours will resume at Mintlaw Post Office from next Wednesday, 14 December.

“This is an extremely busy time of year for Post Offices, and I hope the return to normal opening hours will help alleviate the community's concerns about the reduced service.”

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Labour Let Tories Off The Hook On Pension Reforms

Labour have been condemned for letting the Tories off the hook over punitive public sector pension reforms after the party failed to back an SNP and Plaid Cymru motion which called for the UK Government to reverse unfair changes to public sector pensions.

The debate – the first since the UK Government announced its pension reforms - comes after more than two million public sector workers took part in a day of action last week. The SNP and Plaid Cymru debate had been welcomed by a number of unions.

Speaking after the vote, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“Instead of uniting against these punitive reforms, it is incredible that Labour have chosen to let the Tories off the hook and let public sector workers down by sitting on their hands.

“The millions of workers who marched through the streets last week will be aghast that Labour MPs have refused to even walk through the lobbies for them.

“This was the first debate and vote since the UK Government announced its plans, and it should have been a moment when MPs from all parties united against these coalitions cuts.

“Labour are clearly not interested in the welfare of public sector workers. Despite having had thirty six debates to raise this issue, since the UK Government announced their plans, Labour has remained silent.

“It is also clear that these punitive reforms are all about the UK Government's deficit reduction plans, and have nothing to do with securing sustainable pensions. The aggressive and arrogant threat to reduce the Scottish Budget if their reforms are not implemented proves that the Scottish Government has no option outside applying these increases and that the UK Government continues to have the power to meddle and influence issues which are central to the future of Scotland and which should be for the Scottish Government to decide.

“The need for affordable, sustainable and fair public sector pensions is of critical importance to everyone, which is why the short term cash grab by the UK Government is so concerning. Long-term pension reforms must be taken forward with consent and in partnership which is why it was so regrettable that UK Ministers appeared to relish strike action.

“The SNP will continue to will ensure that the voice of ordinary public sector workers is heard in parliament."


Plaid Cymru Work and Pensions spokesperson, Hywel Williams MP, said:

“Last week’s Day of Action saw more than two million people express their concerns about the UK Government’s changes to public sector pensions and I am pleased that Plaid Cymru and the SNP brought those concerns to the House of Commons.

“These proposals mean public sector workers, who make up three in ten of the Welsh workforce, will work longer, pay more and receive less in their pensions.

“Sadly, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, who are making these changes, have been let off the hook by the failure of the Labour Party to stand up for public sector workers.

“That was only what we could expect from a party which did not support the Day of Action and have conspicuously failed to show active support for those who will be affected by these changes.

“We offered Labour MPs the opportunity to show their support for public sector workers – and they did not do so. I shall leave it to those workers to decide what that means.

“Plaid Cymru will continue to fight for fair pensions for everybody, including a living state pension and protecting workers.”

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MP Meets Mintlaw Club Members Bowled Over By New Solar Panels

Local MP Eilidh Whiteford will visit Buchan Indoor Bowling Club, South Street. Mintlaw on Friday 9 December (tomorrow) at 11.30am.

Members approached the MP earlier this year for guidance on what assistance may be available to the non-profit making club to install environmentally-friendly solar panels. Dr Whiteford took the matter up with the Energy Minister who clarified the situation and the club have now installed the new solar panels.

The MP has been invited to visit by club members to thank her for her assistance and to show off their new solar panel system.

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Payday Warning Prompts Crisis Loan Rethink

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

As insolvency experts today (Wednesday) warn that millions are likely to turn to high-interest payday loans, a parliamentary question tabled by an SNP MP has revealed that the number of consumer credit licences revoked annually by the regulator has more than doubled over recent years.

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP said stronger regulation was still needed to protect consumers and crack-down on unscrupulous lenders. Dr Whiteford also called for the UK Government to reconsider proposals to cut the availability and level of crisis loans which could drive more people towards high-interest lenders and illegal loan sharks.

Commenting Dr Whiteford said:

“It is clear, both from the insolvency sector warning and the doubling of consumer credit licences being revoked, that strong action is still needed to regulate the consumer credit industry and protect vulnerable individuals.

“This warning comes at a time of general economic uncertainty for many, and at a time of year when many households are struggling to make ends meet with the pressures of Christmas approaching.

“For many these loans are a last resort and, as well as taking action tighten regulation of the industry, the UK Government must also step back from its plans to cut the availability and level of crisis loans. The only winners from this cut by the Coalition Government will be loan sharks and high interest lenders.

“In the wake of this stark warning by the insolvency sector the UK Government must step back from its cruel plan to cut crisis loans.”

  1. Reports of the warning by the insolvency sector can be found here:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16063271
  2. A parliamentary question by Dr Whiteford which reveals that there were 39 consumer credit licenses revoked by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) during 2010/11, up from 16 revoked in 2008/09, and also up from the 27 licences revoked in 2009/10, can be found here:
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm111205/text/111205w0005.htm#11120627000583

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Calls For United Front In Public Pensions Vote

SNP AND PLAID USE OPPOSITION DAY TO FORCE PENSION DEBATE

Challenging MPs ahead of a vote tomorrow (Thursday) on public sector pensions secured by the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford urged MPs, from across parties and across the UK, to show a united front against changes proposed by the UK Government.

The debate comes after more than two million public sector workers took part in a Day of Action last week over the proposals, which will mean that they work longer, pay more in pension contributions but receive a smaller pension when they do finally retire.

Despite having 36 opposition day debates since public sector pension changes were first announced in June 2010 – including a debate on the day of the strikes - Labour have so far failed to put the issue on the agenda in Parliament.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Dr Whiteford said:

“It is clear from the day of action by workers last week that there is real anger over these reforms, yet there has been no debate and no vote at Westminster. Given the strength of public feeling, we must now have that debate and MPs, from across the parties and across the UK, must show a united front against these Coalition cuts.

“Despite having had thirty six debate days since to raise this issue, since the UK Government announced their plans, Labour has been ominously silent. This vote will be an opportunity for all MPs to make their position clear.

“The need for affordable, sustainable and fair public sector pensions is of critical importance to everyone, which is why the short term cash grab by the UK Government is so concerning. Long-term pension reforms must be taken forward with consent and in partnership which is why it was so regrettable that UK Ministers appeared to be relishing the prospect of strike action.

“This will also be an opportunity to debate the UK Government’s threat to cut Scotland’s budget by £100 million next year alone, on top of drastic cuts to Scotland’s budget, if the Scottish Government does not implement the UK Government’s immediate levy on pensions contributions.

“It is crucial that MP’s at last debate this issue which is why the SNP and Plaid Cymru will ensure that the voice of ordinary public sector workers is heard in parliament.”


Plaid Cymru Work and Pensions spokesperson, Hywel Williams MP, said:

“The pension changes are simply unfair. These proposals mean that millions of hard-working public sector employees, including teachers and nurses, will pay more from their salaries each month but receive less money when they retire. Work longer, pay more, get less.

