MoD ‘passing the buck’ on Hebrides Range

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is accusing the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of ‘passing the buck’ on the Hebrides Range, following responses received to questions which Mr MacNeil recently tabled with the MOD.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“The Hebrides Range is the largest employer in Uist and any job losses will have a huge impact on the economy.

“Having tabled a series of questions with the MOD, it is clear that they are quite happy to shift the responsibility for these jobs on to QinetiQ and their sub-contractor.

“I have contacted QinetiQ to request information about jobs at the Hebrides Range.”

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ENDS

Isles MP:  Westminster Government must base Emergency Towing Vessel in Stornoway

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil is again calling for the Emergency Towing Vessel to be based in Stornoway following an incident with the cargo vessel Fame which lost power west of Scarp on the west side of Harris.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“It took 14 hours for the ETV to reach this stricken vessel – how many times do we have 14 hours to save a life!

“The UK Government continue with their cost cutting while risking lives around our shores.  We have no insurance policy on the west coast of Scotland.

“We are fortunate to have skilled and dedicated lifeboat crews on the Stornoway and Leverburgh lifeboats who have been battling bad weather conditions all night to keep the vessel from grounding.  I understand that the vessel is now under tow and being taken to a safe shelter.”

Cargo Vessel Fame

ENDS

Remote island wind projects consultation launched

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil has welcomed the announcement from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy that a consultation has been launched including proposals to enable remote island wind projects to apply for a Contract for Difference (CfD) in the next competitive auction for less established renewable technologies (subject to State aid approval).

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“It is good that the CfD consultation is underway, it is something we have been looking at for a while.

“Minister for Energy and Industry Richard Harrington MP has kept his word since I spoke to him in July, progress is being made as planned and we are looking forward to this leading to the auction round in spring 2019. At a meeting last week with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy I was assured that all islands had a big part to play in that.”

ENDS

  1. The consultation opened on the 15th December 2017 and runs until the 6th of March 2018 and can be accessed here:  https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/contracts-for-difference-cfd-proposed-amendments-to-the-scheme

 

Isles MP calls on Visit Scotland to reverse decision to close tourist information centres

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil is calling on Visit Scotland to reverse their decision to close the tourist information centres in Lochmaddy, Isle of North Uist and Castlebay, Isle of Barra and also to reopen the Lochboisdale office which closed last year.

Last month Mr MacNeil accused Visit Scotland of ‘Relinquishing its responsibilities to rural areas’ following the announcement to close tourist information centres in Lochmaddy and Castlebay.

Visit Scotland will have no presence in Uist and Barra – the 70 mile stretch from Vatersay to Berneray.

uist and barra (2)

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“I am very disappointed at Visit Scotland’s decision to close the tourist information centres in Lochmaddy, Isle of North Uist and Castlebay, Isle of Barra, this is on the back of Lochboisdale closing last year.

“I am calling on Visit Scotland to stop these damaging closures.

“It is all well and good for tourists to get information online in areas where connectivity is robust, however, this is quite often not the case in our islands.”

ENDS

UK Government Defeated in EU Withdrawal Vote: Isles MP speaks on Amendment 7 debate

The UK Government lost a key vote in the House of Commons by 309 to 305 on Amendment 7, which was supported by Na –h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus Brendan MacNeil and his SNP colleagues at Westminster.

The amendment now passed will ensure that MPs will have a legal guarantee of a vote on the final Brexit deal struck with Brussels.

Isles MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil, who delivered a speech on Amendment 7 said:

“The actions of this Tory Government is akin to setting sail on the Titanic and refusing to take a lifeboat.

“This is a Laurel and Hardy Brexit – it is a fine mess and all due to vanity.

“I was pleased to have had the opportunity to speak on Amendment 7 at Westminster yesterday evening and to vote for the amendment which will now give MPs a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal.

“Ultimately, like going to court over Article 50, this was a stupid fight for the Government to get into. They should simply have accepted it and not embarrassed themselves with last night’s defeat, it was needless but such is the control freakery of Theresa May’s Government these things happen from time to time.”

EU withdrawal bill 13 Dec 2017

ENDS

Overpricing leaves Health Board asset rotting

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus B MacNeil has reacted with shock and dismay upon hearing that Calagorm, the former GP Surgery in Castlebay, Isle of Barra remains on the market despite community interest to purchase this building.
Calagorm was bequeathed to the people of Barra & Vatersay by a former GP and it was then passed to NHS Western Isles who are now selling this property on the open market at an unrealistic price tag of £195,000.

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Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“I have been in correspondence with Scottish Ministers and NHS Western Isles regarding Calagorm as the community in Barra has expressed an interest in this building as a community hub.
“It now transpires that Calagorm is on the market for £195,000 but was only valued at £120,000, small wonder that it is not selling. It is time NHS Western Isles took action and sold this building at a realistic price.

“NHS Western Isles have told me that the proceeds of the sale of this building will go towards the much needed new St Brendan’s Hospital and Care Home. It now appears that they will not comment on what the implication would be for St Brendan’s if they were unable to sell this building, this is a matter of concern.”

“Calagorm has been on the market for over three years, since July 2014. The Health Board is trying to sell a building which is clearly over-priced, well above its market value and rather than allowing this building to fall into greater disrepair, NHS Western Isles must take action.

