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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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MP Warns of Dangers of DEFRA CAP policy for North-East Farms

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has accused the Scotland Office of being “asleep at the wheel” and not understanding the dangers to Scotland’s farming industry shown by the aspiration of the current DEFRA Secretary to end direct payments out of the Common Agricultural Policy.

The Scottish National Party raised the issue during Scottish Questions in the House of Commons and said that the Scotland Office Minister David Mundell clearly did not understand the importance of the issue.

Local MP Dr Whiteford says that removing direct payments could put many farms at significant risk and is simply not feasible. The SNP say that such a policy would undermine food production and damage rural communities in areas of significant agricultural activity like Banff & Buchan.

Commenting on the issue, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“The Scotland Office are again asleep at the wheel and failing to understand that the policy being pursued by the UK Government could have a very significant adverse impact on farming in Banff & Buchan and Scotland.

“The DEFRA Secretary has made clear his view that such payments should cease and matters be left entirely to the market, a view that has been rejected by both the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government.

“Such a move would clearly give huge competitive advantage to food producers in other countries and must be ruled out completely.

“Removing direct payments for farm businesses would lead to bankruptcy for many and would be disastrous for economies like Banff & Buchan’s where significant employment and business activity is linked to food production. It would also undermine Scotland’s ability to produce food and safeguard rural communities.

“Agriculture is a vital industry for Banff & Buchan and for Scotland as a whole and the recent scandal over horsemeat has shown the need to have a strong and sustainable farming industry, a fact recognised and consistently pursued by the Scottish Government.

“The attitude of DEFRA illustrates, yet again, the need for Scotland to have the full powers of independence to ensure we have a real voice in Europe to protect our vital interests, rather than DEFRA acting against the interests of Scotland.”

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Whiteford Calls for Fairness for MoD Police in Pensions Debate

WESTMINSTER FAILS TO ADOPT FAIR PENSION REFORM

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has called for fair treatment for Ministry of Defence police officers during a debate on pension reform in the House of Commons. St Fergus Gas Terminal is home to an MoD Police Station with a number of officers deployed there.

Scotland will suffer unfair pension reforms despite the majority of Scottish MPs opposing bill amendments in Westminster.

The House of Commons debated amendments by the House of Lords on the Public Service Pensions Bill based on findings of Lord Hutton’s Pension Reform Report which recommended a lower retirement age for “uniformed services” such a fire fighters, police and the Armed Forces. The report however failed to include Defence Fire and Rescue Service fire fighters and MOD police officers.

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

“The Pension Bill vote is a further example of Scotland suffering from legislation it does not want. This pension reform is unfair, and for that reason 83 % of Scottish MPs voted against it.

“This was an important vote for those concerned- yet Alistair Darling failed to turn up and instead played spokesperson to George Osborne.

“It is inconsistent that the Public Service Pensions Bill sets a normal retirement age of 60 for uniformed services, including the Armed Forces, civilian police and fire fighters, and yet links their counterparts in defence to the state retirement age, projected to be at least 68.

“The House of Lords passed an amendment that would have ended the discrepancy of a different retirement age, providing equality for Defence Police and Fire and Rescue Services who play an important role on the front line at home and overseas.

“The UK Government have failed to make a case for higher pension age for uniformed services in the defence sector; they need to follow the spirit of Lord Hutton’s changes to this discrepancy by supporting the Lords amendment.”

How Scottish MPs voted:
Aye-8
No-39

39 of 47 means 83% voted against the Government.

http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/

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Flexibility Needed from UK Gov on Pension Reform

Monday, 22 April 2013

SNP Welfare spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP has urged the coalition government to show flexibility on pension reform during a Westminster debate on the Public Pensions Bill today.

The House of Commons debated amendments by the House of Lords on the Public Service Pensions Bill based on findings of Lord Hutton’s Pension Reform Report which recommended a lower retirement age for “uniformed services” such a fire fighters, police and the Armed Forces. The report however failed to include Defence Fire and Rescue Service fire fighters and MOD police officers.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

“It is inconsistent that the Public Service Pensions Bill sets a normal retirement age of 60 for uniformed services, including the Armed Forces, civilian police and fire fighters, and yet links their counterparts in defence to the state retirement age, projected to be at least 68.

“The House of Lords passed an amendment that would’ve ended the discrepancy of a different retirement age, providing equality for Defence Police and Fire and Rescue Services who play an important role on the front line in the UK and overseas.

“The UK government have failed to make a case for higher pension age for uniformed services in the defence sector; they need to follow the spirit of Lord Hutton’s changes to this discrepancy by supporting the Lords amendment.”

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SNP Call for Early Winter Fuel Payments for Pensioners 'Off-Grid'

Friday, 19 April 2013

“MANY PENSIONERS DISADVANTAGED AT PRESENT” - WHITEFORD

In a Westminster Parliamentary debate on off-gas grid fuel the SNP has increased the pressure on the UK Government to pay winter fuel payments for off-grid pensioners earlier than currently happens.