“The UK Government will not discuss pension changes made in 2007-08 which, according to figures from the National Audit Office, show savings of 14% as a result.

“Plaid Cymru have recently uncovered the fact that the UK Government have carried out no re-evaluation of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme since those changes. So how can they claim that the scheme is unaffordable?

“The increase in contributions from salaries is not going to fund future pensions, as the government claims. Rather it is going to fill the hole created by the bankers bailout and by regulatory failure.

“With public sector wages being frozen and 710,000 job losses under new Con-Dem plans, this is a full frontal attack on the public sector, the backbone of our countries.

“It is wholly unacceptable that such major changes have not been properly debated in Parliament.

“The trade unions should consider why Labour have not called for this debate, that it is Plaid Cymru and the SNP who have done so and why Labour’s front bench do a disappearing act whenever strike action is mentioned.”

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Local MP And MSP Comment On Fraserburgh Maternity Consultation

Local MP Eilidh Whiteford and MSP Stewart Stevenson have commented on the issuing by NHS Grampian of a consultation on the future provision of maternity services at Fraserburgh Hospital.

Mr Stevenson was part of the successful community-led campaign in 2006/07 which fought the withdrawal of maternity services at Fraserburgh Hospital and secured the establishment of the birthing unit.

Commenting, Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

“We need to explore and investigate the issues around why this proposal has been made so soon after the birthing unit was established in 2007.

“To that end, I will be seeking to visit the birthing unit at Fraserburgh Hospital and also meet with senior management in NHS Grampian in early course.”


Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson added:

Stewart Stevenson MSP
at Broadford Hospital
which he visited during
the last campaign
“Back in 2006, when NHS Grampian last came forward with proposals to cease maternity services at Fraserburgh Hospital, the trend was for an increase in the numbers of home births

“Clearly there will be a number of factors at play here and I have no doubt that NHS Grampian would argue, just as they did in 2006, that the number of births taking place at the birthing unit create issues in terms of staff skills.

“Five years ago, we had an exemplary, well-informed campaign led by the community itself and not politicians. Campaigns led by the community are always the best. At that time, I also undertook a fact-finding visit to a birthing unit run by NHS Highland on Skye. There I found a valued local service which the staff were extremely proud of.

“We now need to engage with NHS Grampian once again and, if it is the will of the community, make the case again for maternity provision at Fraserburgh Hospital. To that end, I want to hear from the people of Fraserburgh and surrounding areas with their experiences of the birthing unit and their views on these proposals.”

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Pensions Should Be Set By Scottish Parliament Survey Shows

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Two thirds of people in Scotland believe the Scottish Parliament should be responsible for setting the state pension and back Holyrood taking responsibility for all the decisions affecting Scotland according to the latest report on the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey.

With 65% of people in Scotland calling for decisions on the state pension being taken at Holyrood the SNP’s Work and Pensions spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP said there is a clear appetite for the Scottish Parliament to take on responsibility for welfare and benefits across the country.

The support for Holyrood having control over pensions was set out in the latest report on the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, conducted between June and September this year which also showed independence is now the preferred option for Scotland’s future with 43% favouring the Scottish Parliament making all the decisions for Scotland, against only 21% in favour of the status quo and 29% for “devolution max”.

Dr Whiteford said:

“There is a growing demand amongst people in Scotland for their parliament to be responsible for the key issues that affect their lives.

“Nearly two thirds of people in Scotland want their state pension to be set by a Scottish Parliament that will understand their needs and the value of the pension to them far better than a UK government.

“Last year’s survey showed that 62% of people thought welfare benefits should be determined by Holyrood – and that has now increased again to 65%.

“There is clearly little trust left in the UK Government over pensions. From the miserly rises of the Labour years to the UK Government’s current plans to raid public sector pensions to pay off the deficit too many people have seen their pension mistreated too often.

“Figures show that Scotland, as an independent nation, would be in a better position than the UK to meet pension costs with pensions and benefits taking up a smaller amount of Scottish income, than they do across the UK.

“There is a growing confidence in the Scottish Parliament and an increasing belief that it is Scotland’s Parliament that should make the decisions that affect people’s lives.”


______
The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey interviewed 1,149 people between June and September 2011

  • Asked who should make key decisions for Scotland about pensions - 65% said the Scottish Parliament and 33% said Westminster
  • In 2010 respondents were asked Who should make key decisions for Scotland about welfare benefits – 62% said the Scottish Parliament.
Pension payments in Scotland total 15.1% of Scottish revenues, less than the 15.7% for the UK.

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SNP Welcome UK Government U-Turn On Mobility Cuts

Thursday, 1 December 2011

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP has welcomed news today (Thursday) that the UK Government has abandoned plans to remove the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance for people in residential care.

The UK Government had planned to scrap the payments to those living in residential care but today admitted that there was insufficient evidence to support their arguments that there was a funding overlap and that claimants were getting money from two sources for the same purpose.

Parliamentary questions by Dr Whiteford – who secured cross-party support for a motion calling for the government to reverse the cut - revealed that the cut would have impacted on approximately 60,000 people living in residential care, including an estimated 8,000 users of the Motability Car Scheme.

Dr Whiteford said:

“Threatening to remove the mobility component for people in residential care was one of the most callous cuts the Tories proposed, and this u-turn is a great victory for campaigners and common sense.

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

“Removing this allowance would effectively have meant that some people could no longer get out and about and would have been confined to their residential care home.

“The fact remains that the Tories have targeted the most vulnerable in society with their cuts, and I hope we will be able to force further u-turns by UK Ministers – for example, on the planned cuts to the availability of crisis loans.”

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MP To Switch On Cruden Bay Christmas Lights

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford switched on the Cruden Bay Christmas Lights on Sunday 27 November.

The Band of the Salvation Army commenced proceedings at 3.00pm at the village Christmas Tree on Main Street, Cruden Bay with the lights switched on thereafter.

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Whiteford Speaks Out In Fisheries Debate

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Speaking during a fisheries debate in the House of Commons today (Tuesday) SNP Westminster Fisheries spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford urged the UK Government to learn from the abject failure of the CFP and prioritise an approach that puts regional management at its heart.

Dr Whiteford also highlighted the success of the Scottish Government’s catch quote scheme which could help deliver a discard-free fishery.

Dr Whiteford, the MP for Banff and Buchan, said:

“This is a crucial time for Scottish fishing and the UK Government must learn from 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.

“The CFP must be replaced with a workable model of fisheries management, and there is a growing consensus in the 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.

“We need to get clarity from the European Commission on how they intend to deliver a regionalised approach. Until we get effective involvement in fisheries management from key stakeholders, the people on whom the decisions impact, we will not be able to move forward in any way. At this stage w e are still some distance from a policy that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable for our communities.

“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.

