MacNeil welcomes limited changes to exemption list for Oil and Gas workers

Isles MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed confirmation today from the Scottish Government that oil and gas workers returning home from countries not on the acute risk list will not have to isolate for 10 days in a hotel.

Mr MacNeil has been calling for changes to be made to the exemption list after having been contacted by many oil workers.

Commenting Angus MacNeil said:

“I am pleased to see that the Scottish Government has listened, and changes have now been made to the exemption list which will mean that workers in the oil and gas sector returning home for Denmark, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Germany, Netherlands or Norway.  This will be a huge relief for the oil workers and their families.”

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Further Information below:

The exemptions listed here apply to people arriving from countries outside the Common Travel Area that are not acute risk countries.

Oil and Gas

Applies to workers who have travelled to Scotland in the course of their work to undertake or commence activities on or in relation to an offshore installation or upstream petroleum infrastructure; critical safety work on an offshore installation or a well being decommissioned or preserved pending demolition or reuse; or activities for the provision of workers, goods, materials or equipment or other essential services required to support the safe operation of these activities.

From 0400 on Thursday 25 February, this exemption also applies to workers undertaking any of those activities offshore in Denmark, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Germany, Netherlands or Norway, who are returning to Scotland and have transited through, but not entered, another country on their return journey.

•             you need to take a coronavirus test before you travel to Scotland

•             you need to complete the passenger locator form before you travel to Scotland

•             you do not need to book a managed isolation package

•             you need to book a testing package and take two coronavirus tests while you are in Scotland

•             you must self-isolate when you are not at, or travelling to and from, a place where you are required to undertake the activities this exemption applies to

•             you’ll need to show a letter from your company at the border which includes your personal details, such as name and address; contact details for your employer; and a description of the work you’ll be doing. If your employer issued you with photo identification, you should bring this with you

Guidance on how to isolate in your own accommodation are available here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-international-travel-quarantine/pages/isolate-at-your-accommodation/

Angus MacNeil MP backs Comhairle call to reject proposal to reduce ferry services

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Mr MacNeil is backing calls by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to reject any proposal by Transport Scotland to further reduce ferry timetables and has today written to the Scottish Government as a matter of urgency.

Community and stakeholder feedback and engagement sessions were due to take place this week and following that, CalMac will make any changes requested by Transport Scotland.

Mr MacNeil said: “There are many transport needs in the islands.  I know that the Scottish Salmon Company in Lewis need to use some of the ferries that were scheduled to be cut.  Similarly in Barra, Barratlantic need the ferries, there are only five ferries a week to Barra and there will be needs in Uist and Harris as well. 

“The Sound of Barra and Harris ferries are needed not just for their own sailings but to meet up with each other which is why the last sailing to Barra is important.  Also, the Lochmaddy ferry which arrives at 3.45pm in Lochmaddy, doesn’t meet well with the 4.30pm sailing from Eriskay to Barra. 

“Perhaps that is a longer-term issue that needs to be looked at.  Meanwhile while we are looking at transportation issue, perhaps the Comhairle could look to improve the areas of transportation they are still responsible for because Council transport often doesn’t meet with other forms of transport and seems to operate independently of other forms of transport into, between and out of the islands.”

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Isles MP urges businesses who trade with EU to apply for funding

Island businesses who trade with the European Union (EU) will soon be able to apply for grants of up to £2,000 to pay for practical support including training and professional advice to ensure they can continue to trade effectively.

Na h-Eileanan Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is urging all those who will be affected by the new trade regulations due to Brexit to keep an eye out for the opening of applications.

Mr MacNeil said: “Brexit has and will continue to bring many challenges for businesses trading with the EU including adjustments to customs, rules of origin and VAT rules.

“I would urge any business which trades with the EU to submit an application once they have opened to access vital funds of support.”

New import controls are being introduced in three stages up to July 1 2021 to allow traders and hauliers time to adjust to new processes.

Businesses can apply online but applications are not yet open.

Full details are here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/grants-to-help-small-and-medium-sized-businesses-new-to-importing-or-exporting

Isles MP hears Infrastrata’s ambitious plans for Arnish

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil spoke last week with the CEO of the firm Infrastrata to discuss plans to revive Arnish yard on the Isle of Lewis.

Mr MacNeil discussed the plans with CEO Mr John Wood.

The plan includes the creation of a good number of new jobs including 32 apprenticeships by 2025.

Mr MacNeil said: “I had a very good call with Infrastrata about Arnish. Their plans would seem to be in tandem with other operations that they have, although Arnish would be looking to stand on its own two feet.

“Infrastrata has a good reputation for productivity and quality, which they say Arnish also has, and hopefully there will be an opportunity for apprenticeships there.

