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.”

MP says ferry power outage makes case for ETV once again

The need for an Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV) was highlighted again today (Wednesday) when the largest ferry in the CalMac network lost power in the Minch, said Isles MP Angus MacNeil.

Mr MacNeil is calling on the UK Government to once again look at the situation which has left the West Coast without an ETV based in Stornoway and is serviced by a vessel which also covers the Northern Isles.

He said: “It is lucky that the ETV, the only boat that could have assisted the MV Loch Seaforth in the worst case scenario, was also on the West Coast relatively nearby.

“However this shows that for now we need to have an ETV based in Stornoway in case of a similar incident in future.

“We do not know at this stage what went wrong with MV Loch Seaforth but the point is that the Tug is for unforeseen circumstances.

“The one thing we know is that the unforeseen will happen and we need the insurance policy of a West Coast tug. The UK Department of Transport are dodging their responsibilities here and crossing their fingers which is not good enough.”

Mr MacNeil has also contacted CalMac for an update on the status of MV Loch Seaforth following the incident.

He has made the case for an ETV time and time again and in 2016 presented a petition launched by local SNP councillors Rae Mackenzie and Gordon Murray to Downing Street.

The ETV in Stornoway was removed in 2011 as a cost cutting exercise by the UK Government.

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MP calls on MoD to acknowledge Veterans’ service

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil is supporting the campaign for a squadron of Scots Army Reservists – who were the first Territorial Army unit to see action after World War 2 – to receive General Service Medals from the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Al Milah 1

The Veterans of 300 Parachute Field Squadron Royal Engineers, 131 Parachute Engineer Regiment TA – who include Mr MacNeil’s constituent Eoghainn Maclachlainn of South Uist – were on a mission in Yemen (formerly known as South Arabia) in April 1965 to carry out various tasks on the Dhala Road, at Al Milah. On 12 April 1965, they were attacked by enemy fire.


The ensuing battle led to the loss of two lives including the Squadron’s Sergeant Major John F Lonergan and five others including Mr Maclachlainn, were seriously wounded.

Mr Maclachlainn suffered a bullet to his face during the battle.


Mr MacNeil has written to the MoD on several occasions regarding General Service Medals for the Squadron but the request has been repeatedly refused because the Squadron had not served 30 days in a war zone.


The latest response from the MoD regarding Mr Maclachlainn said he was not eligible for a service campaign medal because he was in the country for ‘training’ purposes and not for ‘operational duties’.


Mr MacNeil said: “I have been writing to the Ministry of Defence about this injustice for more than 2 years.


“The brave men who served in the 300 Parachute Field Squadron deserve recognition for their service. The battle which took place was not part of a training exercise but was active service.

“They are not looking for special awards, just the recognition all other soldiers get.


“I have written to the MoD once again to ask for this to be reconsidered.”


Staff Sgt John Donaldson, who served with the squadron and has been campaigning for the MoD to award the General Service Medals said:


“During the 4 years I have been campaigning for the GSM62 with Clasp South Arabia I have had a number of excuses from the MoD for not awarding the GSM, including a quote that Sir Winston Churchill made in Parliament in 1944 that if all have them it would devalue the medal. According to letters received from Lord Howe we did not receive the medal because we did not serve 30 days in theatre.

“The word training has never been used in any correspondence with the MOD.


“On 16 September 2016 the MOD told me that the dead and wounded were entitled to the medal as set out in Special Army Orders of 25 July 1966.  In a letter dated 24 January 2017, Major General Robert M. B. Nitsch CBE informed me that the men of 300 Para Sqn RE who were killed and wounded had already received the medal and gave the following reasons: ‘It has always been the policy for campaign awards that qualifying service may be reduced for those who are killed or have their service in theatre terminated prematurely by wounding or other related injury, or having been captured or detained. It was for that reason that WO2 Lonergan and those who were injured received the GSM62 even though they had not completed the full qualifying period.’


“They never received the medal.”

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MP urges community to make voice heard on future of island banking services  

RBS Castlebay

Isles MP Angus MacNeil has given his input to the Review which will determine the future of banking services on Barra and is urging local communities to also make their voices heard.

Johnston Carmichael has been appointed to carry out an independent review of the branch and will make a recommendation to RBS on whether the bank should remain open or not.

Mr MacNeil said input from the local community was crucial at this time to keep banking services on Barra.

Speaking after his own interview with the firm, he said: “I was very heartened after my phone call with Johnston Carmichael. They have the power, frankly, to keep the bank open, and this makes it important that everybody who has a case to keep it open makes sure that case is heard by Johnston Carmichael.

