Hostile environment continues at Home Office as its fails to move on lifeline for fishing industry

  • Call for Michael Gove, Cabinet Secretary for DEFRA to intervene


  • Home Office leaving North West seas to EU


The Home Office has failed to offer a lifeline to the West Coast fishing industry over the ongoing crew shortage crisis despite repeated pleas for urgent action.

Isles MP Angus B MacNeil, the SNP’s Fisheries Spokesperson at Westminster – together with three other MPs from different parties – met with UK Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes MP this morning (Wednesday) to press the case for the reintroduction of a scheme to allow non-European Economic Area workers to fill labour gaps.

Mr MacNeil left the meeting utterly dismayed that progress has not been made, despite this being the 6th Tory Immigration Minister in eight years to hear about the issue.


angus home office

Angus MacNeil MP at the Home Office this morning.


He said the Home Office seem ‘impervious to any concern’ and that the Home Office will only have EU fishing boats in the North West of Scotland.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr MacNeil said: “Having met our 6th Immigration Minister in eight years, it is like talking to a brick wall at the Home Office. We’re back to making the case which we made to five previous ministers. This is despite having Michael Gove, the DEFRA Cabinet Secretary on side. I will be contacting him again to ask for his intervention in this matter.

“It appears that Sajid Javid’s Home Office is not changing in any way, shape or form.

“Channel 4 News covered this story this week showing the difficulty and the acute near emergency we have in fishing in the Hebrides. The Home Office are not moving to help in any way.  Everyone on the West Coast wants to see people come from the Philippines and Ghana to work on our fishing boats. They are decent and hard working people who want to come back and are constantly in touch with fishing processors and skippers to see if they can come back.

“This summer we will not have any help on our fishing boats, the Conservative-run Home Office has a choice between what they wrongly see as a manifesto commitment or the economy. They are certainly not choosing the economy as we will know to our cost and peril on the West Coast of Scotland.

“When people ask me why I’m a Scottish Nationalist, having to go to London with a begging bowl for bits of paper and good sense, that is the reason why.”



Isles MP meets Minister for crunch talks on fishing industry

Isles MP Angus B MacNeil will meet with UK Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes MP tomorrow (Wednesday) for crunch talks over the future of the West Coast fishing industry.


Mr MacNeil, the SNP’s Fisheries Spokesperson at Westminster, will press the Minister on the need for urgent action to address crew shortages by allowing non-European Economic Area (EEA) workers to fill the labour gaps which have left local boats tied up at the pier.


Last night, the issue was the subject of a report on Channel 4 News with Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson visiting the Isle of Barra to hear from local fishermen who are struggling to crew their boats. The report also referred to Northern Ireland where the industry has been hit by the same issue.


The UK Government made the decision to end the concessionary scheme for non-EEA workers on fishing boats in domestic waters back in 2012  – a decision which has had a devastating impact on an industry which was previously supported by workers particularly from the Philippines, who are keen to return.


Mr MacNeil said: “I will make the case to the Immigration Minister tomorrow and hope she will listen to the pleas from the industry.


“The policy of the hostile Home Office is damaging the economy of the West Coast by failing to support the fishing industry which also has an impact on onshore jobs.


“The crew shortage issue can be remedied easily by reverting to the previous scheme which allowed non-EEA workers to work on west coast fishing boats.”

RBS clogs ferry while threatening branches

Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil is writing to the Royal Bank of Scotland following the trialling of their mobile van in Barra which is taking up valuable deck space on the Sound of Barra ferry.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“When travelling on the Sound of Barra ferry last week, I noticed a large and cumbersome RBS van on the deck taking up valuable car space.

“Clearly our ferries are very busy owing to the success of RET and the efforts that have been made, primarily by the Scottish Government, to attract people to the islands.  However, we do need every inch of deck space on the ferries.

“RBS needlessly sending a van to Barra is using up valuable deck space, inevitably people will be left behind because of RBS ill-conceived closure plans, which is bad for our island economy.  Using a ferry is simply not the answer, RBS should be keeping the local branch open.