“They have a good track record in this area and know the business well. They are doing quite diverse things to end the boom and bust and to keep the steady stream going at Arnish in various areas. It is not for me to give details of what they hope to do, but them seem to have their feet on the ground and are ambitious for the future of the Arnish yard without the peaks and troughs of work.”

Isles MP seeks exemption from quarantine for returning Seafarers and Oil Workers

England's travel quarantine rules are less strict than Scotland's
Quick resolution for current shambolic quarantine rules

Angus Macneil MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar is writing again to the Scottish Transport Secretary and Scotland’s First Minister seeking an exemption from quarantine for Oil & Gas workers and Seafarers returning to their homes in the UK.  He is also writing to the UK Government Transport Minister.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said

‘For quite sometime, I have been trying to get pre-travel testing for these workers close to their homes’ but the Governments have not been interested.  Now, all of a sudden, the Government want to impose 10 days managed isolation on them as they return home to the UK.

Surely we need to have a better approach than this particularly given they are usually working in ‘covid secure bubbles’ while away and have quarantined before they join the rig or ship and present no greater risk than workers coming off ships and rigs in our own waters. Indeed, many are coming from countries with a lower covid risk than Scotland or the UK.

This is a nightmare for these families – one of my constituents is now in a hotel in London till 28th February having left home for a six week trip on 26th December. The whole situation is shambolic with chaotic guidelines which even the Governments own agencies struggle to understand!

Hopefully this will be looked at quickly as these industries will struggle to function if current quarantine demands continue.’

Isles MP urges families not to miss out on vital support funds

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is urging island families not to miss out on vital support funds.

Parents and carers who receive welfare support – such as Universal Credit – can apply for the annual School Age Payment of £250 for each child in Primary 1 before the deadline for applications on February 28.

Eligible parents of children born between 1 March 2015 and 29 Feb2016 can access the payment, whether their child is attending school or not. Applications for children born between March 1 2016 and February 28 2017 will open from June 1 2021.

The new Scottish Child Payment of £10 a week per child is also still open for applications from eligible families although payments will not be backdated and so applications should be submitted as soon as possible.

Mr MacNeil said: “Applications for family support payments are now more important than ever.

“Covid-19 has led to additional financial challenges for many families and so any extra support is welcome.”

For full details of support available please visit:

School age payment

https://www.mygov.scot/best-start-grant-best-start-foods/

Scottish Child Payment

https://www.mygov.scot/scottish-child-payment/

 or call Social Security Scotland on 0800 182 2222.

MP writes to Transport Minister over seafarers and oil worker quarantine

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is writing to Transport Minister Michael Matheson MSP, regarding the updated guidance about managed isolation https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-public-health-checks-at-borders/pages/self-isolation/ 

Exemptions do apply to some oil and gas workers arriving from countries not on the acute risk list and are in Scotland to carry out specific forms of essential work.   However, offshore oil and gas workers returning home to Scotland after working on a rig in another country will have to quarantine for 10 days in a hotel, even if it is from a country with a lower covid rate than Scotland, such as Norway.

Seamen and masters, inspectors and surveyors of ships who travel from countries not on the acute risk list are exempt from isolation. 

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“I have been contacted by oil workers who work in Norway.  These workers already have to leave home early in order to get a PCR test and they are now looking at spending 10 days isolating in a hotel before they can get home to their families.

“While there are some exemptions for seafarers coming from safer countries, such as Norway, oil rig workers are strangely not included. 

“Workers coming from acute risk countries will have to isolate in a hotel for 10 days before getting home as this list of countries has far less exemptions. 

“Workers even from the acute list of countries maintain that they are frequently tested, have strict procedures in place on the ships and rigs and each vessel is effectively in isolation.  Imposing hotel isolation before returning home is going to be extremely difficult.  They are working hard to support their families and perhaps they should be allowed to isolate at home, and of course subject to testing.

“I am writing to Michael Matheson MSP, Transport Minister to ask that he urgently reviews this decision, in regard to returning from acute and non-acute countries and to weigh up the arguments for each in turn, but certainly to bring oil workers in line with seamen and master mariners.

“Certainly Norway, has consistently less cases than Scotland of Covid, and seems strange to leave safer Norway, and the Covid disciplines of their oil industry there, to quarantine before being allowed limited liberty of Tier 4 in Scotland and its higher covid risk.”

Isles MP says Seafood Disruption Support Scheme must be looked at again

Isles SNP MP Angus MacNeil says criteria for the Seafood Disruption Support Scheme (SDSS)  must be altered to ensure that parts of the sector do not miss out on vital funding.

Mr MacNeil has tabled questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, to ask that the criteria and funding allocation for this scheme be looked at again and to ensure that the correct support is available.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said: “The damage done to our seafood sector because of Boris Johnson’s Brexit Deal is being widely felt across Scotland. 