“The Scottish Government has set a priority for the upcoming EU negotiations to extend the successful catch quota scheme. I urge the UK Government to work with Scottish Ministers as well as international partners, including the Norwegians and the Commission, to drive that measure forward so that we can actually expand the catch quota system and make its success something that we can build on right across the European Union.”

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Labour 'Brass Neck' Over Peterhead CCS Project

Monday, 14 November 2011

Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has hit out at the hypocrisy of calls by the Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary for the UK Government to "crack on" with a carbon capture and storage project at Peterhead - the SNP MP pointed out that the last Labour Government, in which Caroline Flint was a Minister, had sabotaged the original project in 2007 by refusing to provide certainty over the policy framework required or financial support.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

"Caroline Flint has a lot of brass neck and not much irony given that it was the last Labour Government who sabotaged the original project in 2007 by refusing to provide certainty over the policy framework required or financial support.

"That project would have been the world's first pre-combustion carbon capture plant, but because of Labour's Downing Street dithering the project went to Abu Dhabi instead.

"We now need to ensure that the last government's mistakes are not repeated and the project goes ahead on track.

"Scottish and Southern Energy are to be commended for their continuing commitment to carbon capture and this project has huge environmental potential, and must be embraced by the government.

"This project will put Peterhead at the cutting-edge of carbon capture technology. The UK Government must now recognise the very strong case which exists for this project going ahead and the investment it will bring to Peterhead.

"The Scottish Government is doing everything it can to make Scotland the clean, green powerhouse of Europe - but the UK government has a record of holding Scotland back from achieving our full green energy potential in all areas.

"Instead of Westminster's bungling, the Scottish Parliament needs to gain responsibility for all energy issues in Scotland."

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Pensions & Welfare More Affordable In Independent Scotland

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Figures from GERS (Government Expenditure & Revenue in Scotland) show how an independent Scotland is better placed to fund pensions and welfare compared to the UK.

The analysis of the figures from GERS show that the size of Scotland’s social/welfare protection expenditure and state pension bill as a share of government revenue (with revenue being the money Scotland raises in tax for the very purpose of paying for public services) shows that in Scotland between 2005 and 2010 Scotland’s pension expenditure was 15.1% of Scottish revenues, less than the 15.7% for the UK.

And in terms of social/welfare protection expenditure it was 41.9% of Scottish revenues, less than the 43.2% for the UK.

These figures contrast with attempts by Michael Moore this week to compare Scottish welfare and pension spending solely with oil revenues – an exercise that if it applied to the UK as whole would result in a trillion pound deficit for the Whitehall Treasury.

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

“This week’s trillion pound blunder by Michael Moore to try and scaremonger pensioners only looks all the more ridiculous when compared to the whole picture.

“On the basis of taxes raised in Scotland, and once our welfare protection expenditure and state pensions are paid, Scotland actually has a relative surplus compared to the UK.

“In short Scotland is more able to afford our pension and welfare bill than the UK.

“Taking all spending in Scotland into account and all of our revenues, Scotland has run a current budget surplus in four of the five years to 2009/10 – while the UK was in current budget deficit in each of these years, and hasn’t run a current budget surplus since 2001/02.

“Michael Moore’s parroting of Tory arguments to talk Scotland down and use spurious comparisons to scaremonger pensioners shows how little confidence they have in their case.”


Calculation:

SOCIAL/WELFARE PROTECTION
UK social/welfare protection expenditure as % of total UK government revenues
Scottish social/welfare protection expenditure as % of total Scottish revenues
2005-10

2005-10
Social Spend £961,195
Social Spend £88,124
UK Govt. Revenue £2,601,007
Scottish Revenue £252,781
Social Spend as Revenue % 36.95%
Social Spend as Revenue % 34.90%





Scotland’s Social/welfare protection advantage in revenues


Revenue Advantage 2.09%







PENSIONS
UK Pensions as % of total government revenues
Pensions in Scotland as % of total Scottish revenues
2005-10

2005-10
Pensions Spend £353,472
Pensions Spend £31,459
UK Govt. Revenue £2,601,007
Scottish Revenue £252,781
Pensions as % of Revenue 13.59%
Pensions as % of Revenue 12.45%





Scotland’s state pension advantage in revenues


Revenue Advantage 1.14%







Source: Figures for social spend and pensions from the official Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report for 2009/10 [figures are millions]

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Local MP To Lay Wreath At Cruden Remembrance Ceremony

Friday, 11 November 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford will lay a wreath at Cruden Parish War Memorial, Cruden Parish Church, Cruden Bay on Sunday 13 November following the Service of Remembrance which commences at 10.30am.

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Peterhead MP Welcomes SSE-Shell Carbon Capture Agreement

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford today (Wednesday) hailed the announcement of a new joint development agreement between Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and Shell UK Limited for the development of the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project at SSE's gas-fired power station in Peterhead.

Questioning the Secretary of State for Scotland in parliament, Dr Whiteford demanded assurances that the UK Government will commit to the project, highlighting the failure of the previous Labour Government to support earlier an earlier project – and the more recent decision of the current Coalition Government to torpedo development of a Carbon Capture and Storage plant at Longannet.

Dr Whiteford said:

“This is great news for Peterhead and excellent news for Scotland’s renewable sector given we have some of Europe’s largest carbon storage reserves in our North Sea oil and gas fields combined with the expertise on how to access them.

“SSE are to be commended for their continuing commitment to carbon capture at Peterhead, and this project has huge environmental potential of international significance, and must be embraced by the government. This has been a key campaign for the SNP, and Alex Salmond, as First Minister and as the former local MP, battled to bring the development of carbon capture to the area.

“This project would put Peterhead at the cutting-edge of carbon capture technology. The UK Government must now recognise the very strong case which exists for this project going ahead and the investment it will bring to Peterhead.

“People have not forgotten that Peterhead could already have been three years ahead of where it is now had the last Labour Government not decided to pull back from its support for the previous carbon capture project.”

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Whiteford Comments On Argus Care Homes

Commenting on the news that Argus Care Homes, who operate Glenesk House Care Home in Turriff, have gone into administration, local MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

“I can appreciate that with this news, people with relatives and loved ones in Glenesk House in Turriff will be very concerned.

“I have been in contact with the administrators, PKF, regarding the situation and they stressed that there is absolutely no risk of closure of Glenesk House. I have been reassured that operators are in place to ensure that the care homes will be running as usual, while a new owner for the business is sought.

“I am also pleased to hear that the administrators are positive about finding a buyer for the business. I stand ready to assist should any help be required in bringing the situation to a positive resolution and have offered that assistance to the administrators this morning.”

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Whiteford Congratulates Turriff Heritage Society On Funding Award

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has congratulated Turriff Heritage Society after it secured funding from the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The ‘RBS Community Force’ is a new initiative which sees the Bank working with local communities to support the people, projects and charities making a real difference. Turriff Heritage Society won a public vote conducted via the Community Force website and has scooped £6275.

Welcoming the news, Eilidh Whiteford said:

“This is absolutely wonderful news for Turriff Heritage Society and I am delighted for the hard-working volunteers.