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford says that ‘many North-east pensioners are disadvantaged at present’ because such a significant number of rural households in the region are off the gas grid and rely on tankered fuels for their heating requirements.

For off-grid customers tank gas and oil generally increases in price through the winter but because of the timing of winter fuel payments they are unable to take advantage of lower prices earlier in the year.

Changing the timing of payments would enable more fuel to be bought for the same price in preparation for winter and the SNP argue that it ‘just makes sense’.

The SNP’s Spokesperson on Energy at Westminster has put forward a Private Members’ Bill to make payment of the winter fuel allowance to pensioners off the gas grid at an earlier date from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Off-Grid Gas, and have called upon the new Energy Minister to take a grip of the issue and get some common sense action over the issue.

Commenting, Eilidh said:

“The SNP has long argued that bringing forward the payment of winter fuel allowance to eligible pensioners who are off the gas grid would allow them to make purchases of fuel before the winter sets in and prices normally rise substantially.

“Many North-east pensioners with off-grid oil and gas heating systems are disadvantaged at present with a system that was designed to work best for on-grid pensioner households. What is being proposed is simply common sense and not enough effort is being put in to make it work.

“The whole purpose of the payment is to ensure that funds are available when the winter fuel bill arrives, which the present system does very well for those who pay their bills quarterly. Unfortunately those off the gas grid, such as those with tanked oil and gas heating systems, will generally find prices more expensive at that time and may have had considerable difficulty in getting or paying for supplies over the winter months.

“Not only that but if pensioners in these circumstances find they can only order heating oil and gas during the winter, then there can be significant weather difficulties delaying or preventing delivery of fuel to their homes.

“What we seem to be getting from the Department is that it’s too difficult but what we’re saying is ‘you’re the Minister, make the change’!”

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MP Welcomes Banff & Buchan Drop in Unemployment

Local MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed newly published statistics which show Banff & Buchan’s local economy has helped to secure an increase in employment and reduction in unemployment.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics for March 2013 shows the number of unemployed persons in the constituency was down. The number of claimants is 297 lower than this time last year and 48 lower than in February 2013.

The statistics follow a Scotland-wide trend where employment rose by 39,000 or 1% in the first quarter of 2013, the largest increase since 2000, despite UK unemployment rising by 70 000 to 2.56 million during this period.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“These figures show Banff & Buchan has higher employment and lower unemployment than most other constituencies, ranking 103rd out of 650 UK constituencies for lowest unemployment.

“These stronger employment statistics in Scotland are no accident and are testament to the wide range of measures the SNP Scottish Government has put in place to create and secure jobs.

“Meanwhile recent figures also show that while the UK economy shrunk in the last quarter of 2012, the Scottish economy achieved growth of 0.5%.

“The progress that has been achieved in Banff & Buchan, despite a UK-wide downturn, shows what we can achieve with limited powers in Scotland. Only a Yes vote in next year’s referendum will give us the economic and fiscal powers we need to build a stronger Scotland.”

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Girl Guide Ambassador Eilidh Welcomes Award Winner to Commons

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford welcomed two special visitors to the House of Commons this week.

County Commissioner for the Girl Guides Mabel Webster and Andrea Fowlie of Aberchirder were in London for the presentation of the Queen’s Guide Award to Andrea.  They met with the local MP where they were given a tour of the House of Commons before the ceremony where Andrea was presented with her award by Baroness Cox of Queensbury.

Dr Whiteford is also an “Ambassador” for the Girl Guides in Banff and Buchan.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“It was a pleasure to meet with Andrea and Mabel at the House of Commons, particularly on Andrea’s special day when she was being presented with her prestigious award.

“Andrea had to undertake a wide range of activities and community work over three years to receive the award, including community work in South Africa where she spent a gap year.  Her award is thoroughly-deserved and I congratulate her on her achievement.

“Having been involved in Guiding myself, I know that the movement offers young women invaluable experiences, and opportunities to take part in a great breadth of activities  that are often useful in later life. The volunteers who give up their time to serve as leaders of youth organisations deserve the thanks of the whole community too for what they enable our youngsters to do."

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Whiteford Welcomes Film Crew to Buchan

Friday, 12 April 2013

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has formally welcomed the production of a new film, set to showcase some of the North-east’s most spectacular scenery.

Eilidh Whiteford MP meets director Julian Nicholson (r), with cast members Andrew Cameron (l) and Imogen Watt (2nd r) at Aberdour Beach
Dr Whiteford visited the set of ‘Whistle My Lad’, written by Macduff man Richard Burke and directed by Julian Nicholson, which is currently being filmed at Aberdour beach and other north-east locations.

The short film, set in the summer of 1911, follows a tale of forbidden love between the son and daughter of two rival fishing families. Filmed by the BAFTA-award winning crew behind ‘No More Shall We Part’, it is hoped that ‘Whistle My Lad’ will pave the way for bigger productions in the area. The cast have recently completed scenes at St John’s Kirk near Gardenstown, with others filmed in Banchory and Crovie.

