MacNeil optimistic about off-grid fuel payment for ALL households in Na h-Eileanan an Iar

Following conversations with Graham Stuart MP, Minister of State for Climate and Energy at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Isles MP Angus MacNeil says he remains optimistic that all households in Na h-Eileanan an Iar will receive the £200 Alternative Fuel Payment. This payment is to support households that use alternative fuels, such as heating oil, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), coal, or biomass.

The UK government announced that eligible households would receive the £200 Alternative Fuel Payment but that all households in Northern Ireland would receive it due to the prevalence of alternative fuel usage. 

Mr MacNeil highlighted that the use of alternative fuels is a lot higher in Na h-Eileanan an Iar than in Northern Ireland and that in the spirit of fairness, all households in Na h-Eileanan an Iar should also receive this support.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“I have been campaigning on this for a while now and have raised this with the Prime Minister a few weeks ago in Parliament, since it became clear that all households in Northern Ireland will receive £200 Alternative Fuel Payment.

“We know that fuel is more expensive, fuel poverty is higher and 88% of households in the Hebrides are off-grid and use alternative fuels compared to 76% in Northern Ireland.

“Nothing is guaranteed yet, but I remain optimistic, after speaking twice with BEIS Minister Graham Stuart, that if all households in Northern Ireland are getting £200 then all households in Na h-Eileanan an Iar will get this money too.  I have made the case, the Minister, to his credit, seems to be very fair and clearly understands the issue and the geographically distinct reality of the islands, so now it is a case of waiting for full confirmation that this will happen.”

New figures show DWP sanctions are hitting some island families hard

 Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has warned that the UK Government is forcing struggling families into destitution.

 Figures, obtained from the DWP, revealed the amount clawed back from struggling households by the Department for Work and Pensions through their benefits sanctions regime.

In August 2022 alone, the DWP took £2.3 million away from claimants in Scotland, with £2000 taken from households in the islands at an average of £223 per month for every sanctioned household.

Angus MacNeil MP said the approach highlighted the UK government’s cruelty, warning UK social security policy undermined the positive work carried out by the Scottish Government to tackle poverty and assist households through the Tory-made cost of living crisis.

Commenting, Mr MacNeil said:

“The Tories are taking an average of £223 per month from struggling households in Na h-Eileanan an Iar during a cost-of-living crisis – a damning statement on how little the Tories care about the struggles of ordinary people.

“These figures show the devastating impact of the Tory government’s existing regime on people’s ability to feed themselves and fend off destitution.

“The cruelty of the DWP under this Tory government is on full show, hammering and leaving households destitute through a cost-of-living crisis with unnecessary sanctions.

“In Scotland we’ve taken a much different, more progressive approach, opposing Westminster austerity by uprating benefits in line with inflation and increasing the Scottish Child Payment – work the Tories would do well to learn from.

“The sad reality is though that all that work remains at risk and is ever-undermined while we remain attached to the broken Westminster system at the mercy of the callous Conservative Party – demonstrating once again why households desperately need independence.”

ENDS

It was great to visit the Harland and Wolff Arnish fabrication yard recently and meet with Albert Allan, General Manager, and staff. 

There are currently 100 working in the yard (with plans to increase staffing in the future) –  it was especially good to hear that 15 apprentices are employed there.

Isles MP questions Prime Minister on support for all households in Na h-Eileanan an Iar 

Isles MP Angus MacNeil demanded comparable support for all island households at Prime Minister’s Questions at Westminster today. 

Mr MacNeil grilled Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on the inequality of additional support being provided for all households in Northern Ireland, but not to all households in Na h-Eileanan an Iar which has a higher reliance on off-grid heating and a higher level of fuel poverty. 

Mr MacNeil said: “Inequality costs and in France middle earners earn 20 per cent more than in the UK, low earners 25 per cent more. 

“This inequality is why the cost of living and the cost of energy hits people more in the UK and that’s why I am in favour of independence – to choose a better path. 

“Meantime, in my constituency there are both more off-grid customers and a higher rate of fuel poverty than in Northern Ireland. 

“I asked the Prime Minister to do the right thing and extend the £200 payment to all households in my constituency, a geographically distinct constituency, the Hebrides, on the basis of fairness. 

“The PM gave an answer of utter waffle pleasing no one and confusing everyone.” 

No referendum under the Scotland Act, says Supreme Court 

The Scottish Government cannot hold an independence referendum without UK Government’s consent, the Supreme Court has ruled. 

Speaking outside the Supreme Court in London after the judgement this morning, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil said the way forward for Scotland is now clear and using elections is the only option. 

Mr MacNeil said: “Plan A is dead, so Plan B is the only way forward. 

“The debate now hinges on which election and when. I have been at the Supreme Court this morning to hear the judgement that while a referendum wouldn’t end the UK legally, judges thought that in the politics of this situation that it likely would, and therefore they decided that the Scottish Government couldn’t hold a referendum on Scotland’s independence.  

“Scotland is effectively a hostage in the UK under that ruling. However, we can use elections and when the people speak at a ballot box, if they choose independence, this will be recognised internationally.  The only option going forward is to use elections and the debate is which election. 

“Personally, I favour calling a Holyrood election to move Scotland on, away from two years of Tory austerity and difficulty that is inevitably coming up.” 

Attached is an image of Angus MacNeil MP outside the Supreme Court this morning

MacNeil – Chancellor must give all islanders £200 for fuel like Northern Ireland

Isles SNP MP Angus MacNeil is writing to the Chancellor demanding that all constituents in Na h-Eileanan an Iar receive the £200 additional support payment for households who are off-grid, as is the case in Northern Ireland. 

