31% of all households in Scotland are in fuel poverty

Recently Citizen’s Advice Scotland put out a response to Ofgem’s discussion paper on future price protections. The key points are:

  • Energy remains unaffordable for many people despite the price cap
  • Ofgem should maintain price protections, especially for customers in vulnerable situations
  • Future price protections will require careful design and implementation

The full response can be found here.

Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Cadets’ Royal Day

By Denisa Costea, Sea Cadets

HRH The Princess Royal, as Admiral of the Sea Cadet Corps, officially inaugurated the new Stonehaven Sea Cadets Unit premises at the town’s harbour yesterday.

Welcomed by Mr. Alastair Macphie, the Lord Lieutenant of Kincardineshire, Mr. Mike Park OBE, Chairman of Stonehaven Unit, and Lieutenant Commander Michael Blacklaw RNR, Commanding Officer of Stonehaven Unit, Her Royal Highness received a Royal Salute from the unit’s enthusiastic cadets. 

The event, attended by over 300 cadets, parents, volunteers, supporters, and members of the local community, also marked the 70th anniversary of the unit. Following a speech by HRH, The Princess Royal toured the new building, cut a cake, unveiled a plaque and was presented with flowers by junior sea cadets. 

The new headquarters, situated on Marischal Street, was a collaborative effort, with Sea Cadets volunteers and community donations making it a reality. Offering expanded facilities and disabled access, the building aims to benefit more local youth by providing skills, qualifications, and self-confidence through Sea Cadets. Additionally, it serves as a community venue for various activities, including drama, yoga, martial arts and mental health support groups. 

Able Cadet Daniel (aged 15) spoke at the event, describing how being part of Sea Cadets has taught him the importance of self-discipline, teamwork and commitment. 

“Sea Cadets has introduced me to many new activities, including seamanship and marine engineering, and has contributed massively towards my personal development, particularly my confidence and leadership skills,” he said.

Daniel added that he wants to become a volunteer when he’s older to help other young people to find their passions and achieve their full potential.

The Chairman of Stonehaven Sea Cadets, Mr Mike Park OBE thanked volunteers for their hard work, the local community for their warm support and The Princess Royal for her unwavering dedication to Sea Cadets. 

“Our services have never been in greater demand, and our new unit is a symbol of our determination to offer a wider range of activities and greatly improved facilities to even more young people, including rowing, sailing, kayaking and paddleboarding,” he said.

Mike was a sea cadet himself in his youth. He reminisced about how excited he was when he’d set off on the youth charity’s flagship, the TS Royalist, to enjoy some nautical adventure and fun. “Thanks to all of you, the coming decades will see may hundreds of skilled and motivated young people emerge from this building and give back to this community,” Mr. Park said.

Other photos from the day

Princess Anne inspecting the Cadets

It was a day of military precision overseen by Lt Cdr (SCC) Paul Barker MBE RNR, SCC National Staff Officer Ceremonial. Preparations began weeks earlier and full rehearsals were held the day before. On the day, the assembled cadets were dressed in new uniforms and caps with boots polished to a mirror shine.

For her visit to Stonehaven, Princess Anne was greeted by the Lord Lieutenant of Kincardineshire Alastair Macphie and his wife, Fiona, who were on hand for her arrival at the swimming pool and again at the harbour.

Pupils from Dunnottar Primary School lined up for a ringside view of the proceedings and wave their flags.

And to the delight of the watching crowds, the Band of His Majesty’s Royal Marines (Scotland) brought an added level of spectacle along with their music.

Tough Challenge at Rally

By Andrew Wallace

Former Stonehaven man George Topp and his wife Rosalind have just completed their toughest motorsport challenge to date.

The rallying duo were the only Scots taking part in the tough 10-day 3,000 km London to Lisbon Rally

The couple, driving a 1966 Volvo Amazon 132S, finished the marathon four-country rally in 20th place overall, and third in class.

During the early stages of the rally, in England and France, the couple were actually as high as 14th overall, before dropping back when the rally reached the racetracks and mountain roads of Spain and Portugal, some as high as 3000 M.

This was the toughest rally so far for the couple, who only began historic endurance regularity rallying in 2022.  In January and February they also tackled the famous Monte Carlo Historique Rally.

