MP urges EU citizens to apply to Settlement Scheme

Angus MacNeil MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar is urging any constituent who is an EU citizen to ensure they have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) before the deadline of June 30.

Irish citizens and people with indefinite leave to remain do not have to apply but all other EU citizens must apply to the scheme to continue living or working in Scotland.

Both adults and children need to apply.

Mr MacNeil said: “It is the Scottish Government’s view that EU citizens should not need to apply to protect the right they already have to live, work and study here but the UK Government has made it a requirement.

“The deadline is the end of this month and so I would urge any constituent who is an EU citizen who has not already done so, to apply.”

Scotland’s Europe Minister Jenny Gilruth has requested that the UK Government make a series of urgent changes to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) – including extending the 30 June deadline.

Full details on how to apply can be found here: https://www.mygov.scot/help-eu-citizens

HIAL jobs – MacNeil meets with Transport Scotland Auditors

SNP MP Angus MacNeil has met with Transport Scotland auditors to discuss the proposals that HIAL have to remove jobs from the islands to centralise in Inverness, which has an extra cost to the public purse of £2 million each and every year going forward.


Commenting Angus MacNeil said:


“I had a fruitful discussion with Transport Scotland Auditors today to understand what role they will play in this process. They will audit the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland’s costs of HIAL’s project, but they cannot intervene as such. They are referees rather than active players.

“This is the first time I have met auditors about government expenditure. This shows how concerned I am about the obvious waste of public money coming down the track.


“One thing I was anxious to impress was that we don’t want a result on this afterwards which says that this is going to cost an awful lot more, once the jobs have been removed from the islands and HIAL have completed community vandalism in the islands. Hopefully, common sense will prevail and the cheaper options that have been put forward by air traffic controllers themselves and the union Prospect, will be looked at as options.


“Hopefully, this is something the Transport Minister, Graeme Day, will look at. It would be a great feather in his cap if he can save the government £2 million each and every year. It would also reassure the communities. We don’t want to see something which is technically questionable, which might cause staff turnover, and which has no legislative basis from the UK Government, yet will cause community damage and a cost to the government. That is at least five good reasons why this should not be going ahead.”

Isles MP welcomes move to lease extra vessel – but suggests a tunnel could be a vision for the future

Na h-Eileananan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed the confirmation from the Scottish Government that they are in discussions regarding the lease of an additional vessel for the Calmac fleet – but stresses that the option of a subsea tunnel should also be considered.

Mr MacNeil has written several times this year to the Scottish Government regarding the ageing Calmac fleet with repeated suggestions to charter MV Pentalina and has also suggested the construction of new vessels in Gdansk in Poland.

Mr MacNeil said: “I welcome that the Scottish Government is in discussions in regard to leasing an additional vessel. This is something which I have been suggesting and pressing the Scottish Government on for the last six months. I have recently heard that the Pentalina may need a not inconsiderable spend to get her into condition for even trials on the West Coast – hopefully that can be cleared up.

“The disruption to ferry services is having a massive impact on all aspects of island life and the economy.

“I welcome this step forward and hope that we will see progress very soon.

“It should be borne in mind that £500m used as 25% to lever in investment capital could build about 200km of Faroes-style undersea ferry replacement tunnels.

“Transport Scotland and the Minister should seriously look into this and at the very least speak with Faroese counterparts for learning.”

MacNeil welcomes newly appointed Transport and Islands Ministers

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil has welcomed Graeme Dey MSP as Transport Minister and Mairi Gougeon MSP as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands – at a time when two huge transport issues are hanging over the islands.

Commenting Angus MacNeil said:

“Clearly the islands have to be protected by maintaining the HIAL jobs and saving the public purse a lot of money.

“I would look to both Ministers to engage fully with this issue and not to let HIAL empire build in Inverness at the expense of communities.  That as well as the need to make sure we have a decent ferry supply in the coming years and looking at all yards in and out of Scotland. 

“There is plenty to keep them busy and I hope to see both in the islands this summer to discuss matters with the local community. 

“I also welcome Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s plan for ferries but we should keep our minds open about tunnels where we could use the ferry money in a number of inventive ways to ensure we have fixed links at all times.  These things are possible if there is the political will as the Faroe Islands have shown.”