“They will be visiting Barra on Monday August 6th and I would encourage people to get in touch with them to make an appointment or to submit feedback by email or letter.

“The case to keep the Barra branch open is very strong indeed and we also need to resume normal hours at Lochsboisdale, but we need to spell it out for Johnston Carmichael. They have the power to keep the branch open or not and RBS say they will be bound by their decision.

“I would encourage everyone who has an interest, whether large or small – from the point of view of annual crofters cheques from lamb sales; to daily businesses; or any charities, please get involved.

“Your voice is very important at this stage to keep banking services on Barra.”

The review team will be at the RBS branch in Castlebay on Monday August 6th. To book an appointment please phone 01224 259 353.

To give your views to Johnston Carmichael, you can email; fill in an online questionnaire at; or by writing to: The RBS Review Team, Johnston Carmichael LLP, 29 Albyn Place, Aberdeen, AB10 1YL.

The deadline for submission of views is 5pm on Tuesday August 14th.

MP attends Arthritis Awareness event

Isles MP Angus MacNeil attended an event organised by Arthritis Research UK in Parliament on July 11 to hear about life with the condition and learn how aids and adaptations in the home can help people live independently

The event followed the launch of Arthritis Research UK’s Room to Manoeuvre report, which looks at the importance of aids and adaptations to people with arthritis. MPs tried a variety of home aids and heard from people with arthritis about how aids and adaptations – such as grab rails or specialised kitchen equipment – have changed their lives.

Arthritis and related conditions are the number one cause of pain and disability in the UK, affecting 17.8 million people across the country. Many people with arthritis live with severe pain, fatigue and limited mobility every day, which make even simple tasks a challenge.

Arthritis awareness

Aids and adaptations, such as grab rails, raised toilet seats and non-slip shower mats, help people with arthritis to lead more independent lives and may reduce the risk of them needing more expensive formal care or even A&E services. Almost everyone (95%) with arthritis surveyed by Arthritis Research UK who currently uses aids and adaptations said this helped to improve their quality of life.

Angus MacNeil MP said: “Nearly 1.5 million people in Scotland live with arthritis and related conditions, so I wanted to show my support for them in Parliament and hear from people with arthritis about the help that makes a difference to their lives.

“Aids and adaptations in the home can help people to remain independent for longer, and I want to make sure that people with arthritis in Na h-Eileanan an Iar know about the support on offer. I urge people to reach out to Arthritis Research UK for expert information, help and advice.”

Natasha Packham, a campaigner and volunteer who spoke about her condition at the event, said:

“It was great to be able to share my story about aids and adaptations and the fact that I didn’t know that such help even existed, or the big difference it could make to my life. I’m glad that so many MPs attended, and that I was able to speak to them about this.”

Shona Cleland, Public Affairs Manager, said: “It was fantastic to see Mr MacNeil at our event. Arthritis and related conditions are the number one cause of pain and disability in the UK. However, a lack of awareness of the support – such as aids and adaptations – available to help people live independently is a real issue.

Arthritis can affect every aspect of someone’s life, from getting up in the morning and going to work, to looking after family and making a meal. It’s great that Mr MacNeil wants to learn more about the help that can really make a difference to constituents with arthritis.”

For more information, please visit:

Spaceport selection ‘hugely disappointing’

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil says it is ‘hugely disappointing’ that North Uist has missed out on selection as the site of the UK’s first spaceport.


Mr MacNeil was involved in discussions on the proposal with the Scottish Government and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar earlier this year.


He said: “It is hugely disappointing that North Uist has not been chosen as the site for the UK’s first spaceport.


“Uist is an ideal site due to its location and also because of the expertise and experience already in place at the Hebrides Range.”


photo 3 April 2018

Earlier this year Angus MacNeil MP met with Scottish Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP and Roddie Mackay and Joe Macphee from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to discuss the Spaceport proposal in Uist.

UK Government must get on with the day job for fishing

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is calling on the UK Government to get on with the day job and ensure that much needed non-European Economic Area (EEA) workers are granted the necessary visas to work on island fishing boats.

Mr MacNeil has continued to raise at Westminster the need for urgent action to address crew shortages by allowing non-EEA workers to fill the labour gaps which have left local boats tied up at the pier.

Mr MacNeil said:

“In the middle of the Tory mess on Brexit, aided and abetted by the Labour Party who believe in exactly the same, rather than getting on with the day job we are having to watch resignations and the UK crumbling.

