Isles MP calls on Chancellor to end unfair Transmission costs in the north of Scotland

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil is calling on the Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng MP, to use the mini-budget on Friday (23 September) to bring an end to excessive transmission charges in the north of Scotland (TNUoS).

Mr MacNeil has previously called for an end to the unjust transmission charges.  On average it costs 46p per megawatt-hour (MWh) to transmit electricity from the European Union into the UK energy market.   However, in Scotland, the cost is £6.42 and £7.36 for the Highland and Islands – 16 times more than sending energy from Germany, France, or the Netherlands into the UK market. 

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“In April, I met with Mr Kwarteng, while he was Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.  I called for an end to the unjust transmission charges in the north of Scotland and at that meeting, I was heartened that Mr Kwarteng indicated that something had to be done about the TNUoS charges.

“Energy could be produced in the Scottish Islands at the moment which could be equivalent to the 10% electricity that the UK is importing daily from the European Union.  However, renewable projects have been hampered or stopped because of the need to pay excessive transmission charges which have stopped clean green electricity from being generated. 

“I have written to Chancellor Mr Kwarteng calling on him to bring an end to the unjust TNUoS charges. 

“Mr Kwarteng is now perhaps in an even more powerful position in Government to bring about change, a change I think he understands needs to be made.  The mini-budget on Friday would be the perfect opportunity to make these changes.

“I am not looking for preferential treatment for Scotland, I am looking for equality for Scotland with the European Union.”

ENDS

Fishing boats will be tied up at the pier if the Home Office cannot sort out the sponsored visa system, says Isles MP

Fishing boats will be tied up at the pier if the Home Office cannot sort out the sponsored visa system, says Isles MP 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil says fishing boats will be tied up at the pier if the Home Office is unable sort out the Sponsored Employers Scheme. 

Mr MacNeil had discussions with fishermen on Stornoway pier who told him they had filled crew shortages with hardworking foreign crew who were now facing deportation due to rejected sponsored visa applications. 

Home Office regulations introduced after Brexit mean that vessels employing foreign workers have to apply for Sponsored Visas. However, skippers report that applications are being rejected without explanation leaving skippers with sudden crew shortages. 

In a letter sent to the Home Office last week, Mr MacNeil said: “I am contacting you on behalf of fishermen in my constituency who have shared strong concerns about the challenges of securing skilled crew members for fishing vessels following Brexit.  

“The Scottish fishing industry is very reliant on foreign labour and the recruitment of skilled crew is essential for the operation and maintenance of fishing vessels. For the last two years, the recruitment of seamen from especially Ghana and Philippines has been key to keeping vessels at sea in parts of my constituency.  

“At a recent meeting with UKBA it was announced that any vessels working within UK territorial waters carrying foreign crew not employed under the sponsored visa scheme risked a £20k fine per crewman. A skipper in my constituency tells me that he has submitted several sponsored visa applications to the Home Office and all applications have been rejected. The reasons for the rejections have not been given.” 

Mr MacNeil added that the requirement for crew to pass writing and reading English examination is also a barrier as although the seamen have worked for many years and are fluent English speakers, they are unable to pass this specific exam.  

He said: “Skippers could now be left with no option but to tie up vessels. Certainly, when I spoke to the men from Ghana, who were liking their work in Stornoway, we had no problem understanding each other’s English although neither of us have sat or passed a Home Office English language test.” 

Isles MP says new Prime Minister is not good news for Scotland

A new Prime Minister at No.10 will not solve the multiple crises facing the UK, says Isles MP Angus MacNeil, who stresses the only escape route for Scotland is Independence.

Members of the Conservative Party have today (Monday) elected Liz Truss as their new Leader who will now be appointed as Prime Minister to take over from ousted Boris Johnson. Mr Johnson faced scandal after scandal which eventually led to his resignation in July.

Ms Truss has stated that she will announce support on the energy crisis within a week but there are no details on what this will involve and is not expected to offer any substantial support to households.

She has already disrespected First Minster of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, and the people of Scotland by stating her intention to ‘ignore’ the First Minister despite the success of the pro-independence majority of MSPs in last year’s election.

