Angus MacNeil SNP condemns Tory proposals on pensions

Tory proposals risk raising the pension age to 75 by 2035 have been condemned by SNP Na h-Eileanan an Iar candidate Angus Brendan MacNeil.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“Following on from the betrayal of Waspi women, an influential Tory Think-Tank led by Iain Duncan Smith architect of much of the current harsh Tory welfare system, aim to make changes to pensions for those born between 1961 and 1977.  
“Under their plans, the pension age would rise to 70 by 2028 and 75 by 2035 again giving little time for those affected to plan for their future needs.

“The UK already has the lowest pensions in Europe and leaving the EU will only encourage the Tory Government to reduce further the Welfare system, starting with a further attack on pensions, this is surely a Tory risk we cannot take. In contrast, the SNP voted at their conference to increase State Pension to match the EU average £355 per week in an independent Scotland. 
“In this election, a vote for the SNP is a vote to choose the kind of country we want to live in. A vote for the SNP is a vote for a progressive welfare system which values all ages from the cradle to the grave.


Angus MacNeil SNP Launches Election Campaign

SNP’s Angus MacNeil launching his election campaign in Na h-Eileanan an Iar today said:

“It is a privilege to have been chosen by local SNP members to stand as candidate for the 2019 Election. The Election of 2017 was unexpected but this election has been predicted almost every month since June 2017.

“For Scotland this Election is about choosing our own future – about what kind of country we want to be and about taking control of our own affairs. For the United Kingdom the Election is about Brexit – breaking away from our European partners and exiting the  free trade deals we currently enjoy. As Chair of the International Trade Committee, I have seen the World Trade Organisation(WTO)  tariffs and how countries try to join together in blocs to prevent having to pay the higher rates attached to WTO deals. There is no good Brexit – no other trade arrangements will give the UK the benefits it currently enjoys – even the Tory Governments own reports show that.

“The current Labour Party are in disarray as they have been for a number of years – not sure if they support the Tory Brexit or if they are a Remain Party ready to be propped up by the Lib Dems. In Scotland a lack of leadership has left Labour a poor shadow of a once proud party that could claim to speak for the people.

“Today, in Scotland the party that speaks for the people of Scotland is the SNP, the party which continues to govern as Westminster sinks, the party of Free Prescription, Free University Tuition , Free Bus travel for the elderly and the many other privileges that living in Scotland affords.

“I would encourage everyone to vote  SNP on December 12th  and allow me the honour of representing you in Westminster where I will Stand Strong in the interests of Na h-Eileanan an Iar and Scotland.”

Isles MP’s Office to accepts Foodbank Donations in run-up to Christmas

Eilean Siar Food bank is again this year looking for donations in the run up to Christmas to ensure that Foodbank user’s can have a few treats at Christmas just like the rest of us.

As in previous years Angus B MacNeil MP’s Constituency Office will be available as a drop -off point for donations. The Eilean Siar Foodbank is a voluntary organisation and has limited opening hours while the Constituency Office is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

Eilean Siar Foodbank have particularly asked for the following items : Custard, Tinned fruit (mandarins & fruit cocktails) Christmas puds, mince pies, Selection boxes, Tined Ham & Salmon. Currently the foodbank have a good supply of soup, beans and pasta.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said

I am pleased to be able to help this very worthwhile cause and my office staff will continue to work in the Office during the Election campaign and will be able to accept any donations for the Foodbank.

It is sad that in a country with the resources and potential of Scotland that people still need to use Foodbanks but that is the reality of the United Kingdom that we live in today.

Island people are known for their generosity and I am sure the Foodbank will be well supported especially at this time of year.

Isles MP calls on Scottish Government to review convergence uplift

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus B MacNeil has spoken to the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing MSP regarding concerns about the convergence uplift funding which was announced in the last few days.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“Clearly there are concerns that the convergence money is not being distributed to where it is most needed.

“The Scottish Government must review and make good the concerns of crofters and meet the original hopes for this funding.

“We know that this money was delayed by Westminster for a number of years and that the current money has to be distributed by March 2020. It would seem that the Scottish Government has rushed to announce this funding in order to meet this deadline.