The Chancellor announced on Thursday that in recognition of the prevalence of alternative fuel usage in Northern Ireland, every household will receive the £200 payment, and on this basis, Mr MacNeil is calling for this to be applied to Na h-Eileanan an Iar where there are 12% more people using fuel such as heating oil than there are in Northern Ireland.

Currently, only eligible households in Scotland will receive the £200 payment and Mr MacNeil will continue to put pressure on the UK government to extend support to all households. 

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“If the Chancellor can decide to pay all fuel customers in Northern Ireland, a population of 1.8m people, the £200 off-grid additional support, then in the interests of fairness and equality not to mention his rhetoric on the “Union” then this must be applied to the people of Na h-Eileanan an Iar.

“This is particularly so as it was quite clear that the UK Government is struggling to work out when the money will be paid out.  When I challenged the Chancellor on Thursday, he simply couldn’t answer the question.  Therefore, the decision made for Northern Ireland fuel customers has to be made for Na h-Eileanan an Iar customers also.

“I will be writing to the Chancellor in these terms.  The fuel poverty in the constituency should mean that any Chancellor who claims to be compassionate will respond positively to this request.  Any other response from him other than to pay the £200 across the constituency will make his rhetoric seem very hollow indeed.”

Isles MP delighted to attend a reception to welcome Bakkafrost Scotland’s well boat

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus B MacNeil was delighted to speak at a reception in Stornoway yesterday to welcome 87-metre Ronja Star, the largest well boat fish farming vessel in Scottish aquaculture.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“It was fantastic to be able to attend this event and to receive a tour of the new well boat the Ronja Star and it is good to see Bakkafrost doing so well in the Western Isles, by being the company chartering this boat from Norway. 

“The Ronja Star is a very impressive well boat with a hull built in Turkey then fitted out in Norway. It cleans the lice from the salmon by using freshwater by having desalination facilities on board.  Salmon, of course, can cope with fresh or salt water but the lice can’t cope with freshwater, therefore lice are removed not only off the surface but any that may be in or around the gills which are vital to the health of the fish, and a better process all round than using chemicals.

“The facilities on board are excellent and the crew have access to a gym and sauna.

“I was first met with Bakkafrost in 2013 when I visited their headquarters in Runavik in the Faroe Islands, back then I had no idea that Bakkafrost would eventually end up owning the Scottish Salmon Company.

“It is quite astonishing to see what Bakkafrost are achieving now and the investments that they are making in Scotland, such as this new well boat that they are chartering from Norwegian well boat operator, Solvtrans. 

“They are producing their premium products in our islands and their methods of production are improving all the time with technology.  They are a very important employer in our community, and it is good to see that it is all going in the right direction.”

ENDS

Isles MP questions Chancellor about additional payment for off-grid energy customers

Isles SNP MP Angus MacNeil has today asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when off-grid households will receive the additional £200 support payment.

Earlier this week, The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy confirmed to Mr Angus MacNeil that the additional support payment for people will be applied as a credit on electricity bills.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“Many constituents have been in touch with me to ask how and when this additional payment will be received. 

“It is good that we now have confirmation from the UK government that the money will be credited to electricity bills.  However, we still don’t know when this credit will be applied and I took the opportunity to raise this with the Chancellor at the Autumn Statement.

“The Chancellor told me that they are working on it and the money will be paid as quickly as possible.  This is not good enough; it is already mid-November and this scheme was announced two months ago!

“This is yet another example of how Westminster is failing Scotland, an energy-rich country.”

ENDS

Isles MP encourages 365 island families to apply for increased Scottish Child Payment

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is encouraging eligible island families to apply for the increased Scottish Child Payment.

The Scottish Child Payment has been increased from £20 to £25 per week per child, meaning 365 families in the Western Isles are set to receive a boost to their household incomes from the Scottish Government.

Eligibility for the payment – which is only available in Scotland – has also been extended, meaning eligible families with children under the age of 16 can now apply for the Scottish Child Payment.

Commenting, Mr MacNeil said:

“The extension of the Scottish Child Payment could be a turning point for some families in Na h-Eileanan an Iar and across Scotland as the support is extending from £20 to £25.

“We have already heard from anti-poverty charities about how the payment has been ‘game-changing’ for families with children under-6, and now as the support is extended to families with children under-16 more will have extra cash in their pockets to get through this Tory-made cost of living crisis.

“The Scottish Child Payment is only available in Scotland and demonstrates how the SNP Scottish Government is building a social security system based on fairness, dignity and respect.

“However, the Scottish Government continues to work with one hand tied behind its back by a UK government which is preparing to inflict austerity 2.0 on families across Scotland.

“There is only one way we can escape the chaos of Westminster and build a fairer, more equal Scotland and that is by becoming an independent country.”

For details of how to apply please visit: https://www.mygov.scot/scottish-child-payment

Isles MP congratulates award-winning Barra hospitality

Angus Brendan MacNeil, SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, has praised two Barra businesses for winning awards from SME News (Small Medium Enterprise News) in the Family Business Awards 2022.

Tigh-Na-Mara Guest House was awarded “Best Traditional Stone Cottage Accommodation” in Scotland while the Heathbank Hotel won “Best Family-Run Hotel” in the Hebrides.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“Congratulations to Linda and Archie MacLean, Tigh-Na-Mara Guest House and Marion MacNeil and her team at the Heathbank Hotel.

“Linda has run the Guest House in Castlebay for a number of years, and I of course might be biased as it was my granny’s house and Linda is my cousin and I can’t forget that Marion is my neighbour. But of course the judges of this competition weren’t biased, so like many others, I am absolutely delighted that they are both winners in their categories.

“Both are very deserving of such an award. The fact that the Guest House is the best in Scotland says something not just for Linda but for Barra as well similarly for the Heathbank team. It is congratulations all round or “slainte” as they say in Heathbank.”