“I know that the Heritage Society have put in an immense amount of work since they received news that their funding was to be cut, and I was pleased to be able to support their event at Delgatie Castle recently.

“This funding award is richly-deserved and I congratulate the Society for their efforts.”

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Whiteford Speaks Up For Fishing Industry In Commons European Committee

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has urged the UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon to “push CFP negotiations as far as possible”. Dr Whiteford was speaking during a debate on fisheries in the House of Commons European Committee.

Speaking in the Committee, the SNP MP said:

“When discussing CFP reform, it is important that we put it in the context of the past 10 years. The communities that I represent have watched their fleets halve over that time, and I have seen the devastation that that has brought to some of those coastal towns and villages. One lesson that we have learned from the past is that the previous reforms caused a great deal of pain in those communities as boats were decommissioned. Unfortunately, our fishermen are now being asked to take more of the same. I appreciate the Minister saying that none of us would want to start from where we are now, which is right, but at the same time the people who have already made sacrifices are now being asked to make more. My concern with the proposals that I have seen so far is that they go nowhere near far enough to address the underlying social, economic and environmental problems that the CFP has caused in our fishing waters.

“The people whom I represent have done more than any other fishermen anywhere in the EU to make their fishery sustainable. They have taken huge steps towards innovative measures such as trying to use selective gears and all kinds of new approaches. They have developed many ways forward, so that 80% of fish landed now comes from managed stocks. They are also working towards Marine Conservation Society certification in so many of the key stocks. That is huge progress. They have made more progress on discards than anywhere else in Europe, and it is important that they see a reward for the steps that they have taken and for how far they have come.

“The challenges that, in particular, the whitefish and prawn fleets face are symptomatic of the failures that we have seen. We need to remember, that there is a knock-on effect and that not only fishermen, but whole communities suffer. In my constituency, the processing sector, which provides at least as many jobs—if not more—than those that are directly involved in fishing, also suffers.

“The catch quota system has already been alluded to by the Minister as something that has been very successful, and I must agree, but it is a small pilot scheme. In Scotland, only some 26 vessels are involved. The problem is that there are simply not enough quotas around for that to be expanded. However, that seems to be a more economically and environmentally viable way forward than some of the other proposals on the table. I urge the Minister to work with the Norwegians and the Commission to push that measure forward so that we can actually expand the catch quota system and make its success something that we can build on right across the European Union.

“I am still not convinced that internationally transferable quotas offer as viable a way forward as the claims would suggest, and that comes from the fact that, in Scotland, a lot of the fleet is locally owned. I know that that is not the case in other parts of the UK, but I am concerned that if we open the door to quotas being traded internationally, we will lose the knock-on economic benefits of having a locally owned and managed fisheries sector. I want to see the legal evidence that any safeguards that we put in place around ITQs will not be open to legal challenge. We need the detail of that before we can really see it as a way forward.

“Finally, as I remarked earlier, regionalisation is key. Unless we get effective regionalisation we will not be able to move this forward in any way. We are still quite a long way from a policy that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable for our communities. I urge the Minister to push the CFP negotiations as far as possible because we still need to go an awful lot further.”

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Whiteford Concern At Sheffield Hallam Welfare Warning

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The withdrawal of incapacity benefit must be based on medical need the SNP said today (Tuesday) as a report by Sheffield Hallam University warned that the UK Government’s welfare reforms would leave “countless” households facing “untold distress” as the entitlement to incapacity benefits is cut by 115,000 by 2014.

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“Withdrawal of incapacity benefit must be based on individual medical need not some arbitrary target set by Ministers in Whitehall.

“It is difficult to believe that 115,000 people could all have been wrongly been assessed in their current entitlement, particularly when there are already serious questions over the reassessment 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.

“The SNP back a move to a benefit regime that uses resources efficiently but provides support where it is needed. Genuinely sick or disabled individuals must not become an easy target for Conservative and Liberal cuts.”

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MP & Councillors Hail Leviathan As 'Absolutely Fantastic'

Friday, 4 November 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford and Peterhead South & Cruden SNP councillors Stephen Smith and Stuart Pratt have hailed Friday night’s street performance in Peterhead of ‘’Leviathan’ as ‘absolutely fantastic’.

Around 600 young people took part in the colourful parade which was watched by a crowd of several thousand people as it wound its way around Peterhead town centre. Dr Whiteford and Councillors Smith and Pratt were among the crowd to see the parade start off from Peterhead Community Centre.

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.

“The efforts of the performers were clearly appreciated by those who turned out to see the parade.”


Councillor Stephen Smith commented:

“This was a very colourful display and also highly reflective of Peterhead’s whaling heritage.

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


Councillor Stuart Pratt added:

“The turnout tonight was an absolutely fantastic achievement and all those involved in making this event such a success deserve our congratulations.”

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Whiteford Presents TESCo 'Computers For Schools'

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford will present several Banffshire Schools and playgroups with computer equipment donated by Tesco as part of the Computers for Schools scheme.

Dr Whiteford will be met by Store Manager Andy Tennant at the Tesco Store, Carmelite Street, Banff on Friday 4 November (tomorrow) at 11.00am.

Schools and playgroups being presented with equipment are:

  • Banff Primary
  • Macduff primary
  • Banff Academy
  • Hopscotch Playgroup
One teacher and two pupils from each will also be in attendance.

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Contribution Concerns Over UK Pension Proposals

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Commenting on the UK Government’s revised proposals for public sector pensions, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP urged the Treasury to re-consider its policy on increasing contribution rates in the manner proposed at a time when members of the public face real financial pressures.

Dr Whiteford said:

“The Treasury must think again over its policy on increasing contribution rates at a time when people face real financial pressures.

“My concern is that we will see workers withdraw from pension plans because they cannot afford the increase in contributions, and in the longer term leave many wondering if they can even afford retirement.

“Most recipients of pensions are receiving only a few thousand pounds per year, not the sort of gold-plated pensions highlighted in the media, and it is women who will be hardest hit by these changes.

“The issue of pension reform requires consent to be built but, with the UK Government making clear they will slash the Scottish Budget if the Scottish Government does not implement the short term increase in pension contributions, that consent is not being achieved.

“Public sector workers, are rightly concerned about the impact of changes to their pensions by the UK Government – and the UK Government must think again.”

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Local MP In Talks Over MIntlaw Post Office Service

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has received an assurance from Post Office bosses that a temporary service will be provided to customers in Mintlaw tomorrow (Thursday).

The MP contacted Royal Mail after the Post Office branch was closed pending an investigation into alleged irregularities. The move has left the largest village in Buchan without a Post Office for several days now.

Speaking after her discussions with Royal Mail, Dr Whiteford said:

“I have spoken to Royal Mail this morning to ask what steps they are taking to provide a temporary Post Office service while they continue their investigations.