“What would be helpful would be to keep the Castlebay branch open and Lochboisdale open as normal instead of this RBS are giving us a sub-standard service and also clogging our ferries which are our arteries of commerce.

“John Glen MP the Economic Secretary to HM Treasury will certainly be made aware of this when he visits in August.

“I appeal to RBS on yet another good reason to keep the branch in Castlebay open.”

RBS logo


Isles MP asks airline for compromise on Aberdeen flight plans

Isles SNP MP Angus MacNeil is urging Eastern Airways to reconsider plans to reduce flights between Stornoway and Aberdeen which have only been running since March.

Mr MacNeil wrote to the firm and its franchise partner Flybe, after several constituents contacted him about the level of flight cancellations on the route which is a key service for local offshore workers.

In response, Eastern Airways accepted that ‘reliability has fallen somewhat short in recent months’ and stated that they intend to revert to the previous service of just one daily service on weekdays this summer. In March they increased the service to twice daily including a Sunday flight  – a move which was welcomed by offshore workers.

Mr MacNeil said: “This is a disappointing development and Eastern Airways and Flybe must ensure customers are kept informed about the proposed changes.

“I have written again to Eastern Airways asking them to look and see if some days show a greater usage than others and whether they might consider maintaining two flights on some of the busier days of the week.”


Petition to halt Castlebay RBS branch closure presented in House of Commons

Saving the RBS Castlebay branch remains high on the agenda as Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil MP presented a petition in the House of Commons.  The petition was signed by hundreds of islanders and was presented to Parliament on Thursday 26th April.

AB in chamber

Mr MacNeil has remained vocal in his criticism of RBS following their decision to close the branch in Castlebay and reduce the opening hours of the Lochboisdale branch.

In January, the Castlebay branch received a slight reprieve when RBS announced that it will remain open until at least the end of 2018.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“Despite numerous invitations to come to Uist and Barra, RBS’s chief Ross McEwan continues to dodge loyal customers.

“RBS is 72 percent owned by the taxpayer and it is only right that the UK Government is aware of the enormous impact bank closures and reduced hours will have on island communities.  I am pleased that the Economic Secretary to the Treasury has indicated that he will accept my invitation to come to Uist and Barra to see the situation for himself.

“The actions of RBS are particularly galling with today’s news that the bank has announced a threefold increase in profits for the first quarter.

“I would like to thank islanders who took the time to sign the petition and all the businesses and shops that displayed it on their counters.”


Home Office ‘hostile campaign’ damaging West Coast fishing industry

Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil is calling on fishing interests to lobby the UK Government in light of the fallout from the Home Office’s hostile campaign.

Mr MacNeil is particularly focussing on The Secretary of State for DEFRA Michael Gove, The Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell, Scotland Office Minister Lord Duncan and The Home Office, who need to take action on the crew shortage in the west coast of Scotland fishing industry and allow non EEA crew to come to work here.


Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“I worry that the fishing industry may have been affected by the hostile ethos once prevalent at The Home Office.  I know people personally who are talking of selling their fishing boats because of the lack of crew and it is time that non EEA skilled seamen were allowed to come to work in the west coast of Scotland.

“Fishing sector and related parties from the west coast of Scotland certainly want to have these seamen working on the fishing boats, which will benefit communities, the catching sector and the processing sector.

“DEFRA and the Home Office need to up their efforts, show some support for the west of Scotland fishing industry and find a solution – it is imperative that this happens sooner rather than later before fishing boats are sold.”


Good news for BiFab: New investment welcomed by Isles MP – First Minister announces new Investment in all 3 BiFab Yards.

The announcement this morning that the Scottish Government has brokered an agreement between  Canadian company JV Driver through its subsidiary DF Barnes and BiFab to support new opportunities at Methil, Burntisland and Arnish for fabrication and construction in the marine, renewables and energy sector has been welcomed by Angus MacNeil MP.


Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“This is a good step forward with investment coming in from the Scottish Government through HIE and Scottish Enterprise. The Scottish Government will be encouraging and helping in the gaining of orders.

“It is good that all three sites are involved particularly with Arnish having the capabilities of rolling which are unique in Scotland and the UK.

“They already have a great track record of producing, fabricating and delivering and we wish them every success going forward.”

Speaking at Methil the First Minister said:

“We are delivering on the commitment I made last year that we would stand by BiFab and work to secure a long term future for the company.

“We have been in negotiations with DF Barnes for a number of months and today is a significant step forward in our efforts to restore BiFab to its place at the centre of Scotland’s marine energy industry.

The First Minister also paid tribute to the efforts of the trade unions and employees at BiFab saying

“This announcement is also a tribute to the efforts of the trade unions and employees at BiFab whose dignified actions throughout this difficult time have played a huge part in enabling us to bring in new investors and creating new employment opportunities in Fife, the Western Isles and for the Scottish economy as a whole.”


Increase in registered births in Uist -Isles MP welcomes positive research

Commenting on media reports that research conducted by members of the Uist community suggest that the registered births in Uist for 2015, 2016 and 2017 show a 67 per cent increase compared to a decade ago, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil said:

“This really is a very positive piece of research.

“It is also good to see that more families with young children are choosing to settle in Uist.

“With wide open spaces, stunning beaches, machair land and much more, Uist is a fantastic place to live and where better to bring up children.”



Lobbying to have Spaceport located in North Uist

Isles SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil, together with representatives from QinetiQ and the Leader and officials from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, today welcomed Scotland’s Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse MSP to Uist to discuss the possibility of having a spaceport located in the Hebrides.

photo 3 April 2018

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“Uist is the lead site in the UK for a vertical take-off facility to be located.  Not least because of the local expertise which could launch and successfully guide monitor and control such a rocket.  Last year during the maritime exercise Formidable Shield, Hebrides Range in Uist became the only place in the UK to have fired a rocket into space indeed it was the heaviest, largest and highest rocket launched into space that has ever been fired from the British Isles.

“Currently the UK has no sovereignty in this area but countries as diverse as Kazakhstan, Algeria, Morocco and India do.  Indeed a lot of the work in this area goes to India.  Many in this field feel that a UK capability would be very helpful, to say the least.

“The UK government wants to have about 10% of the annual global space market, which is in the region of £40billion.

“Any spaceport site would be based in Scolpaig in North Uist with a firing take-off angle about 85 degrees towards the northwest, going high between Iceland and the Faroe Islands, it would not be going over any land at all and be higher than aircraft altitudes within 20 miles.

“Further given the track record of Hebrides Range in being able to conduct very technical launches with an excellent safety record, there can be nowhere better to bring this work than to Uist.”


Commenting Council Leader Cllr Roddie Mackay said:

“The narrative we have heard from QinetiQ is why the Spaceport proposal in North Uist is a very serious proposal and it is why it’s the leading vertical take-off option for the UK.”



Isles MP asks Payment Systems Regulator to intervene in Tarbert ATM

Angus Brendan MacNeil SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar is asking the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) to intervene in the ongoing issues with the ATM in Tarbert on the Isle of Harris.

Isles MP Angus MacNeil, together with ward councillors and representatives of North Harris Community Council have been in contact with Cardtronics, the company who have responsibility for this ATM on numerous occasions to report disruptions to this cashpoint.


Commenting Angus MacNeil said:

“Once again, the ATM in Tarbert is out of action and Cardtronics continue to ignore the pleas from the local community.

“There has been no response from Lloyds Banking Group to my communication with them.  Despite assurances that they wanted the Isle of Harris to receive an improved and more consistent level of servicethey appear to have washed their hands of this ATM.  A wall of silence continues from Cardtronics.

“Therefore, I am today contacting the Payments Systems Regulator to ask that they investigate the catalogue of complaints with this ATM.

“Again, the people of Harris have been let down by Cardtronics over the busy Easter weekend, causing disruption to residents and tourists alike.  This must be sorted.”