Mr MacNeil has written to the new Prime Minister for clarification on whether she will also rule out a Section 30 order for an Independence Referendum. Her predecessors Theresa May and Boris Johnson both rejected this request.

In his letter he states: “I am writing to you regarding Scotland’s right to self-determination. You are the third Prime Minister in 4 years that I have written to, since November 2018, asking about a Section 30 order for a Scottish independence referendum.

“Given your predecessors, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, both rejected requests for a Section 30 order, please can you confirm, like your predecessors, that you too rule out a Section 30 for an independence referendum? Of course, if you don’t rule this out, then that is to be welcomed, but I think you should be straight and clarify the matter.”

Isles MP says consideration and consultation should happen before linkspan closures 

Following news that Castlebay and Lochboisdale linkspans will have to close for some emergency repairs on lifting ropes, SNP MP Angus MacNeil has raised a number of questions about the length of closure and the sequencing of closure. 

Commenting Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has said: 

“It is quite concerning that this is not timetabled work but instead is emergency work which has crept up on CMAL. The questions which arise now are when and for how long these linkspans will close.  Surely both cannot be closed together, which would be the equivalent of closing all the roads out of a major city, as there would then be no way in or out of the islands.  That would obviously be unacceptable. 

“I will also ask CMAL are there are still any side -loading ships in the fleet which don’t need linkspans. 

“Hopefully both linkspans will not be closed at the same time and therefore there will be an increased service on the Sound of Barra to at least mitigate the problems which this creates and perhaps two daily sailings between Lochboisdale and Mallaig. 

“Finally, I hope there will be some more thought and consultation on this before the work happens regardless. Surely it has been learnt from Uig Pier that consideration and consultation has to happen before any action is taken.” 

Energy price emergency needs action now, says Isles MP

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has expressed dismay that the UK Government looks the other way while families are hit by an unprecedented hike in energy prices.

Energy regulator Ofgem announced today (Friday) that the energy price cap will increase from the current £1,971 to £3,549 from 1st October.

The 80.6% rise will remain in place until 31st December when it may rise even more.

The SNP has written to Boris Johnson demanding an immediate recall of Parliament to allow MPs to vote on an energy price freeze.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“Residents in Na h-Eileanan an Iar already face some of the highest fuel and energy prices across the UK and this energy price cap rise will plunge every household into an even more challenging position.

“As the Tories continue with infighting, people are struggling to make ends meet.

“Scotland could do so much better, the UK continues to harm Scotland and only independence can bring about change that we see in other independent European countries.”

ENDS

Isles MP reacts to inflation hike 

As UK inflation surges to its highest level in 40 years, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil says it is time for Scotland to escape Westminster.

As the Conservative Party focus on the appointment of their new leader to take over from ousted Prime Minister Boris Johnson, families are facing a cost of living crisis.

As of this week, inflation surged to a record 10.1 per cent for the 12 months to July, taking it to its highest level for 40 years.

The situation is likely to get worse before it improves, with the Bank of England forecasting the rate of inflation to hit 13.3 per cent this year.

Mr MacNeil said: “The current Tory Government is nowhere to be seen while families are facing rising bills and inflation soaring to levels not seen since 1982.

“The Government are so focused on the fight for the position of new Prime Minister that they are failing to act on the crisis situation unfolding around them.

“People need help right now. The current Prime Minister should recall Parliament and introduce an emergency budget that freezes the energy price cap, scraps VAT on fuel and delivers meaningful financial support for households.

“With every day the UK government fails to act, it is demonstrating the need for Scotland to become an independent country, with the full powers and levers needed to support families and escape the damage of Westminster control.”

  • Inflation is the increase in the price of something over time.
  • For example, if a bottle of milk costs £1 and that rises by 5p compared with a year earlier, then milk inflation is 5%.
  •  

Here are some examples of how the cost of everyday goods and services have risen in the past year based on the ONS data.