George, a member of a well known Stonehaven family, was a journalist with the Mearns Leader, before moving to Lanark to edit a paper there. After retiring he and Rosalind moved to SW France and now live just north of Bordeaux.

Are you or anyone you know doing anything exciting this summer? Please share your news by emailing your article to news@thebellman.co.uk

What impact would Scotland’s missing billions make?

This column first appeared in the Herald on Saturday 11th May 2024.

As Social Justice spokesperson for Citizens Advice Scotland, I look at the issues that are coming through the doors of CABs and work out what changes we need in public policy.

There’s no doubt we need significant change. Bold, radical policies that will deliver systems change. The pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis will cast long shadows. People have had their financial resilience wiped out and, in many cases, forced into debt because the cost of essentials has been so high.

But the genesis of these issues stretches back over decades for households on the lowest incomes. Welfare reform and austerity have not just forced people to endure destitution and desperation, but robbed people of their dignity as they endeavour to stay afloat.

We need a reset. Big bold ideas, like a minimum income guarantee, or a social tariff for energy costs, anchored in our shared values of justice and compassion. Alongside this we need to do the things that are working better. New ideas are necessary, but so too is effective delivery.

A new report from Policy in Practice estimates almost £23 billion in social security payments and cheaper deals are unclaimed across the UK by around 8 million people. The report doesn’t give a figure for Scotland but highlights areas where people may be missing out – like 179,000 eligible people in Scotland not claiming Council Tax Reduction.

This report makes me reflect on two things – first, delivery can be hard. Giving people a right to social security does not guarantee they will receive it. All of the reasons why people don’t claim payments they are entitled to stigma and shame remains perhaps the hardest barrier to remove.

An insidious narrative, often propped up by politicians and journalist alike, prevails. It’s the flipside of the ‘American Dream’: that anyone can make it if they just work hard enough. And so, if people are architects of their own success, they must orchestrate their own failure. Shirkers. Scroungers. The rhetoric rings loud and clear. Is it any wonder people don’t want to enter a system that writes them off before they have got started?

The second thing is the transformative potential of what full take up could do. What would a UK economy look like if 8 million people had their spending power increased by £23 billion pounds? How many people would sleep and eat better? How much stress could be relieved on household finances, public services, and people themselves?

Last year the Citizens Advice Network unlocked £142 million for people, with people on average £3,700 better off. CABs are providing an essential service, while facing increasing demand, often from people in crisis with complex circumstances. Many people get access to payments they are entitled to, sometimes backdated years and see their lives transformed. Unlocking these missing billions matters.

Yet we must remember the growing number of people still don’t have enough after getting everything they are entitled to. Like a flashing light on a dashboard, this must cause us to stop. Reset the system.

That’s why we need a twin track approach. Both the big, bold radical ideas that will make a difference long term, but ensuring those ideas are delivered properly, so people can access their rights and all they are entitled to.

Emma Jackson is Social Justice spokesperson for Citizens Advice Scotland.

https://www.cas.org.uk/news/what-impact-would-scotland%E2%80%99s-missing-billions-make

Important new grants for businesses launched in Aberdeenshire

From Aberdeenshire Council communications team –

Two new important business grant schemes have been designed, developed and launched by Aberdeenshire Council.

Funded entirely through the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund, the schemes have been created through feedback from businesses and a past grant scheme offered by the council. 

Under the new grant schemes, start-up businesses can now apply for £1,000 to help get a new venture off the ground or £3,000 if it is taking on premises. 

Business will be supported through the Business Gateway service and have an advisor appointed to them.

A £1,000 grant is also available for businesses taking on their first hire. 

Cllr Alan Turner, chair of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, said: “Grant funding such as this removes barriers to increased economic activity, providing Aberdeenshire-based businesses with the financial means to improve their ability to start up and grow in a manner which will be faster than would otherwise be achieved. 

“This vital funding which has been leveraged in from the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund through a competitive challenge process shows our team’s efforts in supporting our business communities by being proactive within the resources they have but also in identifying new opportunities.”