“Our fishing industry is crying out for help, yet the UK Government continues to refuse non-EEA crew the necessary paperwork to enable them to come to Scotland to work on our fishing boats.  Instead, we are having to watch Westminster’s dramatic soap operas.

“The UK Government says this is an argument between migration figures and the economy however seasonal fishing workers under 12 months are not included in their figures.

“The UK must end its bureaucratic one size fits all approach and needs to get out of the way to let Scotland’s islands improve our economy. If ever there was the case to prove that, it is the economic success of Ireland over recent years.  Sadly, we in Scotland have to watch that from the slow lane.”


Stornoway Harbour

MP reacts with dismay to HIAL plans for Air Traffic Control

MP will write to Transport Select Committee and Islands Minister for action

Possible solution to create separate Islands Airports Group

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil will write to Lillian Greenwood MP, chair of the Transport Select Committee of the House of Commons, to look at Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) plans to centralise Air Traffic Control in Inverness.

Mr MacNeil will also write to the Scottish Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP urging the Scottish Government to take action on plans which will lead to the loss of quality island jobs.

Mr MacNeil said: “It is absolutely no surprise that this is the game HIAL are playing, at the very beginning this was about their empire and jobs in Inverness which I predicted.

“The Scottish Government will have to look at the real social and economic impacts of this. The greatest turnover of staff is in Inverness where they want to put this empire and lowest in places like Benbecula and Stornoway where they are trying to take much needed jobs.

Benbecula airport

“If electronic communications are as good as HIAL are saying, they could easily have put this centre in Benbecula or Stornoway.

“A multi airport centre like this is not as clear cut as Swanage for London City where there is one centre for one airport. This is multi screens, for a whole host of airports, requiring training with a whole plethora of technical complexities.

“I am writing to the Transport Select Committee of the House of Commons about the viability of what HIAL  are proposing, as well as going into their scoping exercise as air traffic controllers have informed me they feel there have been flaws in this.

“I will also write to Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP urging the Scottish Government to get a grip of HIAL because they are running away from social and economic responsibilities here in the Hebrides.

“We have our ferry company being managed away from the islands, our airlines being managed away from the islands and now we can’t manage to have a few air traffic control jobs in the islands.

“This contrasts with our neighbours in the Faroe Islands who have their own national airline, 3 or 4 Airbus 320s, their own airport and airlines all run in the Faroe Islands.

“The Scottish Government have to have a look at this and perhaps one solution might be breaking up HIAL into Highlands Airports and a separate Islands Airports so that we have some measure of control and development in our communities rather than ‘having things done to us’ for a bizarre HIAL vision who are empire building in Inverness.”

Isles MP comments on independent study on islands banks

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus B MacNeil is pleased that business advisers, Johnston Carmichael are to carry out an independent study on the Lochboisdale and Castlebay RBS bank branches.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“I look forward to Johnston Carmichael coming to the islands and having their review complete in September.  RBS are to be praised for taking this step.  Only a few months ago they were telling us that bank the closure of the Castlebay branch was an irrevocable decision and wouldn’t be revisited.

“I raised a number practical problems with RBS following their initial closure plans and welcome that they have now appointed business advisers Johnston Carmichael to carry out an independent review.

“There are a number of factors I hope Johnston Carmichael will take into consideration and I hope that they will spend time in both Castlebay and Lochboisdale.

“Despite the current spell of good weather, it is only a few short weeks since the mobile bank was only able to travel only one day out of three, which means we would have great difficulty in the winter.

“RBS seem to be coming round to the point of view that their initial decision was flawed, something I feel is shared by the Economic Secretary to HM Treasury, John Glen MP who is coming to visit the islands at the end of August.”

Angus pic


Isles MP hopes ‘penny has dropped’ for RBS that branch closures are false economy  

RBS logo

Isles SNP MP Angus MacNeil hopes the ‘penny has dropped’ for RBS who may be realising that cutting island branches is a false economy.


RBS have announced that after just a few weeks of trials, they are suspending the mobile banking service to Barra blaming low usage and ferry capacity issues.


The branch in Castlebay is currently under threat of closure but is the subject of an independent review to be carried out by Johnston Carmichael. The Lochboisdale branch is already operating on reduced opening hours and Mr MacNeil is calling for the review to also include the South Uist branch.


Mr MacNeil has been campaigning for the branches to be retained to provide a full service to island customers and had accused RBS of taking up valuable space on the ferries at the busiest time of the year.


He said: “RBS were planning a three times a week service to Barra, taking up valuable space on the ferry and spending thousands of pounds on travel.


“The penny may finally have dropped that it is better not only for their customers but also their own bank balance to abandon all plans for branch cuts.”