Good Cause in Na h-Eileanan an Iar Receives Funding Boost to the Delight of Local MP

Mr Angus MacNeil, MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, was thrilled to learn that a good cause in the constituency has received a welcome funding boost thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Befriending Lewis was recently awarded £19861 from Postcode Community Trust, a grant giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The funding will enable the organisation to continue its work in Na h-Eileanan an Iar.

Congratulating the organisation, Mr Angus MacNeil said:

“I’m delighted to hear that Befriending Lewis has been successful in securing funds for a special arts project – ‘Breakthrough for the Housebound.’ from Postcode Community Trust

“My thanks must go to the volunteers at Befriending Lewis who give their time and energy to help others and to the players of People’s Postcode Lottery as this award will make a real difference to the local community.”

_2024084_15103770_9666, 9666

Since the beginning of the year, over £3.3milllion has been distributed to over 350 grassroots projects operating across Great Britain through People’s Postcode Lottery’s three community programmes trusts which are; Postcode Local Trust, Postcode Community Trust and People’s Postcode Trust.

The next opportunity for groups to apply for funding will be early in 2019. For more information, please visit the trusts’ websites:

www.postcodetrust.org.uk

www.postcodelocaltrust.org.uk

www.postcodecommunitytrust.org.uk

 

-ENDS-

Conference calls for child refugees to be united with families

The SNP has called on the UK government to reunite child refugees with their families in the UK.

At the SNP’s conference in Glasgow, party delegates have supported a resolution which supports UK Government steps to support Angus MacNeil MP’s Private Members Bill that will; expand the definition of family member as currently only spouses and children under the age of 18 are allowed to join their family in the UK; give refugee children the right to be reunited with their parents as under current reunion rules children cannot sponsor their parents to come to the UK leaving them alone; reintroduce legal aid for refugee family applications.

Mr MacNeil’s Bill was introduced in July 2017, it had second reading in March 2018, it is due for committee stage in the autumn.

The Bill has secured cross party support and has been endorsed by a wide range of organisations, including Amnesty International UK, British Red Cross, Refugee Council and Oxfam.

The resolution passed at SNP conference calls on the UK Government to take steps to ensure that the Bill can be enacted into UK law without impediment, and affirms that refugees are welcome in Scotland, noting the valuable contribution that they make to society.

Commenting, Angus MacNeil MP said:

“The bill quite simply brings the UK into line with most of the rest of Europe to allow child refugees the same rights as adults and provides legal aid which is already provided for in Scotland.

“Some opponents of the bill say that the bill will cause people to send children as anchors ahead of their parents but if that was true then there would be no children coming at the moment and those here for legal aid would all be arriving in Scotland which is not the case given that legal aid makes their already difficult lives easier an it’s the least we can do in this dreadful situation.

“In supporting the resolution before them today, conference delegates have reaffirmed the willingness of the SNP to do all we can in support of those families torn apart by war and persecution.”

Victory for Bank campaigners in Barra

The announcement today that the Castlebay Branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland has been saved is good news for the people of Barra says local MP Angus Brendan MacNeil.

Mr MacNeil has been at the forefront of the campaign to save the Castlebay Branch and secured and hosted a visit to Barra by the Economic Secretary to HM Treasury, John Glen MP.

Commenting Angus said:

“This is indeed very good news for the Isle of Barra and a victory for common sense.

“I am pleased that the Johnston Carmichael review agreed that there are exceptional circumstances in Barra which means that this branch should remain open and that the RBS have accepted this recommendation.”

“I am delighted for RBS customers and the staff in Barra who provide such a valuable service.  A cloud has been lifted from the island economy and now visitors and locals alike will keep proper bank services on Barra.”Angus RBS Castlebay branch

No-deal Brexit would stop farming exports for six months

Commenting on reports in the Guardian that the (English) National Farmers Union has warned of ‘catastrophic’ consequences for the farming export industry for 6 months after March 2019 if there is no Brexit deal, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil said:

“This is obviously worrying for many people in our islands, but it is no surprise in some circles as it is what the UK Government has been hearing from farmers and veterinary bodies for some time.  The alarm is compounded by the fact that only this week Prime Minister Theresa May was back with her silly, daft and wrong mantra that no deal was better than a bad deal – no deal is the worst possible scenario, it is definitely the worst for crofters and farmers.

“It is all the more sickening for us to watch from the side-lines and to realise because of the decisions made on Scottish Independence in 2014, we in Scotland do not have a voice in this.