“People in the community are exasperated. Calagorm is becoming an increasing eyesore in Castlebay and the public purse and the local community are losing out.

ENDS

MacNeil welcomes RBS U-turn on ATM

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil has welcomed the U-turn by the Royal Bank on the issue of the ATM in Castlebay.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:RBS Castlebay

“From the correspondence the RBS has sent me they had suggested that a local alternative ATM could be in Portree, Tobermory or indeed Oban.  That is the equivalent of telling the people of Dover that they can go to Paris to access a cash machine.

“To ensure the continual running of the ATM, RBS now need to have a staff member in Barra.  Given there are only 3 staff members, 2 with part-time hours and that all the business on the islands of over 1000 people use and need RBS, it is time for the bank to think through sensibly the other part of their decision.

“The also inform me that only 11 people per week use the branch in Castlebay, however, I can confirm that this is utterly untrue, it is grossly misleading and nowhere near the true situation, as this morning alone, sources in Castlebay, keeping an eye on the bank door, tell me that they have seen 20 people going into the branch this morning alone, mostly local businesses.

“Therefore, I have asked Ross McEwan, Chief Executive of the Bank to a meeting in Barra because he must follow former US President Truman’s maxim “the buck stops here” and show that he is responsible and understands fully the effects of the Royal Bank’s actions.  After all the public saved the RBS therefore surely they will have the courage to face the same public.  Despite what happened in the past, Fred didn’t go as far as shredding these branches.”

 

ENDS

Isles MP calls RBS to a meeting in Barra amid reports of closure of Castlebay branch

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil is writing to RBS to come to the Isle of Barra for a meeting to discuss the urgent situation following their suggestion to close the only bank on the Island which would leave islanders to take ferry journeys to get to a bank.

RBS Castlebay

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said;

“I am calling on RBS to come to Barra for a public meeting, they simply cannot close this branch.

“If RBS continue these proposed savage cuts across the country they should drop Scotland from their name as they would be trading under a very false impression.”

ENDS

Isles MP support recognised following success in aspects of the Budget

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As we come to the end of the budget resolutions, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus B MacNeil has been praised for lobbying the Chancellor of the Exchequer in two main areas of budget change. Namely, a freeze of the Climate Change Levy (CCL) rates for LPG industry -and extending the Save-As-You-Earn Scheme ‘holiday’ entitlement from a 6 to 12 month holiday period.

Isles MP Angus MacNeil raised both of these issues with the Chancellor prior to the budget.

UKLPG, Calor and Autogas Ltd have written to Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil following the budget to thank him for his support and work in urging HM Treasury to reconsider proposals from the 2016 budget which would have meant increases between 300 and 600% in a 10 year period on Climate Change levy (CCL) main rates for gas and electricity.

Similarly, following a meeting with Proshare, Angus MacNeil wrote to the Treasury regarding the Save-As-You-Earn Scheme, urging the Government to rethink the ‘holiday’ entitlement factor of the scheme.

The payment ‘holiday’ can be taken by participating employees for any reason but is commonly taken up by employees on maternity leave, therefore extending the ‘holiday’ entitlement for SAYE to be extended so that it aligns with the entitlement of maternity pay of 12 months allows many people, particularly women, the chance to remain within the scheme. Following the announcement at the budget that the scheme would be extended, Proshare wrote to Angus MacNeil to thank him for his work in pursuing the issue with the Treasury.

 

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“The current Save-As-You-Earn Scheme allows for a 6 month payment holiday period from the scheme. I am pleased to see that following the budget, employees on maternity and parental leave will be able to take up to 12 months from saving into their Save-As-You-Earn employee share scheme.

“The potential increases in the Climate Change levy would have stifled Scotland’s decarbonisation efforts in key rural industry sectors. However, I am pleased to see that the Chancellor has reconsidered these increases and it will be welcomed news to businesses.”

ENDS

 

New hope for non-EEA Fishermen

Isles MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil and a group of other MPs met today with Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis MP to discuss ways of enabling non-EEA crew, principally from the Philippines and Ghana, to work on fishing boats on the West Coast of Scotland.

Meeting with Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis 22 Nov 2017

Commenting after the meeting, Angus MacNeil MP said:

“This was a very useful meeting.   Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis MP was very open and had a fresh and honest eye to the possibilities of what could happen.

“Brandon Lewis promised to take things away and to reconvene again in January.  He also said that he would look into the possibility of running a pilot scheme – whereby seasonal workers coming from non-EEA countries could work for nine months to help the fishing industry on the West Coast of Scotland.

“I am very pleased with the way Brandon Lewis MP has engaged with MPs from Scotland and Northern Ireland on this issue.  It is something I have been fighting for on behalf of the West Coast fishing industry for six years.  Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of pounds have been lost to the fishing industry on the West Coast of Scotland because we haven’t had crews available to man boats as we would have wanted.

“Hopefully this is a step to resolving this matter.  This is an issue which is going to have to be resolved for the agricultural sector anyway post-Brexit so we might as well sort the fishing sector at the same time with a similar scheme.  Perhaps fishing could even lead the way.”

ENDS

Photograph – from L-R:  Angus B MacNeil MP; Brandon Lewis MP, Immigration Minister; Jim Shannon MP; Alastair Carmichael MP and David Duguid MP