MP has tunnel vision for the Islands

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has written to Transport Minister Michael Matheson MSP to suggest the Scottish Government visit the Faroe Islands to see the new 11.2 km subsea tunnel.

Mr MacNeil has hailed the success of the Faroes in creating a highly advanced transportation infrastructure which includes 17 land tunnels and two subsea tunnels with another almost complete and construction on a further tunnel due to start soon.

The system, which will include the world’s first subsea roundabout, will virtually eradicate the need for ferry services.

Mr MacNeil said: “The transport network in the Faroes is the kind of system we should aspire to follow in the Scottish islands.

“Infrastructure of this kind would have huge economic and social benefits to all parts of the islands and would remove travel disruption due to weather conditions or issues associated with capacity.”

He has suggested to Transport Minister Michael Matheson that Transport Scotland should visit the nearly complete Faroese tunnel and learn from the Faroese experience of creating a seamless travel system.

The new Faroes tunnel will shorten the travel distance from the capital of Tórshavn to Runavík/Strendur from 55 kilometres to 17 kilometres. The 64 minute drive will be shortened to 16 minutes. The drive from Tórshavn to Klaksvík will be shortened from 68 minutes to 36 minutes.

The tunnel will connect both sides of the bay of Skálafjørður using two tunnels that connect to a roundabout under the seabed at mid-bay. The tunnel will be 2.2 kilometers long from the main road at Rókini in Saltnes to the roundabout, and the distance from Sjógv at Strendur to the roundabout will be 1.7 kilometers.

The main tunnel from Tórshavn to the roundabout will be 7.5 kilometers and will resurface by the village of Hvítanes. In order to increase safety, no inclination in the tunnel is steeper than 5 per cent and the lowest point is 187 meters below the water’s surface.

Extra 4p for interconnector is worth it for economic boost to Isles, says MP

Constructing a 600MW interconnector to the Western Isles would cost consumers just 4p more per household per year than the 450MW option.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil continues to engage with Ofgem who recently announced their minded-to position of favouring a 450MW link over a 600MW.

As part of that engagement Mr MacNeil asked Ofgem for figures on what the two options would mean for household bills and learned that the 600MW would mean just 4p per household per year more than the 450MW option.

Mr MacNeil says favouring the smaller link would prevent the islands reaching their full renewables potential.

He said: “The figures I obtained from Ofgem show a 600MW link would add 43p to annual household bills and a 450MW would add 39p.

“It is clear that the 600MW option is much better value for money as it could boost the economy in a way the 450MW link could not.

“An extra 4p would allow a link which had room for current proposals and future development; the potential to create more jobs; and capacity for the islands to grow this sector. It would allow the islands to meet their full renewables potential in an area with the best wind resource in Europe.

“Ofgem’s figures do not take account of the fact that extra supply on the network would also lower prices for the consumer.

“Energy consumers have to pay for the cost of investment in new capacity and it is Ofgem’s role to ensure it obtains the best deal possible for them.

“In this case it seems obvious that the best possible deal is the one which will bring the greatest long term positive economic impact at minimal additional cost – and that is the 600MW option.”

Ofgem are carrying out a consultation prior to a final decision and visited Lewis last week to meet developers and local agencies.

Fire-risk tumble dryers still in use, says MP

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil is supporting calls from consumer group Which? for the Tory Government to put people’s safety first and ensure all fire-risk tumble dryers are removed from UK homes.

Which? UK estimate there could be up to 500,000 unmodified fire-risk tumble dryers still being used, more than three years after the first safety notice was issued.

Mr MacNeil appealed to island residents to check if their machines were affected when the first safety notice was issued in 2017.

He was subsequently involved in supporting several constituents in ensuring the relevant modifications were carried out or the machine was replaced.

Which? UK are campaigning for the UK Government to do more to protect consumers from unsafe products.

The UK Government’s Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) finally published their review on Whirlpool’s modification programme last week and concluded that modified machines are safe to use.

Which? UK have however received reports that some modified machines are continuing to have safety issues. They are now urging the Government to take urgent action to keep unsafe products out of people’s homes and for manufacturers and retailers to remove unsafe products from the market without delay.

Mr MacNeil said: “Which? UK believe there are half a million unmodified fire-risk tumble dryers still being used across the UK and so I would urge constituents to check again if their machine is affected.

“I am supporting Which’s campaign for the UK Government to do more to deal with this matter and to make sure that unsafe products are not being sold and used.

“It is just not enough to make soft recommendations to the firms responsible.”