“We are at the mercy of events and choices made in London which is really not where we want to be, I am certain Irish agriculture would not want to trade places with those in Scotland. Crofters will have rams going to the sheep in the next 4/5 weeks, who knows what problems we will have next autumn if there is no deal and the UK crashes out of the EU and also associated trade deals with another 67 countries in March 2019, something that will also probably impact the fish and shellfish exporting sector in the very same way as agriculture.

“This really is a sign of the misgovernance from Westminster in the hands of the Tories.  The hollowness of Better Together probably doesn’t ring clearer anywhere than it does for the crofting and farming situation at the moment when all we can do is cross our fingers and hope that whatever games are being played in London do not have a terrible impact on crofting and farming and more widely in seafood exports.”

sheep

ENDS

Parents should do homework on childcare costs before deadline

top angle photo of child holding pencil while drawing female angel playing wind instrument

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is urging parents to do their homework on the best way to pay childcare costs as time is running out to sign up to Childcare Voucher Schemes.

Childcare Voucher Schemes offered by some employers are closing to new entrants on October 4th (some have closed already) and after that date only the UK Government’s Tax-free Childcare will be available to assist with childcare costs for new entrants.

The new Tax Free Childcare system is already working well for some, however Mr MacNeil urged parents to be aware that Childcare Voucher schemes could mean much bigger savings for some families.

Mr MacNeil said: “For many families Tax Free Childcare will work, however Childcare Voucher Schemes offer bigger savings for those with childcare costs of less than £9,336 a year and are an option for families where one parent isn’t in work.

“With the deadline for new entries to Childcare Vouchers looming, it is worth checking the UK Government’s online childcare calculator and ask your employer if they offer a Childcare voucher scheme.”

You can find the online calculator here

https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/childcare-calc/

Childcare voucher schemes allow parents to purchase vouchers to pay for childcare from their salary before tax is deducted. Tax free Childcare is different in that it offers top-up payments instead.

There has been much opposition to the closure of Childcare Vouchers to new entrants and this was postponed in March for an additional 6 months following concerns.

The Treasury Committee of the House of Commons recommended that a full analysis of the winners and losers of removing Childcare Vouchers and replacing with Tax-Free Childcare be carried out, however this was never followed through.

 

 

UK Government deal or no deal Brexit will harm economy, says MP

AB in chamber

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has hit out at the UK Government’s handling of Brexit negotiations and says exiting the EU will impact the economy even if a deal is struck.

Mr MacNeil, who is also Chair of the House of Commons International Trade Committee, has repeatedly questioned the Tory Government including the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU on what lies ahead, but has not been given any satisfactory answers.

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has today written to all UK party leaders saying that if the UK does end up facing a choice between no-deal or a blind Brexit, then an extension to the Article 50 negotiation process “must be on the table” as the only way to avoid an economic cliff-edge and to allow all alternative options to be considered

Mr MacNeil said: “With every passing day, it is becoming clearer that Brexit – with a deal or without a deal – will have negative consequences for our economy.

“What the media are not reporting is that Brexit, even with a deal – is bad news for our economy.

“Leaving the EU with a deal, a Free Trade Agreement – will mean a loss of 6 per cent to UK GDP – GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the measurement of the value of economic activity within a country.

“Leaving the EU with no deal – a hard Brexit – will harm the UK’s GDP by 8 per cent.

“The USA makes up 28 per cent of global GDP and so a Free Trade Agreement with the US will boost UK GDP by 0.2 per cent.

“Therefore, to make up the difference, the UK needs a Free Trade Agreement with 8.4 times or 11.2 times global GDP! That leaves us with a gaping hole in our economy.”

Mr MacNeil says Scotland’s situation has changed radically since 2014 and that the time for a 2nd Independence Referendum is coming.

“We’re heading for unknown territory but we do have another option.  Voters were told in 2014 that the only way to remain in the EU was to vote NO, Scotland as part of the UK is now leaving the EU.

“We have that get out of jail card, that emergency exit that gives us another option and the time is coming to use it.”

MCA blocking lifeline service, says Isles MP

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is pressing the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to remove MV Fame from the Tarbert ferry berth as a matter of urgency and allow lifeline services to resume.

Mr MacNeil has contacted Sir Alan Massey, CEO of the MCA seeking an update on the situation which has left the Isle of Harris without a ferry service since Sunday.

