30 June 2016

(S5O-00083) Dairy Production (North East Scotland)

3. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure the sustainable future of dairy production in North East Scotland. (S5O-00083)

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): Although dairy farming is centred mainly in the south-west of Scotland, it also occupies an important place in the economy of the north-east. As the member will know, the industry faces a number of market-driven pressures, which we have been seeking to address with stakeholders. Dairy farming in the north-east of Scotland, as in other parts of the country, can be maintained only if our excellent producers receive a fair return for their efforts.

Although it will ultimately be down to the market to deliver that, the Scottish Government is on the front foot, with a range of initiatives that are aimed at boosting resilience in these challenging times, including the creation of the Scottish dairy growth board and support for the online Scottish dairy hub. We will also be involved in an industry-led working group that will consider what support can be given in the short to medium term.

Stewart Stevenson: Does the Scottish Government encourage the actions of the National Farmers Union Scotland, Opportunity North East and Aberdeenshire Council to commission a study into alternative dairy processing options in the north-east? If so, does the Government consider that that local initiative can be a vital component of ensuring support for the dairy industry in the area that I represent?

Fergus Ewing: Yes, I very much agree with that. I have had the pleasure of meeting the NFU on several occasions since I was appointed, most recently yesterday. I am conscious of Opportunity North East and Sir Ian Wood’s extremely generous gesture of support and his interest in promoting innovation in farming. As Stewart Stevenson well knows, there is of course already a huge amount of innovation in farming, especially in the dairy sector and particularly in diversification into higher-profit-margin products in recent years by a variety of companies. I am determined to work with members of all parties and the industry to address the serious challenges that currently face the dairy sector in Scotland.

16 June 2016

Statement: Policing and Security

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Many incidents that happen in local communities across Scotland could not reasonably be foreseen through intelligence and stem from the actions of a single individual. Is the cabinet secretary satisfied that there are adequate ways in which local commanders can get access to the new resource that he has announced today?

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson): Part of the work that Police Scotland has been undertaking over the past couple of months has been to look at the changing nature of the threat, and there is no doubt that the incidents that we witnessed in Paris in particular highlighted that changing nature, in that several different incidents took place simultaneously. That has led to a reassessment of how policing resource should be deployed in order to prepare for such an event, should it occur. However, the resource will be deployed by Police Scotland on the basis of where it believes the greatest risk is presented. The model is constantly reviewed and it reflects the information that Police Scotland has.

I assure the member that the uplift in resource will provide a greater level of coverage across the whole of Scotland and will ensure that all communities have the armed officer provision that is necessary and appropriate to the situation and the risk in the area. Police Scotland reviews that regularly, based on the information and intelligence that it receives.

14 June 2016

Statement: Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2014

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I express enormous gratitude to all who have contributed to the possibility that, when we meet the 2050 target of an 80 per cent reduction, I might be not 104 years old but 84 years old—I might survive for that long. However, it is clear that the UK Government’s policy change on renewables will have an impact on our ability to reach that target. Now or later, will the cabinet secretary give us a quantitative indication of how much more difficult the UK Government’s changing of renewables support makes meeting the target under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, which I was greatly honoured to take through Parliament in 2008 and 2009?

The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (Roseanna Cunningham): The UK Government has made a number of policy decisions that could have a serious impact on our climate change ambitions, which I have referred to. The renewables obligation for large-scale onshore wind and solar photovoltaics projects was closed early, and support for small-scale renewables projects through the feed-in tariffs was cut. Delays in and uncertainty about contracts for difference are also having an impact on investor confidence.

The UK Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change conducted an impact assessment of the early closure of the renewables obligation that estimated that the UK could lose a reduction in additional source emissions of up to 63 megatonnes. To put that in context, that is the equivalent of more than a year’s worth of Scotland’s entire emissions level.

In Scotland, we have made it clear that our ambition is to create a low-carbon energy future while keeping the lights on and keeping consumer bills low but, if we are to achieve those three aims in the absence of subsidies, we will need a mechanism to stabilise the market and ensure investment in our more cost-effective low-carbon technologies.

9 June 2016

(S5O-00021) Transport Infrastructure (North Aberdeenshire)

Question: To ask the Scottish Government what investment plans it has for transport infrastructure in north Aberdeenshire. (S5O-00021)

The Minister for Transport and the Islands (Humza Yousaf): The completion of the Aberdeen western peripheral route Balmedie to Tipperty project will provide a dual carriageway link to Ellon and bring significant travel benefits to communities and businesses north of Aberdeen. Construction work is well under way on that £745 million project, which is estimated to bring 14,000 jobs and £6 billion of benefits to the north-east over the next 30 years. We are also making a number of improvements to the Aberdeen to Inverness rail line and have given a clear commitment to dual the A96, which will mean delivery of approximately 86 miles of upgraded road between Inverness and Aberdeen by 2030.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I very much welcome the work that is being done on the AWPR and the dualling of the road between Balmedie and Tipperty. In light of the importance of travel times to business and commuters, can the minister enlighten us on the specific benefit to travel times of the investments that the Government has made?

Humza Yousaf
: Of course, that is a key benefit of the work that we are doing on the AWPR, which will cut journey times across Aberdeen by up to half at peak times and will provide much improved journey times—as well as improved reliability and facility—for public transport on local roads. The AWPR Balmedie to Tipperty project forms a core part of our commitment to improving transport in the north and the north-east.

Alongside that project is the Inveramsay bridge on the A96, which the member will know well and the improvements to the Haudagain roundabout that I mentioned earlier, as well as the proposals to dual the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness. Taken with all the other projects that we are doing in the area, those projects will ensure that all Scotland’s cities are connected by a high-quality transport system that will generate economic growth.

Stewart Stevenson
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