ENDS

Is Gdańsk the answer for islands shipping troubles?

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil has said that all possible options need to be investigated to fill the islands ferry problems given the latest problems with the Loch Seaforth’s late return to service.  Mr MacNeil is also suggesting that another boat be built in Gdańsk for the fleet of CalMac vessels on the west coast of Scotland.

Commenting Angus MacNeil said:

“There is a problem with the CalMac fleet on the west coast of Scotland.  The MV Loch Seaforth was built in Germany and launched 7 years ago and is currently out of service, having had numerous problems since coming into service. The newest boat previous to that MV Finlaggan launched 11 years ago, was built in Gdańsk in Poland.

“We need to get other boats in play sooner rather than later.  The problems on the Clyde are well documented, there are many promises but it seems that nobody in Transport Scotland, CMAL or CalMac are confident of when the Glen Sannox might arrive to ease the problems.

“The CalMac fleet is ageing and the Pentalina apparently requires work before it can even be trialled.  Perhaps given the number of boats that are going to be needed consideration should be given to going back to Gdańsk where the Finlaggan was built or to Flensburger in Germany.  Other boats will be required even if the Glen Sannox and Hull 802 are completed. 

“The Finlaggan cost in the region of £25 million in 2010 and it was suggested at the time that Gdańsk could have built another one for about 85% of that cost, having familiarised themselves with the job, however, I’m sure that is not the case today.  The Loch Seaforth was £42 million four years later, it was indeed a bigger boat but one way or another we are going to need quite a number of boats over the next few years.  

“Unfortunately, with the current problems we have we are probably going to need quite a few yards building and therefore it may be time to look to Poland or other ship building nations to provide the vessels we need.  We will need a number of vessels if we are going to prevent further summers of restricted capacity due to the ageing fleet and the problems this brings.

“There are a plethora of organisations involved in this between CalMac, CMAL and Transport Scotland but one way or another, we have to cut through that forest and get boats sailing on the west coast and that means that we should be using yards with a track record in building this kind of ship.”

ENDS

MP welcomes launch of affordable broadband and call packages

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed BT’s launch of a new scheme next month which will offer affordable fibre broadband and call packages to anyone receiving Universal Credit and other means-tested benefits.

Eligible customers will receive average download speeds of 36 mbps and 700 mins of calls for £15 a month. A Call-only plan will also be available, priced at £10 a month and including unlimited minutes.

 Mr MacNeil said: “Contact with others either online or by phone has never been more important. With limits on face to face contact with others continuing, the vital importance of having access to affordable fibre broadband and call packages has never been greater.

“Throughout the pandemic, many aspects of our lives have turned to virtual communication – to keep in touch with friends and family, home schooling, working from home, for community meetings etc. This new scheme will be helpful to those who have found keeping in touch a challenge due to financial constraints.”

BT Home Essentials will be for those who are on Universal Credit or a range of means tested credits and will launch in June.

https://newsroom.bt.com/bt-to-launch-new-at-cost-social-tariff-in-june–offering-support-to-over-four-million-households-on-low-income/

Isles MP commends Prospect union for easing industrial action due to the election

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has praised Prospect union for easing industrial action this week to enable ballot boxes to be moved between islands after the polling stations have closed on Thursday.

Mr MacNeil said: “Prospect and Air Traffic Control members in both Benbecula and Stornoway, and other places, are very justified in trying to protect their jobs and making sure jobs are not taken from these fragile communities to be bizarrely put into a central location in Inverness at a far greater cost.

“We would hope that, once elected, the new Scottish Government would be understanding to the needs of the islands and make sure that we don’t lose these jobs in our communities.

“They need to get a grip of the wayward elements within HIAL who have been disregarding island legislation and the good of island communities in their attempt to spend even more public money – a sum of £2m each and every year –  because they refuse to entertain the prospect of doing what they say they need to do, locally.

If they costed this, they would find it would save them and the public purse a lot more money and wouldn’t be damaging our island communities.

“I hope any new or continuing Transport Minister will be up to the game of catching HIAL and protecting the communities.”