Speaking to the crew and cast, Eilidh said that she was proud to welcome the production to the north east, and suggested that it would be a great advert for the region in an international setting.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“It’s always a pleasure to see new film production in Banff & Buchan, building on the area’s reputation for outstanding natural beauty, and a fascinating history.

“’Whistle My Lad’ boldly follows in the footsteps of Local Hero, and promises to be a cinematic treat. It’s a great pleasure to welcome this production to the north-east of Scotland, and recommend the area as one of outstanding natural beauty.”

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Banff & Buchan Hit by Westminster Welfare Cuts

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

SNP CAMPAIGN AGAINST WELFARE REFORM

Banff & Buchan MP and SNP Spokesperson for Work and Pensions Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP has slammed Westminster’s welfare changes for failing to protect the most disadvantaged people in the constituency, and have urged constituents unfairly affected to contact their parliamentary office so the SNP can continue to campaign against the UK Government’s Welfare Reform.

The National Housing Federation has estimated 2,250 households in Aberdeenshire will be hit by the ‘bedroom tax’, in addition to many who will be affected by a cap in benefits, despite rising living costs.

The changes to the welfare system across Scotland will see:
  • The ‘Bedroom Tax’ come into force, with 105,000 households across Scotland losing an average £600 a year.
  • Working age benefits rises will be capped to one per cent for the next three years reducing the total income of Scottish households by around £210 million by 2014-15.
  • Child benefit will be frozen for the third year in a row, seeing, cumulatively, between 2011-12 and 2015-16, a family with two children receiving over £1,100 less than they would had Child Benefit been uprated by RPI inflation.
  • Scotland’s council tax budget will be cut by 10% but Scottish households have been protected by the Scottish Government and COSLA plugging the £40 million funding gap.
  • The social fund will be abolished but the £33million Scottish Welfare Fund will be set up to benefit an extra 100,000 vulnerable Scots.
Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

“The Welfare Reform wrongly results in the poorest and most disadvantaged in our society facing the brunt of the Tory/Lib Dem austerity agenda.

“The ‘bedroom tax’ policy is inherently unfair. People on the lowest incomes are paying the price for structural problems affecting the supply of affordable housing. The bedroom tax is also unworkable - instead of addressing the underlying problems, it undermines the ability of social landlords to invest in the kind of affordable housing that is so badly needed.

“This policy will be imposed on Scotland, despite the fact over 90 per cent of Scottish MPs voted against it.

“A fairer welfare system for Scotland can only be achieved with independence and control over all welfare policies so that we can devise policies for the benefit of the people of Scotland.

“New figures show the ‘bedroom tax’ could cost Scots council and housing association tenants £53m a year, and according to a new report by MPs, lead to more people being in arrears and a rise in homelessness.

“A recent YouGov poll found that 52% of respondents thought that the Scottish Government should be responsible for all tax and spending decisions in Scotland – including oil and gas tax revenue, with 35% supporting Westminster control.

"Next year we will have the opportunity to change. Scotland needs a Yes vote on 18th September 2014 to enable us to invest our abundant resources in building the fairer and more prosperous Scotland that we all want to see."


The National Federation of Housing has reached figures on the number of households hit by the Bedroom Tax by looking at information on housing stock, cut by DWP figures on regional numbers of households expected to be effected.

Westminster Parliamentary Report on the ‘bedroom tax’ can be found here: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/news/housing-benefit-report/

YouGov (Fieldwork: 20th-22nd March 2013)
Sample size: 1105 Scottish adults

Which government do you think should be responsible for all tax and spending decisions in Scotland, including tax revenues from oil and gas?

The UK government 35
The Scottish government 52
Don't know 13

Which government do you think would be best at deciding welfare and pensions policy for Scotland?

The UK government 34
The Scottish government 53
Don't know 13

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SNP Comment on Osborne Speech

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Commenting on George Osborne’s Welfare Reform speech, SNP Work and Pensions Spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“The Chancellor’s speech today had the right-wing rhetoric, but George Osborne fails to grasp the realities of his welfare reform. Our poorest and most disadvantaged are bearing the brunt of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition’s austerity measures.

“As the Bedroom Tax comes into force, 105,000 households across Scotland will lose an average of £600 a year. Working age benefits rises will be cut in real terms for the next three years, which will reduce the total income of Scottish households by around £210 million by 2014-15. Child benefit is frozen for the third year in a row, and Scotland’s council tax budget will be cut by 10% - a cut which the Scottish Government and Cosla are making good from their limited resources.

“We need a welfare system which reflects Scotland’s values, helps working families and protects our most disadvantaged people. A fairer welfare system for Scotland can only be achieved with a Yes vote in 2014. We need our welfare policies to be decided in the Scottish Parliament rather than Westminster, where our MPs have little ability to prevent such damaging measures.”

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