Mr MacNeil said: “Today (Tuesday) I’ve heard that the MCA are arriving on site to carry out assessments of a boat which has been there for a least 2 days and there could be further delays if they require to use divers as part of the investigation. We also know that there is bad weather coming in so this could be delayed further.

“The salient point is that the MCA should have been here first thing on Monday morning to look at that boat and should be looking to move it off a commercially sensitive berth perhaps to Scalpay or elsewhere so that normal services can resume.”

He added: “The port of Tarbert is blocked off with people having to go to Stornoway and this has been going on far too long. The MCA have to realise that they are dealing with a lifeline service. The boat needs to be shifted as soon as possible. And certainly the MCA should have had all relevant personnel here a lot sooner. If the situation is acute enough to be on the Cal Mac berth it is acute enough for the MCA to have been there sooner.”

Angus pic

MP calls on Scottish Ambulance Service to use First Responders

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has contacted the Scottish Ambulance Service seeking details of why First Responder teams are not being called to assist at as many local incidents as in the past.

First Responders are trained volunteers who are available to be dispatched by an ambulance control centre to attend calls in their local area and assist until the arrival of the Ambulance.

Mr MacNeil has been made aware that Carloway First Responders have received only one call to assist from the Scottish Ambulance Service in the last year. The team, who have been operating in the area for the last 10 years, had previously assisted with 40-50 incidents a year.

_2024084_15103770_9666, 9666

Pauline Howie, CEO of Scottish Ambulance Service has responded to Mr MacNeil and acknowledged that changes made by the Scottish Ambulance Service has led to a decline in the number of incidents attended by First Responders but she stressed that they were actively developing a new model for the future.

Mr MacNeil said: “First Responders provide valuable medical assistance and reassurance to those in their local area who are waiting for the arrival of an ambulance.

“The teams are highly trained to respond to medical emergencies and are ready and waiting to assist. Their presence is expected by the local community and the teams have a very good relationship with local ambulance crews.

The problem is that the teams are not receiving calls from the Scottish Ambulance Service to attend incidents. I wrote to Pauline Howie, Chief Executive of Scottish Ambulance Service for an explanation as to why this situation has arisen.”

In response, Ms Howie said that the Scottish Ambulance Service recognises the dedication, motivation and value of First Responders as an asset to communities and that they wanted to work with schemes to maximise their contribution to the services provided.

A new Community First Responder model is being developed for the future which potentially includes an increased scope of practice.

 

Pressure maintained on RBS as Economic Secretary to HM Treasury visits Isle of Barra

Commenting following the visit of the Economic Secretary to HM Treasury, John Glen MP, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil said:

“I was very glad that John Glen MP took the time to come and visit the Hebrides today in his role as Economic Secretary to the Treasury, particularly in regard to the Royal Bank of Scotland branch in Castlebay.

“Mr Glen will have left with a very strong impression that the case to keep the RBS branch in Castlebay open is overwhelming.  It was pointed out to Mr Glen and he could see that it was faster for people to reach branches in Glasgow than it would be to reach other branches in the islands, given the length of time ferries take versus the length of time an aircraft can take.

“Mr Glen heard from a variety of local businesses, visited Castlebay Post Office and spoke to Postmaster Chris Dillerstone who pointed out the various difficulties Post Offices would have in trying to slot into the crucial role the RBS branch currently has in the economic life of the Island.

“Mr Glen will also have left with the clear impression that whatever savings one hand of the RBS is doing, the other hand of the RBS must be losing.  Over and above all this, he heard disappointment from the community about the customer service from the RBS, given the amount of business the community both on the island and from people who have moved off the island must be giving to the RBS over the decades.

“Finally, I would like to thank John Glen MP for coming, his visit was appreciated, he showed his interest and he was genuine in his concern and questioning for what is going on in Castlebay and for that, we are of course thankful.

ENDS

John Glen visit to Barra 28 Aug 18Notes –

Photograph attached.  From left to right: Angus MacNeil MP, John Glen MP, Economic Secretary to HM Treasury and Castlebay Postmaster, Chris Dillerstone.

 

MP welcomes submission of Needs Case for interconnector

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed confirmation that Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has today submitted the Needs Case to Ofgem for the Western Isles transmission link.

 

The link is vital to allow new renewable projects to progress in the islands.

 

Mr MacNeil said: “I am very pleased that the Needs Case has now been submitted for the transmission link and I am particularly pleased that the proposal is for a 600MW link allowing for maximum benefit for island communities.

 

“The construction of the link is still dependent on the success of island projects in the CfD auction and regulatory approval, however this is a very welcome significant step.”