“Royal Mail have given me an assurance that temporary arrangements have been put in place that will allow the Mintlaw Post Office to open on Thursday morning between 9.00am and 1.00pm.

“Should their investigations continue into next week, arrangements have also been made for a morning service on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday next week. However, Royal Mail hope to resume normal service as soon as possible.

“I welcome the steps taken by Royal Mail to minimise disruption to customers while their investigations continue, and hope the temporary arrangements will help mitigate the inconvenience to members of the community. Mintlaw is an important crossroads in the Buchan area and I hope a full, normal service will be restored as soon as possible.”

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Local MP Helps Out At Barnardo's For 'Make A Difference Day'

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford joined the staff at the Barnardo’s shop in Peterhead’s Erroll Street for an hour on Friday as part of Barnardo’s ‘Make a Difference Day 2011’.

Shop Manager Irene Pearson was on hand to show the MP the ropes, as Eilidh joined volunteers Sophie Grant and Carina Ventura on the shop floor as part of Barnardo’s campaign to attract more volunteers.

Shop manager Irene Pearson remarked:

“We are very grateful to Dr Whiteford for taking time out of her busy schedule to help our campaign.

“There are children in Scotland struggling to cope with their everyday lives, and people can help by becoming a volunteer. If you are interested in helping, then please call in and speak to the manager of any Barnardo’s shop, or go online at www.barnardos.org/volunteering.

“No experience is necessary for most volunteer roles – just enthusiasm and a warm friendly nature - Barnardo’s will supply all the support and training you will need.”


Talking of her visit, Eilidh said:

Dr. Eilidh Whiteford MP,
volunteers Carina Ventura and Sophie Grant,
and shop manager Irene Pearson
“I was delighted to have the privilege of volunteering at Barnardo’s shop in Peterhead, and I enjoyed chatting to the volunteers and customers.

“Volunteering is a wonderful way of giving something back to the community and is also an opportunity for people to learn new skills or acquire work experience. I would encourage people in Aberdeenshire to consider volunteering at their local Barnardo’s shop, particularly over the busy Christmas period when they could really do with extra help - even for just a few hours a week."

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Whiteford Speaks Out In Support Of OXFAM Grow Campaign

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has given her backing to Oxfam Scotland’s ‘Grow’ Campaign.

The campaign is aimed at promoting sustainable food production, addressing inequalities which plague the food production system from farm to fork, and improving the protection of those in poverty from food price crises.

Speaking at an Oxfam meeting held at the SNP Conference, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

(l to r) Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs;
Naile Salima, Programme Development Officer, Oxfam Malawi:
Judith Robertson, Head of Oxfam Scotland; & Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP
“I’m delighted to lend my backing to the Oxfam ‘Grow’ campaign.

“I’m particularly pleased to be joined at this meeting by the Scottish Government’s Culture and External Affairs Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, who has restated her support for the Scotland-Malawi Development Programme, which assists over 40 projects in Malawi.

“Today, in the 21st century, nearly one billion people worldwide don’t have enough to eat. Not because there isn’t enough food to go round –there is: the planet is more than capable of supporting all the people on it with sufficient food. Rather, it is the system of food production which is broken and needs to be fixed.

“In Scotland, Oxfam will be focussing on four major issues to help fix the broken food system. These are Climate Change, which affects crop yields as temperatures rise; Food Price Spikes, because when you spend 80% of your income on food as some poor families do, spikes in food prices are especially destructive; Land Grabs, which force poor farmers off the land; and Small-Scale Farming, because there is enormous potential in small-scale farming in developing countries.”

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We Need To Stand Up To Bully-Boy Culture

as contributed to Scotland on Sunday
THERE has been a nasty, belittling and misogynistic undercurrent to the events of the past two weeks. In so many ways it would have been easier to ignore the comments directed toward me by Ian Davidson MP during a meeting of the Scottish Affairs Committee.

Instead, I spoke out about the use of threatening language by the chairman of a parliamentary committee and have been vilified as a result. Like other women who complain, my motives have been questioned and some have tried to smear me. But the bully-boy culture of Westminster has to end. We must stand up to it.

I am not alone in my concerns. Over the past week Labour MPs both front- and back-bench sidled up to me to express their support for my position. Most talked under their breath.

As an aside to the issue of bullying and misogynist language in parliament, the fear of speaking publicly amongst Labour MPs and the failure of its leadership to take proper action against Ian Davidson – a man who is being allowed to stand for a leadership role himself – speaks volumes about a party that has lost its way.

By contrast, non-party political organisations and individuals have rallied in a more public way. They point out the unacceptable nature of Mr Davidson’s threat to give me “a doing” during a meeting of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, which he chairs.

Organisations and individuals interested in good parliamentary representation highlight the ease with which misogyny can thrive within a political institutional architecture where only one in five MPs is female. The gender imbalances are compounded by a relentlessly adversarial format of debate that limits opportunities for meaningful discussion.

My experience is just one consequence of the chronic under-representation of women in public life. The former MP Tess Kingham described it as “yah-boo nonsense, point scoring and silly games”. Until we blow the final whistle on these silly games, large numbers of our citizens will remain alienated from the political process. On the evidence of this week, Westminster has a long way to go.

Ian Davidson’s denials finally unravelled in a radio interview on Thursday when he admitted having made the remarks. But his admission was followed by an extraordinary attempt to pass the buck on to other committee members. Like a playground bully caught in the act, he resorted to the tired old defence – “it wisnae me, it wis them too”.

Well, let me put it firmly on the record. At the committee meeting Ian Davidson said I would get a doing if I stepped out of line. In his radio interview, he altered this to claim that all he said was that I “got a doing” at the Scottish Affairs Committee.

The change of tense is transformational. It is no longer a threat but a boastful observation. It suggests collective culpability. Unfortunately for Mr Davidson, that’s not what happened.

Cathy Jamieson and Fiona O’Donnell did not give me a “doing”. Nor Mike Freer MP. Simon Reevell made his points in his usual urbane way. And the idea of Alan Reid, the mild mannered Liberal Democrat MP for Argyll & Bute, giving anyone a doing is frankly laughable.

The only person who went too far – way too far – was Ian Davidson. To try to pin responsibility for his own behaviour on others, while painting himself as the referee who called time in the ring, does a huge disservice to fellow committee members who kept the language of their criticisms within the prevailing conventions of parliamentary norms.

One female committee member was concerned enough to pass a note to the chairman suggesting his remark was unacceptable. If the past tense was used, and I “got a doing”, why on earth would she have felt the need to advise the chair that his comments might be misinterpreted in a sexual way?

Why would she have felt the need to mention it again – according to Mr Davidson – when leaving the meeting early? And why would Mr Davidson have felt the need to clarify his remarks to me afterwards? He approached me to point out they were not sexual in nature. I said I found the threat of physical violence just as offensive.

The MP who wrote the note might be able to shed some light on this matter – but there has been silence on that front so far. The inference has been that the “doing” I am alleged to have received was punishment for my “misbehaviour”, as if I were some deviant six-year-old sent to stand on the naughty step.