“I have great concerns that the UK Government’s Seafood Disruption Support Scheme does not go far enough to compensate the seafood sector for their financial losses. 

“The scheme asks that the sector needs to prove verifiable financial losses, but this is not wide ranging enough criteria for those who have had to cancel orders, had customers cancel orders or have had to freeze product resulting in 80% less product value, as well as the groupage issues many have faced while exporting to market. 

“The industry has also rightly expressed their disappointment in the narrow criteria for the scheme today. There has been no consultation with the industry about this scheme, it has simply been prescribed to them.”

The Chief Executive of Seafood Scotland, Donna Fordyce, earlier commented “We hoped the £23m would go some way to alleviating the pressure, while the existing problems could be resolved.  However, the initial industry feedback today is one of disappointment, with many companies instantly realising they will be ineligible for support. 

She further stated “It’s probable that these companies will never be fully compensated for what they have lost and are still losing, but the damage could still be limited if the systems were workable and export gets back on track quickly.”

Mr MacNeil added “I am calling on the Chancellor to expand the criteria for this scheme, £23 million will not go far enough to account for the losses faced by the industry. It has been 40 days since the Tories disastrous Brexit came into play, the Scottish fishing industry estimate that Brexit is costing them over £1 million a day meaning that this scheme already needs to be greater and so I urge the Chancellor to top up this scheme.

“When the Chancellor set up this scheme it was so that people who were losing money would be able to access this fund. This should not be a labyrinth of bureaucracy to prevent those who have lost money from the Government’s Brexit deal, to not access that money, because of rules the Government have created. If we compare this to last January then people have lost money due to this carry on.

“The SDSS alone will not help solve the issues faced by the industry, but it is important that the scheme is done correctly and is wide ranging enough to compensate for the losses faced. The UK Government needs to work with the fishing sector to help alleviate the delays and issues from getting their perishable goods to market, as this is not just a one off disruption but rather an ongoing issue.” 

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Further details about The Seafood Disruption Support Scheme (SDSS) can be found here – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/23-million-seafood-disruption-support-scheme-now-open 

MacNeil calls again on Cabinet Secretary to meet over island jobs.

Benbecula Airport - Wikipedia

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is writing again to Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson, to discuss Mr Matheson’s refusal to meet regarding the airport situation in Stornoway and Benbecula where crucial island jobs are in the balance. 

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“I am disappointed by the response from Michael Matheson, he was the longest to respond to the request to meet, a full month after Prospect Union, who responded within a day. Clearly at the moment we don’t need him to travel to the islands but just to meet with us virtually about these important island jobs.

“On day one of this process I told HIAL that they had an agenda of centralising and empire building around their office in Inverness. HIAL are an out-of-control department who are damaging the islands.  Most of their airports are in the Islands yet their HQ is on the mainland. They should either have their HQ moved to the islands or be broken up. From the very beginning it was clear that they were wanting to centralise in Inverness, I challenged them on this at the start and I told them if they were going to centralise things to hub them in Benbecula or Stornoway. Clearly, they are wanting to empire build at their own head office. 

“When there was an issue around the coastguard stations, the UK Government’s then Maritime Minister, Mike Penning MP, and accepted my invite to travel from London to Stornoway and didn’t leave it to his Government’s Maritime & Coastguard Agency, but instead took responsibility for government agency actions. He also met with concerned parties in London to discuss the issue too. It is now imperative that the Scottish Government intervene on this vital issue.

“In our islands, our ferry company, our airlines and even our Gaelic bodies, as well as in this case HIAL, are headquartered in the mainland. It is galling that some of the few, high quality, island jobs are about to be removed by an arm of the Scottish Government. 

“If the Islands Act isn’t pointless, at the very least, it should be protecting these jobs. HIAL are damaging the islands, and this is not a good enough response from the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary who should be overseeing their actions. The purpose of a virtual meeting is so we can all agree on the sets of facts surrounding this.

“I implore Michael Matheson to think again and to get around the table with the Civil Aviation Authority, Prospect Union, HIAL, the employees and elected representatives from the area, to make sure island jobs are not sold short.” 

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SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar comments on Barra entering Level 4

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“Firstly, this is the official designations catching up with the reality of the situation in Barra as people have been voluntarily in Level 4 in their actions for about a week now since the first COVID-19 cases emerged.


“This is good that it is only in Barra and not impacting the other islands. It is good that the distinction has been made.


“Hopefully, we can get this Covid situation in Barra under control soon. It looks like the rate of positives is going in the right direction already but still there is much to be done. We must remember social distancing when in shops, staying at home and not travelling unnecessarily and washing our hands regularly.” 

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