Low-fat milk 34.0%

Butter 27.1%

Pasta and couscous 24.4%

Olive oil 23.6%

Margarine and other vegetable fats 22.5%

Jams, marmalades and honey 21.2%

Sauces, condiments, salt, spices and culinary herbs 21.2%

Cheese and curd 17.9%

Ready-made meals 16.0%

Potatoes 15.7%

Eggs 14.6%

Yoghurt 14.2%

Pork 13.2%

Edible ices and ice cream 12.9%

Fish 12.8%

Bread 11.0%

Pizza and quiche 9.9%

Fruit 8.5%

Rice 6.7%

Sugar 5.1%

Allan and MacNeil take part in Uig triangle meeting

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil and MSP Alasdair Allan earlier today met with Minister for Transport, Jenny Gilruth MSP, along with CalMac, CMAL, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and representatives of the Ferries Community Board to raise their concern about the present disruption to the routes served by MV Hebrides.

On Tuesday, a fault with MV Hebrides’ CO2 firefighting system caused her withdrawal from her routes to Harris and North Uist. Sailings on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were cancelled, with MV Isle of Mull repositioning today to operate services between Uig, Tarbert and Lochmaddy from Friday 5 August.

It is currently anticipated that MV Hebrides will be back in service on Sunday 7 August.

Commenting, Angus MacNeil MP said:

“Clearly, at a time when the islands are making money in the summer with the ferries, this is a terrible time for them to breakdown. RET was set up to increase the economic activity on the islands, when the boats are not sailing, the effects are acutely felt. I think everyone is gobsmacked that the same system affects the same boat in a matter of days.

“We can all feel the frustration of the effects of ferries breaking down.

“I am encouraged that the Scottish Government are trying to source an extra vessel that can be on standby when a vessel breaks down which many of us have urged them to do.”

Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“I am grateful to the Minister for organising today’s meeting and for the update on the situation.

“I made clear the overwhelming sense of frustration of affected communities. I appreciate the uniqueness of the situation CalMac faces in having a firefighting system repaired and cleared by the MCA, only to see the same issue reoccur days later. However, that’s of no solace to the communities that have seen their vessel taken out of service for the fifth time this year. It’s ultimately islanders and island businesses and that pay the price of these large scale disruptions.

“The Minister agreed to look at whether a compensation scheme can be created from the financial penalties Transport Scotland receives from CalMac as a result of sailings which do not go ahead. I was also pleased to hear the Scottish Government’s recognition of the need for the Uig Triangle to be served by two vessels to ensure adequate resilience.

”However, the meeting left CalMac and Transport Scotland in no doubt that the current situation is unendurable.”

UK FUEL PRICE CUT ONE OF THE LOWEST IN EUROPE

According to research from the motoring group the RAC, the UK government has given some of the least generous support in Europe and Isles MP, Angus MacNeil is once again urging the UK Government to take action.

Germany has taken the equivalent of 25p a litre in tax off per litre of petrol, Italy 21p, Portugal 16p, and both Ireland and the Netherlands had cut duty by nearly 15p.

In March, Mr MacNeil had written to the then UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to increase the Rural Fuel Rebate from 5p a litre to 10p a litre, however this request was woefully brushed aside.  The Rural Fuel Rebate was introduced in 2012 after many years of heavy lobbying by Mr MacNeil and others.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“The cost-of-living crisis continues to hurt families and businesses and this research from the RAC shows the pitiful response from the UK Government.

“As the Tories continue with infighting, people are struggling to make ends meet.

“Scotland could do so much better, the UK continues to harm Scotland and only independence can bring about change that we see in other independent European countries.”

ENDS

Visa delay for NHS worker ‘totally unacceptable’ says Isles MP 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has expressed extreme frustration at Home Office delays in processing Visa applications which leads to stress and uncertainty for applicants. 

Mr MacNeil has been contacted by an island resident, who is employed by the NHS, and who applied for a Visa more than 5 months ago. Despite numerous attempts to move it forward, the case remains in limbo due to ongoing ‘technical issues’ in the system. 