It does not matter that all I had done was disagree with the committee. In fact what inspired Mr Davidson’s remark is utterly irrelevant. There is no action, no misbehaviour that justifies the threat or act of “a doing”. We hear too often of women being told they were “asking for it” in justification for intimidation or violence. I never expected to hear that from an MP in Parliament.

But this is not simply an issue of aggression towards woman; it’s about a culture of intimidation and bullying affecting men and women that seems to flourish with impunity in the Westminster world.

Moving Scotland forward has to involve moving our political discourse beyond its present tribal partisanship. We need to learn to accept our differences and how to distinguish dissent from treachery. We need to foster political institutions and ways of working that put dignity and genuine equality at their heart. And, as I learned over the past two weeks, we need to move beyond fear of those who try to use aggression and humiliation to silence and intimidate us, and instead call those people to account for their actions.

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Local MP Helps Out At Barnardo's For 'Make A Difference Day'

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford will be helping out at a local charity shop as part of ‘Make a Difference Day 2011’.

Dr Whiteford will be attending the Barnardo’s shop, 12 Erroll Street, Peterhead on Friday 28 October 2011 (tomorrow) at 11.00am. Acting Shop Manager Joyce Summers will be on hand to show the MP the ropes.

Speaking in advance of the visit, Eilidh said:

“I am delighted to have the privilege of volunteering at Barnardo’s shop in Peterhead and am very much looking forward to helping out with various tasks.

“Volunteering is a wonderful way of giving something back to the community and is also an opportunity for people to learn new skills. I would very much like to encourage people in Aberdeenshire to consider volunteering at their local Barnardo’s shop, particularly over the busy Christmas period when they could really do with extra help, even if its just a few hours a week. All you have to do is pop into your local shop and find out more."

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Whiteford Comments on Davidson 'Non-Apology'

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

QUESTION NOW FOR LABOUR OVER ACTION

Commenting on the purported 'apology' by the chairman of the Scottish Affairs Committee over inappropriate comments to Dr Eilidh Whiteford, the Banff and Buchan MP said Mr Davidson was implicitly acknowledging that he had made inappropriate remarks, but failed to recognise the inherently threatening nature of his comments.

Dr Whiteford said:

“This was an empty apology from Ian Davidson who clearly, still, does not recognise why his comments during and after last week's meeting were inherently threatening and unacceptable.

“We know now that at least one other member of the committee heard his remarks, and understand that another member passed him a note regarding his comments. I accept that some members of the committee did not hear the remarks, given that they were, as Mr McGovern seems to acknowledge, made in a casual, throwaway manner. For me, this only served to reinforce their menacing nature, a menace that was compounded by Mr Davidson's subsequent comments immediately following the meeting.

“There is no context in or out of Parliament where such comments are acceptable, and I am surprised that anyone would try to minimise, brush off or try to justify the remarks made by Mr Davidson.

“I am not prepared to be threatened and intimidated, and until Mr Davidson takes responsibility for his behaviour I regret that I will not be returning to the committee.”


SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson welcomed the publication of a letter, endorsed by thirteen academics and equality organisations, backing Dr Whiteford’s stance.

Mr Robertson said:

“Ian Davidson’s behaviour was inappropriate in any circumstances, but it is especially unfitting from the chairman of a parliamentary committee.

“One of the ugliest aspects around this has been the way people around Mr Davidson have immediately sought to attack Eilidh Whiteford for having the courage to speak out.

“In contrast, it is encouraging that organisations and individuals outwith parliament have been swift to condemn Mr Davidson’s remarks and, given his own reluctance to take responsibility for his behaviour, the question is now for the Labour party over what action it will take.”


Note:

The text of a letter signed by a number of academics and organisations – and posted on the Scottish Womens Budget Group FaceBook Page (http://www.facebook.com/budgetgroup) - can be found below


Dr. Eilidh Whiteford MP for Banff and Buchan has withdrawn from membership of a Westminster Select Committee over the threatening and sexist remarks of the Committee Chair, Ian Davidson MP.

The remarks from Mr. Davidson were exposed by Dr. Whiteford and witnessed by other MPs and Committee officials. Mr Davidson’s alleged threat to give Dr. Whiteford “a doing”, and his subsequent – and bewildering - clarification that his remark was “not intended as a sexual threat” underscore the extent of persistent sexism rooted in political and parliamentary culture.

According to the newly launched “Counting Women In” campaign, men outnumber women 4:1 at Westminster. There are only 5 women in the Coalition Cabinet. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has repeatedly highlighted the slow pace of change. Women are not only under-represented in elected politics, this incident shows they are also under-valued and disrespected.

The allegations from Dr. Whiteford go well beyond party politics and our reaction and condemnation is not party-aligned. This incident is the latest evidence of the dominance of a sexist and antiquated political culture that underlies our political and economic institutions. So long as sexism is left unchallenged, and ‘casual’ references to violence are left unchecked and unsanctioned, women will continue to be held at arms’ length from the political process.

Dr. Whiteford has made clear she has spoken out about the incident on the basis that it is unacceptable behaviour in any circumstance, and in recognition of the many women who experience intimidation and threats of violence. It is in that spirit that we support Dr. Whiteford’s stance.

Prof. Ailsa McKay, Glasgow Caledonian University
Angela O’Hagan, Convenor, Scottish Women’s Budget Group
Dr. Fiona Mackay, University of Edinburgh
Prof. Liz Bondi, University of Edinburgh,
Dr. Marsha Scott, Engender
Jenny Kemp, Co-ordinator, Zero Tolerance
Anna Bird, Acting Chief Executive, The Fawcett Society
Anne Meikle
Susanne Ross, Scottish Women’s Budget Group
Morag Gillespie, Scottish Women’s Budget Group
Bhabani Nayak, Glasgow Caledonian University
Emily Thomson, Glasgow Caledonian University
Andy Aitchison, University of Edinburgh

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Chairman Must Resign Over Threatening Behaviour

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has this evening withdrawn from proceedings of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee over inappropriate and unacceptable conduct by the committee chairman.

During a meeting of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee on Wednesday 19 October, comments of an unacceptable and inappropriate nature were made by the committee chairman, Ian Davidson MP, to Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP.

After the meeting had concluded Mr Davidson approached Dr Whiteford and clarified to her that his earlier remarks about "getting a doing” were not intended to be taken as a sexual threat. He also indicated that another Member of the committee had passed a note to him relating to the appropriateness of his comments.

Dr Whiteford has withdrawn her membership of the committee until Mr Davidson resigns as chairman.

Commenting on her decision, Dr Whiteford said:

“Threats and intimidation of this nature are unacceptable under any circumstances. It is never appropriate to threaten to give a woman 'a doing'.

“If people in my position are not prepared to stand up against aggressive and threatening behaviour, then people who face this kind of conduct in their homes and workplaces will continue to think the perpetrators can get away with it.