Vice-chair Cllr Isobel Davidson added: “We have always had great start-up success here in the north-east of Scotland and our resilience and mindset is testament to that. Past grant schemes have demonstrated great initial results in providing this seed capital. Our businesses support many thriving and prosperous sectors and with the wider support of our economic development teams this will help create even greater economic prosperity.

“I would encourage anyone who is interested in developing a new business to contact us without delay to discuss our funding programme which could provide the support they require to realise their dreams.”

For more information on the grant schemes visit: 

https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/business/business-support/funding/first-employee-grant

https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/business/business-support/funding/business-start-up-grant

Creative Arts Open Mic Events

From Carrie Fertig

Health of the Sublime, a creative arts project supported by Creative Scotland will hold two Open Mics as part of Grampian Wellbeing Festival this Friday at Stonehaven Community Centre and Saturday at Dickson Hall in Laurencekirk.

Through our partnership with Mearns and Coastal Healthy Living Network, Health of the Sublime offers free tuition to folk over 50 in and around Kincardineshire including nature writing and poetry.

That class has been led by poet, artist, and playwright Rebecca Sharp, who will co-host the open mics with project lead artist Carrie Fertig. We welcome you to read your own writing, or that of a beloved author, up to five minutes on the theme of our experience of wellbeing in nature, and if you like, through the lens of climate change.

Or just come and enjoy some beautiful, moving, inspiring writing. No need to book, they’re free, just show up with your empty cup to be filled in a literal and poetic sense.

Friday evening 17th May 6:30-8:30pm Stonehaven Community Centre, Bath Street, Red Room, AB39 2DH 

Saturday morning 18th May 10:30am-12:30pm Dickson Memorial Hall, Station Road, Laurencekirk, AB30 1BE

Tesco Proposals at Community Council

THE developers behind a bid to build a Tesco supermarket in Stonehaven are making a presentation at tomorrow night’s meeting of Stonehaven and District Community Council.

Ashfield Land Limited submitted a proposal for application notice with Aberdeenshire Council just over a year ago – and held consultation sessions in Stonehaven, giving locals a chance to view options and leave comments.

The Bellman understands a planning application for a Tesco supermarket is now shortly to be made so tomorrow’s meeting will be an opportunity to see what is on the cards.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the meetings in the former Sheriff Court Building. Tomorrow night’s meeting will cover many other matters of interest to Stonehaven residents – see the agenda below. If you prefer, the meeting can be joined online – a link is at the bottom of the page.

Stonehaven & District Community Council (SDCC) Hybrid Business Meeting – 14th May 2024 @ 7:00pm – In person (Old Court Room) or Via Zoom (Link Below)

https://us06web.zoom.us/j/83447160857?pwd=fVeDaejB8F9mUGM7evv30N3r4VOx7m.1

Meeting ID: 834 4716 0857

Passcode: 594233

MUGA Ready for Action

a tall mesh fence encloses the new sports area

From Stuart Alexander, Trustee Stonehaven Recreation Grounds

STONEHAVEN Recreation Grounds have been actively seeking to improve the facilities provided to visitors and members alike.

The past few years have seen a number of grant opportunities arising from different sources and the grounds have been successful in securing monies to invest in the grounds. A ‘Multi-Use Games Area’ or MUGA has been developed, which provides a court which can be hired for various sports including 5-aside football, netball and basketball. 

Book the MUGA using new website

A  new website provides booking and payment facilities.  The price for an hour’s hire has been initially set at £20. The Trustees recognise that changing facilities would be desirable and are investigating options to provide these.

QR code to reach bookings website

Work still underway at putting green

There is also work being carried out to improve the putting green. The holes are being returfed and the area will have islands of shrubs and coastal flowers which will improve the appearance and hopefully increase playing numbers.

Further funding has been committed to a ‘petanque’ pitch in the area between the MUGA and putting. This is anincreasingly popular past-time and has a number of thriving clubs around the North East of Scotland. Work on this isplanned to commence in autumn 2024.

Many funding sources

The Trustees are grateful for the financial support that has been provided from the following funders:

MUGA: Aberdeenshire Council Participatory Budget Scheme UKSPF Levelling Up Fund (MUGA 3G surface)

Aberdeenshire Council Area Committee Budget Putting: Aberdeenshire CouncilParticipatory Budget Scheme Petanque pitch: Coastal Communities Challenge Fund

Planning and project advice has been provided by Inspired Design and Development Stonehaven

Additional funding to enable these developments has been provided by the Recreation Grounds.