Mr MacNeil said: “The ongoing delays are completely unacceptable and are causing immense stress to people. The Home Office are giving no clear indication of when things will progress.  It is especially bad that the legion of Home Office debacles is now affecting the NHS in Scotland.  

 “One of the excuses floating around from the Home Office is that they spent so much manpower on Ukrainian Visas that they are behind in other work.  However, if the Secretary of State, Priti Patel, had not been obstinate on the needless work forUkrainian Visas, the knock-on situations might not be as bad.  Remember the rest of Europe was sensible about Ukrainian refugees and visas, it was only the UK who demanded paperwork.   

“The Home Office apologised for the delay in this case and stated that they hoped to resolve this matter as soon as possible. I have remained in contact with the Home Office pressing the urgency of this application and it is unbelievable that they have again today stated that the technical issue has still not been resolved and are unable to give any indication of when it will be resolved. 

“I will continue to press the Home Office. It is bad enough that people’s holidays are being affected by their leadership but when it spreads to possibly affecting our health services, urgent changes are needed.” 

Angus Brendan MacNeil MP welcomes Co-op’s plan to tackle inequality and promote opportunity across Scotland

Angus Brendan MacNeil MP has welcomed a plan set out by the Co-op to create new opportunities and tackle inequalities across Scotland.

The Co-op has been working with the Purpose Coalition, founded by former Education Secretary Justine Greening, to produce their own Levelling Up Action Plan. The plan puts the work of the Co-op under a microscope, and makes independent and challenging recommendations on where the organisation can go further.

Recommendations include a new Co-op scheme to make it easier for new recruits to move from education to employment through targeted work experience placements, covering costs for work experience, and targeted mentoring and training. The organisation will also become a gold standard for pay gap tracking, introducing it across socio-economic, ethnicity, gender and disability reporting

In Na h-Eileanan an Iar, there are two Co-op food stores, and two Co-op Funeralcare Homes. In 2021 the Co-op’s Local Community Fund provided more than £20m of funding to a range of community organisations. In Na h-Eileanan an Iar, £76,779.40 in funding was received by local groups including Western Isles Community Care Forum, Barra Lifeboat Station and Tagsa Uibhist Horticulture Project.

The local MP attended an event in the House of Commons to mark the launch of the report, and to meet with Co-op members who are working to deliver help and support to those in need. Attendees included volunteers who run Community Fridges with help and support from the Co-op, redistributing food which would otherwise go to waste, alongside other good causes supported by the Co-op.

Angus Brendan MacNeil MP, Member of Parliament for Na h-Eileanan an Iar said “Equality is the founding value of the Co-op. I am delighted to welcome this plan set out by the Co-op to tackle inequality and promote opportunity – as we recover from the legacy of COVID-19 and face the challenge of the rising cost of living, that has never been more important.”

Founded in 1844, the Co-op is one of the oldest of three million cooperative organisations worldwide. With more than 4.2 million active members, it has a presence in almost every local community. With 2p in every £1 of member spending going towards good causes, the Co-op was the truly first purpose-led organisation. It champions a better way of doing business for individuals and communities through its products and services which aim to create value in its broadest sense.

Shirine Khoury-Haq, Co-op Group CEO said: “It is vital that business and government work in partnership to unlock the talent that exists everywhere. We must ensure everyone, whatever their background, has the opportunity to succeed in a way that is right for them. I’m delighted

that the impact the Co-op is already having in communities has been recognised in this report but we also know there is much more the Co-op, and other businesses, should do.

I want the Co-op to be part of a movement for change and a catalyst for that change. That’s why we’re delighted to be working with This is Purpose, to lead by example and show how purpose-led businesses can pave the way. I’m pleased to announce that the Co-op will join the new ‘Equality of Opportunity Coalition’ and we’ve already started work to explore what we can do to promote socio-economic diversity within the Co-op. We commit to share our insight and next steps in early 2023.”

Rt Hon Justine Greening, Chair of the Purpose Coalition said: “The Co-op is at the heart of local communities, and its deep knowledge of those it serves means they can truly help promote opportunity and tackle inequality. Our report sets out how the organisation can go even further to help tackle the challenges facing people today.”