OPSS has published specific requirements for Whirlpool to act on and issued a Decision Letter telling Whirlpool that the company must improve its management of risk; set up a more rigorous system of quality assurance to ensure modifications are correctly installed; and reach affected consumers in more creative ways to minimise the risk of faulty machines still being in people’s homes.

While this stage of the review is now complete, OPSS say they will continue to scrutinise Whirlpool’s actions against these requirements.

  • You can call Whirlpool on 0800 151 0905 to find out whether your dryer needs a repair and arrange for it to be fixed or replaced.
  • Visit or where you can input your model number and, if your model is affected, you can register it for a service and modification. Creda dryers can also be checked on the Hotpoint site.
  • Before you contact Whirlpool, check whether your dryer has a green dot sticker on the inside of the door towards the top, either on the door itself or the door rim. If there’s no green dot in these two areas, check the back panel of the machine in the middle and towards the top. If your dryer has a green sticker positioned in these areas, it is not part of the safety alert or has been repaired already.  
  • If your dryer is one of those affected by the fault, you must contact Whirlpool to arrange a repair or replacement, unplug it immediately and do not use it until it’s been fixed.

Home Office pilot scheme should support fishing industry

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus B MacNeil has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid calling for the UK Government’s Seasonal Workers Pilot scheme to be extended to include the fishing industry.

The West Coast of Scotland fishing industry continues to face a labour shortage crisis and Mr MacNeil has repeatedly called on the UK Government to change immigration rules and allow non-European Economic Area workers to work on fishing boats.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid recently informed MPs that a Seasonal Workers Pilot will commence this month to support the horticulture sector. The scheme will allow non-EU migrant workers to work in UK farms to support farmers growing fruit and vegetables.

Mr MacNeil said: “Ensuring that skippers have enough crew to take a boat to sea is a crucial way that the UK Government can support the fishing industry.

“The start of the Seasonal Workers Pilot this month will allow the horticultural industry to fill labour gaps and the same scheme would make a significant difference to the fishing industry.

“I have met with six Immigration Ministers to discuss this issue over the last few years but there has been no progress.

“However I hope the introduction of this pilot scheme is an indication that the UK Government may be prepared to finally look at the crisis facing the fishing industry. I will write to Home Secretary asking him to intervene.”

Isles MP welcomes automatic compensation scheme for broadband and landline users when things go wrong

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil has welcomed the announcement from Ofcom that broadband and landline customers will get money back from their providers when things go wrong, without having to fight for it.

BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen Internet have joined Ofcom’s scheme, which is not compulsory.

From today (Monday 1st April), customers who experience delayed repairs, installations or missed engineer appointments will be compensated, without having to ask.

Commenting Angus MacNeil said:

“BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Zen Internet have signed up to the scheme and have agreed to compensate customers when they experience these delays, without having to ask and Ofcom will carefully monitor companies’ compliance with the compensation scheme.

“We all know how inconvenient it is when faults happen with our broadband or landline, this scheme is a step in the right direction.”


Isles MP urges Ofgem to think again on Interconnector

Isles MP Angus MacNeil has reacted with dismay to the announcement by Ofgem that they are minded to reject the proposal by SSEN to build a 600MW transmission link to the Western Isles and favour instead a 450MW link.

Mr MacNeil will discuss the situation with officials from Ofgem later today (Tuesday).

Mr MacNeil said: “This has been a long drawn out process, it would be a mistake to build 450MW instead of 600MW. This would mean that the project would be unlikely to go ahead in an area which has the strongest wind resource in Europe.

“It is clear from all the developers that 450MW is not in the real world and the extra cost of adding a further 33 per cent to the capacity would only be seven percent added costs.

“It is unlikely that any project from the big developers to community wind will happen with the 450MW option and it is difficult to see how they could come to the conclusion that this is the best option. However that is the legislation and the UK and the bureaucratic narrow approach of UK Government legislators such as Ofgem in its interpretation.

“I would appeal to Ofgem to go back and think again and do what is best for the environment and the economy and to ensure that we deliver good clean energy, not just for the British Isles but to power into the European power network as part of the energy union.”


Crofters face being fleeced in event of No Deal, says Isles MP

New tariff arrangements revealed by the UK Government today (Wednesday) could leave those exporting lamb severely out of pocket in the event of No Deal, says Isles MP Angus MacNeil.

With just over two weeks until the UK is expected to leave the EU, the Department of International Trade announced plans for tariffs on imports to the UK. These included tariffs on sheep meat and beef.