“I do not believe this behaviour is compatible with the position of Chair of a Select Committee, and therefore I have withdrawn from the Committee while Mr Davidson remains in his role as chair.”

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Boundary Commission Proposals Reunite Buchan

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Proposals by the Boundary Commission for Scotland released last week for the redrawing of Westminster constituency boundaries see the historic area of Buchan as the land north of the Ythan reunited.

The number of Westminster MPs in Scotland is being reduced from 59 to 52 leading to new boundaries. The boundaries last changed in 2005 when the number of Scottish MPs reduced from 72 to 59, and in 1997 as part of a general review.

The proposals for the North-east see Banff & Buchan retained and expanded to take in the Ellon & District council ward and most of Mid-Formartine, except Balmedie and Oldmeldrum. The remainder of the current Gordon Constituency merges with West Aberdeenshire to form a new constituency.

Commenting, Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

“It is important that the communities involved in the proposed boundary changes have their say. To that end, I would encourage community groups and individuals to make their comments to the Boundary Commission’s consultation which runs until 4 January 2012.”

Comments on the Boundary Commission’s proposals can be made by e-mail to comments@scottishboundaries.gov.uk or via the webform at www.bcomm-scotland.gov.uk

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MP Calls For Review Of Child Trust Fund Scheme

Sunday, 16 October 2011

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson and local MP Eilidh Whiteford has called for the UK Government to review the operation of Child Trust Funds after it emerged almost a quarter of a billion pounds has been lost from the value of funds in the last year.

A report has revealed that, in Scotland, the loss stands at about £24million affecting 500,000 children.

Dr Whiteford has called for the UK Government to review the advice that it provides to parents on the scheme and investigate reforming the scheme to allow the fund to be transferred into Junior ISA or savings schemes.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“With some parents seeing a third wiped off the value of their children's funds over the last year this has been a painful reminder of that old small-print warning that the value of investments can fall as well as rise.

“The UK government should now consider updating the advice that it gives to parents on how these funds are managed and investigate reforming the scheme to allow the fund to be transferred into alternative, lower risk, schemes such as Junior ISA or savings schemes.”

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Whiteford Presses DEFRA On Mackerel Dispute

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has raised the ongoing fisheries dispute with Iceland and the Faroe Islands with the UK Fisheries Minister on the floor of the House of Commons.

Speaking during Question Time in the House of Commons, Eilidh Whiteford MP asked the Minister:

“Alongside CFP reform, the ongoing mackerel dispute with Iceland and the Faroe islands continues to cause great concern, not just for pelagic fishermen but for the white fish fleet and fish processors. Will the Minister update the House on the progress of negotiations with Iceland and tell us, in the event of a deal, what recompense will be made available to Scottish fishermen? Might it possibly take the form of additional quota?”

Responding, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DEFRA Richard Benyon MP said:

“I cannot give the hon. Lady that precise information at the moment. I can tell her that there has been a slight improvement in the relationship with the Icelanders, and I hope that we can build on that. I am still pessimistic about our discussions with the Faroese, but I assure her that I will keep her closely involved, because we are talking about our most valuable fishery. It is sustainable, and we face a severe risk of losing marine stewardship accreditation for the stock, which would cause great harm to her constituents and our economy.”

Commenting afterwards, Dr Whiteford said:

“2500 jobs, many of them in the North-east, are dependant on the mackerel sector. I have been in close contact with industry representatives and will continue to press the case for them at the highest level in Westminster, while I know my colleague Richard Lochhead will do likewise from a Scottish Government perspective because this issue has serious knock-on effects for parts of the white fish fleet and processors.

“The UK Government, as the EU Member State, must redouble its efforts to ensure a just and fair outcome for our fishing industry in the face of outrageous and irresponsible behaviour by the Faroese.”

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PQ Reveals CSA IT System Doubled In Cost

‘WASTEFUL WESTMINSTER’ SHOULD LEARN FROM SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT EFFICIENCY

A parliamentary question obtained by SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has revealed that the cost of a computer case management system purchased by the UK Government for the Child Support Agency has more than doubled from its original budget of £94 million to more than £225 million.

The PQ also revealed that the cost of subsequent improvements to the CS2 system, used by the CSA, have totalled more than £117 million extra on top of the development costs since 2006.

The cost of the CSA system follows revelations over recent weeks that the cost of the Libra IT scheme used by the Department of Justice had trebled from its original budget of £146 million to more than £444 million; while another IT system, purchased for the Passport Agency, had quadrupled to £365 million.

Commenting, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, whose question uncovered the figures, said:

“Given the catalogue of IT cost overruns, we would all be better off if Westminster got a calculator rather than another computer. It seems the Westminster government is incapable of delivering big projects on time or on budget.

“At a time when household budgets are under real pressure, revelations over how wasteful Westminster has been with taxpayers’ money are an absolute scandal.

“Serious questions must be asked about how the cost of the CSA computer system was able to more than double – and the first of those questions should be raised with the former Labour Ministers who signed the contracts.

“When it comes to efficiency, Westminster needs to take a leaf out of the Scottish Government’s book. The SNP Government has pursued a vigorous programme of efficiency and public sector reform that is delivering results and driving improvements. In the first two years of the programme, it has exceeded its targets by £300 million and £400 million. Last year, £2.276 billion of efficiency savings were made - £673 million above the target - through new ways of using resources, collaborating across public services or improving procurement.

“That money is being reinvested in the public sector to deliver frontline services or lever in new efficiencies. This is a level of delivery that wasteful Westminster should learn from.”


Note:

1. Details of Dr Whiteford’s question on the CSA IT system can be found at the link below.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110719/text/110719w0003.htm#1107204001531

Dr Whiteford: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the original estimate, at current prices, was of the cost to the public purse of the computer system supplied by EDS Systems for the Child Support Agency's payment system; what the final cost, at current prices, was at the time of completion; and whether additional costs have been incurred since completion. [65626]

Maria Miller: The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is responsible for the child maintenance system. I have asked the child maintenance commissioner to write to the hon. Member with the information requested and I have seen the response.

Letter from Noel Shanahan:

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the Child Support Agency, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Child Maintenance Commissioner as the Child Support Agency is now the responsibility of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission.

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what the original estimate, at current prices, was of the cost to the public purse of the computer system supplied by EDS Systems for the Child Support Agency's payment system; what the final cost, at current prices, was at the time of completion; and whether additional costs have been incurred since completion. [65626]

The question has been assumed to relate to the CS2 child maintenance system, which was built by EDS and went live in 2003. “The cost to the public purse of the computer system” has been assumed to mean the cost of developing the system, rather than the cost of developing and running the system.

The original outline estimate given by EDS (now Hewlett Packard) in 1999 for the cost of the build of the new CS2 system was £94m. This estimate is disclosed in the National Audit Office's (NAO) June 2006 report “Implementation of the child support reforms”. At today's prices, based on the Retail Price Index at December 1999 and June 2011, the £94m translates to £132.2m.