“Fergus Ewing has assured me that he remains keen to ensure that active crofters and farmers in upland and sheep areas do benefit proportionately from this money and that LFASS will be protected.

“We would see a lot more money in our communities if support for crofting in Scotland was on an equal par with support given to similar activities in other European countries and this convergence money should be a step in the right direction.

“This is certainly a moving situation and I hope that after Fergus Ewing visits Lewis this week, he will take on board the concerns that will no doubt be raised with him and allay the fears of crofters.”


Isles MP optimistic about progress with 4G Emergency Services Network

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil this week met with EE and BT to discuss the rollout of the 4G Emergency Services Network (ESN) across the Hebrides.

Mr MacNeil has been persistently lobbying the UK government and mobile operators to ensure that improvements are made to mobile connectivity in the Hebrides.

Mr MacNeil had an informative and fruitful meeting with Duncan Warne from EE and Henry Parker from BT at Westminster.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“There are now 44 operational 4G masts across the Hebrides, 31 new masts have been built adding to the 13 masts which were previously in existence. There are another 8 new masts in the pipeline; 5 in Lewis, 1 in Harris, 1 in North Uist, 1 in South Uist and an upgrade of the mast on the west side of Barra. 

“In Lewis there are currently 19 4G masts; 8 in Harris, 6 in North Uist, 1 in Benbecula, 5 in South Uist, 1 in Eriskay and 4 between Barra and Vatersay. 

“I also raised the issue of 4G outages and calls dropping as people travel throughout the Hebrides.  EE are aware of this, they have performance indicators and they will be aiming to improve the service.

“On some of the new mast sites there are issues with ownership and access, planning permission has been granted for most of them.  EE tell me that we should have a continually improving 4G network in the Hebrides, the Emergency Services Network should be all be built by October 2020, and operational in the months thereafter.

“I hope that many people are finding the improvements to the 4G service to be useful in their daily lives, it has certainly been quite a struggle to get to this point but following my meeting with EE and BT, I am optimistic that progress is being made to enhance the 4G service.”


Angus MacNeil MP welcomes progress on Bluefin Tuna tagging for the Hebrides

The European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) has approved money for Bluefin Tuna tagging in the Hebrides which should bring a welcome boost to the economy of the islands but especially to Harris.

Bluefin Tuna have been seen in increasing numbers around the Hebrides, but Scotland was not included in the previous tagging scheme. Angus B MacNeil MP has been working with fishermen in Harris, cajoling and arguing in all corners to have a catch and release scheme similar to that in operation in Donegal, Ireland which would allow development of this type of angling.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said

“I congratulate the dogged determination of people like Grant Fulton and Angus Campbell from the Isle of Harris, who have seen the opportunity with Bluefin Tuna and have worked with me to give the Outer Hebrides the opportunity to have a scheme similar to the one in Donegal.

“This funding from the EMFF is great progress and will hopefully encourage those in other parts of the islands to get involved and join the fishermen in Harris so that boats throughout the isles can help each other in spotting Bluefin Tuna.

“ This is hopefully the start of something exciting which will inspire more people to get involved.

“Again, congratulations to those in Harris particularly Grant Fulton and Angus Campbell whose enthusiasm and hard work have been instrumental in getting this money to the Outer Hebrides.”


Fish exports must continue unhindered post-Brexit, says Isles MP

Isles MP, Angus B MacNeil is in contact with The Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish) regarding the exporting of fish to the European Union after the UK leaves the European Union.

Figures contained in the Local Level Brexit Vulnerabilities report shows that rural and remote areas in Scotland could be among the hardest hit by any kind of Brexit. 

Mr MacNeil who has continually opposed Brexit said:

“I have been in discussions with Seafish about ensuring that the fishing industry can continue to get their catch to EU markets, unhindered in the event of a No-Deal Brexit. 

“Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 sets out the conditions for the approval of establishments.  Currently, to export to the EU these businesses do not require an Environmental Health Certificate but after exiting the European Union these businesses would require an Environmental Health Certificate which they would not be able to get because they do not have an approved establishment.