Consultation Process Continues Regardless

large pylon looming over countryside

SSEN have dismissed a request by Stonehaven and District Community Council for an extended consultation period on their preferred route for the Kintore to Tealing overhead transmission line.

Instead, the transmission network provider is pushing ahead with its next phase of community engagement events – the third round of consultation on the alignment of the proposed 400Kv powerlines, and the second pre-application consultation on proposed new substations, including one at Hurlie, Fetteresso Forest, adjacent to an existing substation

Complaint about round two fell on deaf ears

At their meeting last month, SDCC decided they could not submit a response to SSEN’s second round of consultation as they did not feel they had been provided enough information about the transmission company’s proposals.

Members were unhappy with the quality and duration of the presentation made in Stonehaven. And they said SSEN avoided questions about the impacts of future projects, such as the Glendye Wind Farm and future offshore wind farms, which would tie into and add to the proposed electrical infrastructure.

It was agreed a letter would be sent asking SSEN for more time to respond, and for a full consultation event on the project to be delivered in Stonehaven.

An SSEN spokesperson confirmed receipt of that letter and said: “We have responded to the community council and advised that while the consultation feedback period has closed, we will return to Stonehaven over the summer as part of our next round of public engagement events.”

SSEN will not or cannot provide map of all proposed infrastructure

Much of SDCC’s discussions highlighted the need for an understanding of not just this project, but all transmission projects in the pipeline – so The Bellman asked SSEN for a map showing its proposed infrastructure as it should appear in 2030.

SSEN’s spokesperson said they were unable to provide this information.

Virtual Dementia Event

From- Aberdeenshire Health & Social Care Partnership

Public encouraged to attend virtual Dementia event in bid to raise awareness

Brain health, the role of technology and stress and distress is all up for discussion, as part of a virtual event held to raise awareness about dementia.

The public are being encouraged to sign up for the series of expert led talks, which will take place online on May 27.

The Let’s Talk Dementia initiative has been put together following collaboration between Aberdeenshire Health & Social Care Partnership, NHS Grampian, Aberdeen City Health & Social Care Partnership and Moray Health & Social Care Partnership.

It falls during the same month as Dementia Awareness Week, and the annual campaign raises awareness across the UK.

It is hoped the online gathering will enable people to ask questions and find out more about dementia, which currently impacts around 90,000 people in Scotland.

Mental Health and Learning Disability Manager at Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership, Ryan McGregor, will be introducing the sessions, and hopes the event will promote connection and reduce loneliness.

“We are delighted to be hosting this event, and passionately believe that by tackling what can be a complex and even taboo topic, people will have the opportunity to learn more about a condition which could be having a very real impact on their life,” he said.

“We have some fantastic speakers covering a wide range of topics, which we hope will prove invaluable.

“From our older adults mental health team at AHSCP, to our home carers and healthcare support workers, we know how important it is to get dementia care right.

“We’ll also be exploring developments in research, and the role which technology can play in enabling people with dementia to be cared for in the community.”

Digital Project Manager at Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership, James Black, believes advances in technology can be hugely beneficial both for those living with dementia and their families. 

“I think people can switch off as soon as you mention digital technology, and part of my role is to demystify what’s available,” said James.

“I’m really looking forward to this virtual event, where I’ll be discussing the possibilities on offer thanks to smart technology.

“It’s a win/win, both for the person using the tech and the reassurance which it can give their families and care circle.

“Small things can have a huge impact, such as using Alexa to set reminders or the use of activity monitor solutions which can reassure families that their loved one is going about their normal routine.

“If something does seem amiss, technology can help flag up an issue at a very early stage.”

Lyn Pirie, who is nurse consultant for Dementia at NHS Grampian, will be delivering a talk on brain health, alongside Gillian Council who is executive lead for brain health and innovation at Alzheimer’s Scotland.

 To sign up for the event and find out more information, visit https://bit.ly/DementiaAwarenessEvent

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