The actual cost of developing the CS2 system was £225m. At today's prices, based on the RPI at April 2003, when the system went live, and June 2011, the £225m translates to £292.1m.

During the Operational Improvement Plan (OIP), which ran between April 2006 and April 2009, a further £107m was invested in development to the CS2 system. This amount was disclosed in the NAO's December 2009 report on the performance of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission. At today's prices, based on the RPI for April 2009, when the OIP closed, and June 2011, the £107m translates to £119m.

Following the closure of the OIP, two further remedial releases were made on the CS2 system. The cost of release 17, in 2009, was £4.2m. Release 18, in 2010, cost £5.4m. At today's prices, based on the RPI for December 2009 and December 2010 respectively and the RPI for June 2011, these translate to a total cost of £10.1 m.

2. Details of Dr Whiteford’s previous question to the Home Office can be found at the link below:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110719/text/110719w0001.htm#110719112001686

3. Last month the Scottish Government announced that savings of 2.2 billion pounds would be reinvested in Scotland's public services, and that Scotland's public sector efficiency targets have been smashed for the third year in a row.

The latest figures show that the public sector delivered 2,276 million pounds efficiency savings in 2010-11, exceeding the target of 1,603 million pounds by 673 million pounds. That equates to 8.5 per cent of the 2007-08 baseline, considerably above the target for six per cent savings for the year. Efficiency savings are reinvested in improving public services.

The Efficiency Outturn report 2010-11 is available at:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/09/Outturn2010-11

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Whiteford Welcomes Pensions Age Rise Delay

Thursday, 13 October 2011

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson, Eilidh Whiteford MP, has welcomed confirmation that plans to raise the state pension age to 66 in 2020 will be delayed to address concerns that thousands of women will be unfairly disadvantaged.

Dr Whiteford said the decision was a victory for women who had campaigned against the UK government’s plans.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford:

“This is a welcome retreat by the UK Government and a victory for the thousands of women who campaigned against these unfair changes.

“These changes would have wrecked the retirements of thousands of women, already in their late 50s, and denied them the time to make alternative pension arrangements.

“We must now see the full detail of the UK Government’s transitional proposals to be certain that they go far enough and will help all the women affected.”

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MP Officially Re-Opens Buchan Street Hall

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford officially re-opened the refurbished Buchan Street Hall in Macduff at the weekend.

The Buchan Street hall was one of the contenders on ITV’s ‘People’s Millions’ and won a popular vote to secure lottery funding to upgrade the facility.

Speaking after Saturday’s official opening, Eilidh said:

Eilidh Whiteford MP with
Michael McGillivray & May Thom
of Macduff Old Folk’s Association
“The Buchan Street Hall is a great community facility which I know is well-regarded locally by the various hall user groups. Growing up in Macduff in the 1970s, I used to attend dancing classes there.

“The hall is looking absolutely fantastic after the upgrade, which the Committee project-managed by themselves. There is a wonderful new kitchen and a new meeting room which really adds to the facilities available for hall users.

“Community facilities such as the Buchan Street Hall are extremely important and I know that the hall is well-used at the moment. With these new facilities, the hall will continue to be a focal point for local groups and community events in Macduff.”

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Whiteford Comments On Scottish Affairs Committee 'Sideshow'

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

SNP MP and Member of the Scottish Affairs Committee, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, today (Wednesday) described the announcement of twin inquiries by the Committee into the Scottish Government’s plan to hold a referendum on Scottish independence as a ‘sideshow’.

Dr Whiteford also said she was bemused that the committee’s terms of reference appear to have been lifted from the Secretary of State for Scotland’s party conference speech, and expressed concern at the short timescale for interested parties to answer the Committee’s calls for evidence.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“These inquiries are a sideshow from the real issues affecting Scotland. It is obvious from the terms of reference that this will be a partisan and pejorative inquiry and that those driving it have already decided what its conclusions will be.

“There are already questions over the chairman’s judgement after his ridiculous neo-fascist remarks during a debate on the Scotland Bill. This just shows how Labour is obsessing about the SNP when the committee should be investigating the impact of Tory cuts.

“A referendum in Scotland is clearly a matter for the Scottish Parliament and Government – and the referendum that is happening is the one the SNP pledged in the election campaign, which we said will be held in the second half of this parliament. That is the platform the SNP stood on in May, and which the people of Scotland gave us a resounding mandate to deliver.

"The days of Westminster Committees or Tory and Labour Governments telling the people of Scotland what to do are over.

“Considering the many pressing issues in the areas where the Scottish Affairs Committee could make a useful contribution, it is disappointing they are instead proceeding with a partisan inquiry into something which has nothing to do with them.

“David Cameron and Nick Clegg have both conceded this is a matter for the people of Scotland and the Scottish Parliament but it would seem their backbenchers now want to hijack this issue by political grand standing.”


Commenting on the terms of reference for the second inquiry, which include six questions listed by Scotland Secretary Michael Moore in his conference speech, Dr. Whiteford said:

“It’s absolutely extraordinary that the agenda for the Scottish Affairs Select Committee seems to have been lifted from a LibDem conference speech by Michael Moore! It seems Ian Davidson has been rummaging through Michael Moore’s waste paper basket looking for inspiration?”

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IFS Report 'A Wake Up Call to Westminster'

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

SUCCESSIVE UK GOVERNMENT’S ‘SHAMEFUL RECORD’

SNP Work and Pensions Spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford today (Tuesday) described the UK Government’s record on tackling child poverty as a tragedy as the IFS and Joseph Rowntree Foundation published figures showing that 17% of children in the UK were living in absolute poverty in 2009 – 10 with that figure set to rise over the next two years.

According to the report’s authors, the UK Government is unlikely to meet its target of reducing child poverty by 2020.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“These figures must be a wake-up call for the UK Government over the impact that their savage cuts are having on the most vulnerable.

“Children wherever they are born deserve the best possible start in life. While the Scottish Government is focussed on tackling the root causes of poverty such as education, health, employment, skills and housing, kids across the country are still being let down by Westminster.

“The record of successive UK Government’s on tackling child poverty is shameful. After thirteen years, Labour singularly failed to close the gap between rich and poor created during the Thatcher years.

“The aggressive deficit reduction policies of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are hitting family incomes, making it harder to make ends meet.

“Meanwhile, Labour MPs who failed to tackle the problem whilst in government and sat on their hands through a vital vote in opposition. In February 2011, MPs had the chance to vote down the UK Government’s plans to link benefits to the consumer price index instead of the retail price index.

“This would have given hard pressed families some breathing room but Labour abstained with only one Scottish MP brave enough to break party ranks and join the SNP in voting against.”


More details of the IFS Study can be read here: http://www.ifs.org.uk/pr/poverty_pr_1011.pdf

Katy Clark was the only Scottish MP to vote against the move to link benefits and pensions to CPI instead of RPI: http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2011-02-17&number=212

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