MacNeil and Murray astonished at “jaw-dropping” Transport Scotland HIAL letter 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil & Western Isles SNP Council Group Leader, Gordon Murray, has expressed astonishment at the fact that not all options have been considered and costed for HIAL managing air traffic control at island airports. Especially against a background where political parties have policies, schemes and ideas to maintain the population in Scotland’s vulnerable communities. HIAL seem hell bent on not just taking some jobs out of these communities, but just about the best paid jobs out of these communities.

The revelation came in a letter from Transport Scotland after Mr MacNeil had queried better value for money options that would deliver what HIAL claimed they need to deliver.  These options could prevent relocating jobs and uprooting families to Inverness but maintaining island communities in line with government policy and with better value for money for the public purse. Astonishingly HIAL did not calculate the costs for these options.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“At a time when public budgets are pressed like never before, to get a letter from Transport Scotland reiterating that the ATMS project is not a cost saving exercise is frankly jaw-dropping. 

“The letter states “The ATMS project is not a cost saving exercise” and further states that “Costings were not calculated for all options.” This much I know to be true as there are two cheaper options than empire building in Inverness and if HIAL manage to hoodwink Scottish Government Ministers, then each and every year £2 million will be needlessly wasted from the Scottish Government’s budget and jobs will be removed from the islands, cancelling out any other government spend to further help people remain in our island communities. 

“Between the Scottish Government and Audit Scotland, somebody has to rapidly get a grip about what is going on and remove the uncertainty that is hanging over too many islanders jobs at the moment. The hoodwinking of the Government must end.” 

Commenting SNP Council Leader, Cllr Gordon Murray, said: 

“HIAL need to review their decision in terms of the huge impact this will have on the islands – the people of these islands are ambitious and are our greatest resource, it’s time public agencies such as HIAL acknowledged this. 

“By retaining these jobs on the islands, HIAL will be making an investment with far-reaching positive consequences for communities than if it were to continue its plans. HIAL need to be a part of the transformational change these islands need and this is their opportunity.”   

ENDS

MP reiterates his repeated calls for the use of MV Pentalina

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has repeated his numerous calls for MV Pentalina to be used on West coast routes.

Mr MacNeil has pressed many times over the last three months for the vessel to be trialled, prior to the current difficulties with MV Loch Seaforth.

He is also questioning the role of Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), a wholly owned public corporation of the Scottish Government, which owns the ferries, ports, harbours and infrastructure for the ferry services on the west coast.

Mr MacNeil said: “Quite clearly the MV Pentalina is now a boat that will have to become a feature on the West coast as I have been saying for quite a number of months now, and calling for a trial even before the latest difficulties with the MV Loch Seaforth.

“In my dealings around the ferry issues, I really have to question what the point is of CMAL other than to complicate and to put in an extra layer that is definitely not required. I don’t think it was ever required and it certainly isn’t required now. The Scottish Government should look to save money and abolish CMAL perhaps. This money could be used for the outright purchase of MV Pentalina.”

Mr MacNeil has written several times to Transport Scotland on the potential use of MV Pentalina and has been in correspondence with Calmac on this matter as well as regular dialogue with local businesses and constituents who have raised concerns directly with him.

In response to his correspondence, Transport Scotland have now asked Calmac to include the use of MV Pentalina in the dry dock review and in response to further correspondence from Mr MacNeil, Calmac have said the vessel may be deployed as short term relief in the winter.

MacNeil renews call for trial of MV Pentalina

Angus MacNeil has today repeated the call for the trial of the MV Pentalina given the news that the MV Loch Seaforth is suspended until at least the end of April.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil said:

“Given the breakdown of the MV Loch Seaforth and the challenges we will again face on the west coast of Scotland on the CalMac ferry routes it is imperative that the MV Pentalina is tested and trialled to see if it is a viable ferry for use on the routes.

“We would be in a hugely dire situation now if another ferry broke down. The current situation is bad enough but to know there is a ferry sitting idly by is frustrating. Between the Government, Transport Scotland and CMAL the decision has not been made to trial the MV Pentalina to see what it can do, it is very frustrating indeed.

“Now is the time for action. I would call on the Transport Minister, Michael Matheson, to urgently intervene to make sure that the Pentalina is brought into the equation.”

ENDS