25 June 2015

First Minister's Questions - Young's Seafoods

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): The First Minister will be aware of the loss by Young’s Seafood of probably the biggest fish-processing contract in the United Kingdom, which is affecting jobs in Fraserburgh and in Grimsby. Aberdeenshire Council has indicated that it will work to mitigate the effects of that, and the chief executive has indicated to me that he will give every support to Government initiatives. It would be very welcome if the First Minister could indicate that the Government will support every effort to mitigate the effects of job losses in Fraserburgh.

The First Minister: I share the member’s concern about recent developments in respect of Young’s Seafood and the potential impact on employees, their families and the surrounding areas. I can confirm that the Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism and the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment have offered and will continue to offer immediate support to the company. Scottish Enterprise is also in contact with the company to support the business and to discuss what can be done to minimise any negative impact on jobs.

In the unfortunate event of job losses, we have already made the offer of support through our partnership action for continuing employment initiative, which helps in redundancy situations and assists those who are affected by redundancy. I reassure the member that the Government will do everything within our power to help the company through this difficult time.

17 June 2015

(S4O-04473) Islands Transport Forum

6. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what matters the islands transport forum will discuss at its first meeting. (S4O-04473)

The Minister for Transport and Islands (Derek Mackay): Earlier this month, I announced in Orkney that a new islands transport forum will be set up to consider strategic transport issues affecting Scotland’s islands.

The forum will meet biannually and will include representatives from local authorities with island communities. It is intended that the forum will deal with internal and external ferry, air and other transport services on which each of the island communities so heavily depends for social cohesion and sustainable economic activity and growth. I am in the process of finalising the detailed membership and the working methods for the forum, in consultation with the island authorities. Therefore, no detailed agenda items have yet been set for the forum’s first meeting.

Stewart Stevenson: Thank you for that response and for the content of your reply to question 5, which also touched on the matter.

I will introduce something quite new with which the minister is unlikely to be familiar. Air navigation and approach procedures are changing with the move towards the use of GPS—global positioning system—instrument approaches, which have not yet been adopted in the United Kingdom but which are eminently suitable for Government and local authority airports and might make a contribution to improving reliability in poor weather conditions. Will the minister talk to people involved in the islands transport forum about that and, thereafter, consider approaching the Civil Aviation Authority and the UK Government to see whether we can pilot some of the new technologies, which are much cheaper than the previous ones?

Derek Mackay: I will give the matter close consideration and, in answer to the question, yes, I will.

3 June 2015

(S4O-04401) Rural Payments and Services (Single Application Forms)

8. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government whether the futures programme is on track to receive all single application forms for rural payments and services by 15 June 2015. (S4O-04401)

The Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (Aileen McLeod): The Scottish Government is working hard in this transition year to implement the complex common agricultural policy. As of this morning, a total of 12,389 single application forms had been received: 7,675 have been received online through our new rural payments and services system and 4,714 have been received on paper.

With two weeks to go to the close of the extended application window, we have received just over half the expected applications. The rate of submission remains ahead of the comparable point in 2014, when we received 67 per cent of all single application forms in the final two weeks. Therefore, we are on track to receive the estimated 22,000 single application forms by the closing date of 15 June. However, we will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Stewart Stevenson: I thank the minister for the encouraging news that we are ahead of last year’s progress. To be parochial, will she tell us what the response has been in the north-east of Scotland and whether the area is likely to benefit from significant funding?

Aileen McLeod: As of 2 June, the rural payments and inspections division had received 1,842 single application forms from north-east businesses, which is 19 per cent of the total received. That is about half the total expected, with about two weeks of the application window remaining.

On funding, the latest analysis indicates that the north-east of Scotland will account for around €94 million of the direct payment budget—or £68 million at the current exchange rate—at the end of the transition period. That is the highest share of any of Scotland’s regions.

For the agri-environment climate scheme, the region accounts for 19 per cent of applications that are currently in the system. That is the highest total after the south-east of Scotland at 20 per cent.

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