“These changes will not apply during the transition period or if we remain in the single market and customs union.

“Seafish is currently looking for a solution to the problem and they are seeking advice on the viability of other possible solutions which include products passing through suitably approved premises such as a fish market or that the business can undertake an approved activity such as wrapping and packing in polystyrene boxes in order to obtain the required approval. 

“It is likely that local fishermen will be selling their catch to an agent who will subsequently export the catch.  Seafish have concerns that to obtain an Environmental Health Certificate, the agent may need evidence of compliance with European Food Law from vessels to export into the European Union. 

“Seafish have flagged up a difficulty and it clearly shows that despite Brexit, EU Regulations are very much to the fore. 

“It is important that we can still sell our products to the European Union despite not presently knowing what will happen if we leave the EU without a deal and solutions need to be found. Leaving the EU was meant to reduce bureaucracy, but this is just one example where exporting to the European Union will require more bureaucracy if we leave the EU.”


Clarity needed on crofting tenure

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil is calling on the Scottish Government to step in to protect crofting tenure.

Mr MacNeil is concerned that local authorities consider crofts to be an asset which can be used to meet care home costs.  This arises from a number of cases where local authorities are attempting to use croft homes to pay for the care costs of family members.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“I am currently dealing with a case where a constituent is being pursued for the disposal of assets.  I just cannot understand how this case can be viewed in this way, particularly given the family circumstances.  Like many other people, the person in question does not actually own the croft – he is a tenant.

“I raised this matter with the Crofting Commission who are aware of this issue but say they are not clear whether this is for them to take a position on.  I would argue that the Crofting Commission should certainly take a stance on this and fight to secure crofting tenure, its purpose is to regulate and promote the interest and secure the future of crofting.

“I will be writing to Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy.  The Scottish Government need to clarify the legal position and do everything in their power to protect crofting and the security of tenure that crofters currently enjoy.”


Western Isles Interconnector – Isles MP disappointed at further delay from Ofgem – but optimism remains

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP has expressed his disappointment at today’s publication by Ofgem which is delaying progress for the Interconnector.

The Contracts for Difference (CfD) Allocation Round 3 in September awarded just 240MWh to projects in the Western Isles, well below the 369-400MWh needed for the Interconnector to the mainland.

Yesterday at Westminster, Mr MacNeil pressed the Energy Minister, Kwasi Kwarteng MP about an interconnector and pointed out the ludicrous policy of the UK Government which on one hand gives 240MWh to the Western Isles in CfD Round 3 while also requiring 370-400MWh before the interconnector could be built.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“It is disappointing that Ofgem is delaying progress with the interconnector, however after speaking to SSEN this morning I am encouraged that the door is still open to make progress with the 600MW capacity cable.  SSEN remain hopeful that renewable projects will proceed, providing the 420MWh which will take them up to the 600MW cable capacity.  

“SSEN is optimistic that progress can be made and is committed to driving this project on to secure a 600MW capacity cable for the Western Isles.

“Our islands have the best wind resource in Europe and the interconnector is vital for island renewable energy projects, SSEN and renewable developers have the opportunity to provide Ofgem with further information to support the needs case for the interconnector.”


Isles MP keeps pressure on UK Government to take action on Interconnector

Isles MP, Angus B MacNeil today pressed the Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng MP during Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy questions about an interconnector to the Outer Hebrides.

Mr MacNeil pointed out the ludicrous policy of the UK Government which on one hand gives 240MW to the Outer Hebrides in the Contracts for Difference Round 3 while also requiring 370-400MW before a cable could be built.

Responding Mr Kwarteng said that interconnectors are an important part of the energy mix.

Mr MacNeil pointed out that at this time of climate emergency the clean, green energy available from renewables in the Scottish Islands should be utilised.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“If Mr Kwarteng is serious about an interconnector being part of the energy mix then surely an announcement on the interconnector to the Outer Hebrides will happen soon, otherwise these are empty words from the UK Government.

“Orkney and Shetland have already been spurned. No other Government would spurn the Outer Hebrides where we have the best wind resource in Europe.”