Mr MacNeil said: “The tariffs outlined by the UK Government today are very bad news for agriculture. The spin of UK “protection” actually means tariffs into the EU for UK agriculture.

“Crofters in Na h-Eileanan an Iar are preparing for lambing in just a few weeks.  The autumn lamb sales have a huge EU market and the future is now worrying and very uncertain.

“Only revoking Article 50 to stop Brexit will now prevent choking and restricting trade. With no trade deals, the UK will face tariffs on almost all exports.

Reactions from the agricultural industry say the proposed tariffs could have a negative impact on UK exporters, in particular the sheep sector. They warn that the combination of tariffs and a no-deal Brexit could also mean an end to established supply chains which would cause disruption.

Isles MP urges islanders to ‘Brexit proof’ holiday plans

Islanders planning a summer holiday should ensure they are prepared for a potential No Deal Brexit, warns Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil.

  • Check passport expiry dates
  • Get travel insurance to cover medical emergencies

With less than a month until the planned Brexit date, Mr MacNeil says a No Deal scenario could mean passports with less than six months validity may not be accepted for travel to EU countries.

He is urging families to check passport expiry dates now and to ensure they have adequate travel insurance in place as it is unlikely that European Health Insurance Card will remain valid if there is No Deal (this currently gives UK travellers free emergency healthcare in EU countries).

No Deal Brexit could also mean that holidaymakers from the UK will need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in EU countries (with the exception of Ireland). 

Mr MacNeil said: “My view is that Article 50 should be revoked to end the Brexit chaos and remove us from a situation which will lead to economic damage in the event of a deal or No Deal.

“However in the event of No Deal travellers must ensure that passports have more than 6 months validity; they must ensure they have travel insurance which includes cover for unexpected medical emergencies; and must also check what International Driving Permit (IDP) is required in your travel destination, these are available from some Post Offices.”

Consumer advice source Which? stated this month that if you book a package holiday which is cancelled because of Brexit, you will be able to claim the full holiday cost back.

They also state that most planned flights between the UK and the EU will go ahead after March 29th although the International Air Transport Association has warned that some may be cancelled.

If your flight is cancelled, you will get a refund or an alternative flight but compensation is unlikely.

Deal or no deal, any travel disruption caused directly by Brexit will likely be declared an extraordinary circumstances, which means no compensation.

Check your passport here

MP and MSP voice concern over scope services

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan and MP Angus MacNeil have voiced their concern over scoping services within NHS Western Isles after being contacted by several constituents  experiencing delays or difficulties in accessing endoscopy or colonoscopy appointments.  

Both Western Isles Hospital and Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh were unable to host scoping appointments for the latter part of last year due to technical issues with the equipment. While scoping services are now being carried out again at both Hospitals, many patients are still waiting for appointments.

Alasdair Allan and Angus MacNeil have both been in contact with NHS Western Isles about the situation.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“I have had a number of constituents in touch with me since August regarding the unavailability of colonoscopy and endoscopy services.

“While I understand the Health Board was able to source appointments at mainland hospitals for some patients, there have been too many people experiencing too much of a wait.”

Mr MacNeil said: “Whatever the technical issues in one part of Scotland, people should not be made to wait.

“I am writing to the Health Minister to have an urgent overview on patient risk in this hiatus.  Scopes should be brought in or people transported out – waiting is not an allowable luxury in this situation.”

Iolaire debate transcripts printed

Two hundred and one transcripts of the Westminster Hall debate which marked the Centenary of the loss of HMY Iolaire in Parliament have been printed.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus B MacNeil , who led the debate, had the transcripts printed and signed by all MPs who contributed including the Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP, Minister for the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Mr MacNeil has sent transcript copies to local schools, historical societies, the Iolaire Working Group and individuals involved in projects to commemorate the Centenary of the Iolaire.

He said: “There was a huge community effort to commemorate the Centenary of the loss of the Iolaire. The many events and projects at the end of last year were a fitting and poignant commemoration of this great loss.

“I led a debate in Westminster Hall on December 12th on HMY Iolaire and the transcript provides a record of that debate which may be of interest locally.

“It also involved a contribution from Welsh MP Chris Bryant who was related to John Finlay Macleod who swam ashore with a rope and saved many lives.”

Copies of the transcript have been sent to various organisations and individuals but anyone who would like a copy can contact the constituency office on 01851 702272, email or call into the office at 31 Bayhead, Stornoway.