Isles MP backs staff call to prevent Remote Air Traffic Control

Isles MP Angus MacNeil is backing calls by Prospect Union to protect island jobs by opposing the centralisation of Air Traffic Control functions to Inverness.

Prospect members in Air Traffic Control at Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) are to be balloted on industrial action over HIAL’s plans to push on with its remote towers project.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said: “This is an inevitable consequence of HIAL’s high handed approach to people’s jobs and livelihoods and damaging the island economy by taking critical, well paid jobs out of the area.  It is time now for the Scottish Government to step in.

“HIAL’s answers have not been good enough. Air Traffic Control staff and the public deserve better. The Transport Minister needs to get involved and our Air Traffic Control services need to be kept in Benbecula and Stornoway.”

Prospect have stressed that any industrial action will have no effect on emergency services and if action is taken it will be after the Christmas holiday period.

MP calls for local Covid testing for offshore workers to avoid unnecessary travel

MP calls for local Covid testing for offshore workers to avoid unnecessary travel

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil has written to Jeanne Freeman MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health regarding offshore workers who require to take a Covid-19 test prior to returning to work.

Many islanders are employed across the world working offshore and their employers are routinely asking their staff to be tested prior to returning to their place of work.  NHS Western Isles will only test people with Covid symptoms. 

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“NHS Western Isles will only test people who show Covid symptoms and this means that workers are having to make needless journeys during this pandemic to all corners of Scotland to get a Covid test, potentially exposing themselves to the risk of catching the virus.

“These workers are getting tested at their own or employers’ expense and I know that there is capacity available in the Western Isles to carry out these tests. I have suggested to the Health Secretary that perhaps some arrangement could be reached that would be satisfactory to the companies, the staff and to the Scottish Government that would end the needless and risky travel across Scotland.   

“At a time of travel restrictions it seems counter-productive to expect people to do additional travelling to get a Covid test.  I would say the solution would be to enable NHS Western Isles to test these workers and a financial arrangement probably entered into. This would benefit the workers, employers and particularly public health.”

Isles MP contacts SFA regarding Scotland Team Kit Sales

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil has written to the SFA Chief Executive, Iain Maxwell to clarify the exclusive rights JD Sports have on the sale of Scotland national football team kits.

This issue was brought to Mr MacNeil’s attention after a constituent had tried to purchase a Scotland top in the local sports shop.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“Scotland qualifying for Euro 2021 is a fantastic achievement and it is good news that people are interested in buying the Scotland team kit, but I am disappointed to hear that it is not possible to buy Scotland merchandise in independent shops.

“I have written to Iain Maxwell, Chief Executive of the SFA to clarify why they have given JD Sports exclusive rights to the sale of these goods.

“I know of many Scotland fans in remote areas who would welcome the opportunity to be able to buy official Scotland merchandise in the run up to Christmas and particularly during this period of travel restrictions when people would not wish to or are not allowed to travel to more populous areas where JD Sports Shops tend to be located.

“I have asked Mr Maxwell if allowing independent shops to sell the tops is something the SFA would consider.”

ENDS

Brexit set to hit Outer Hebrides hard – but Scottish Independence could be rescue plan says Isles MP

Brexit is on course to be hugely damaging to the Outer Hebrides, warns Na H-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil who says the only route of escape is through Scottish Independence.

Latest statistics from the CNA Competitiveness map of Europe show the Highlands and Islands of Scotland will be the most adversely affected part of Europe.

Production costs may rise up to 4.5% and industries such as agriculture are expected to be impacted negatively. Currently 90% of medical supplies for sheep are imported from the EU.

The UK will leave the European Union in just 44 days and Mr MacNeil warns again that the repercussions of Brexit with or without a deal will be hugely negative for the economy.

He said: “Brexit looks to be very damaging for the Outer Hebrides.

“On the CNA Competitiveness map of Europe, the most damaged part by Westminster’s Brexit is the Highlands and Islands.

“It is again frightening to see that the most damaged part of Europe by London’s Brexit is going to be the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

“Ireland of course escapes as much damage because it is independent. Other parts of Europe will of course be damaged but nowhere is damaged as much as the UK and nowhere in the UK as much as the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

“Our only escape from this nonsense – walking out of a trade block and erecting barriers to trade and damaging the economy –  is of course Scottish Independence when like Ireland we can make our own decisions and not be damaged by crazy fantasies emanating from Westminster and the Tories.

“As Chair of the International Trade Committee I’ve spoken to many sectors of UK business and nobody is looking forward to Brexit. Many foresee difficulties and shortages – from animal medicines, from increased food prices – such as UK produced chicken being more expensive regardless of whether there is a deal or no deal. It is quite shocking that UK chicken will be more expensive in the UK because of Brexit but these are the problems Brexit is creating.

“The only hope Scotland has in the midst of this is to become independent and it is heartening to see that a growing number of Scots are joining the 58% of Scots who already want the country to be independent.

“The majority of Scots want independence and no wonder, when we see the mis-governance and the ship heading for the rocks that is Brexit, coming up very soon.”

ENDS

MP welcomes SSE plan to engage with community organisations on impact of power cable failure

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) have confirmed to Isles MP Angus MacNeil this week that they are taking action to assess the scale of impact of the subsea power cable failure on community organisations.

Mr MacNeil said community wind farm developers such as Point and Sandwick Trust in the islands had been hit hard by the loss of power cable, leaving them unable to export energy and therefore unable to financially support local charities and organisations.

He wrote to SSE last week asking what compensation could be offered to wind farm developers and received a response stating that they are now undertaking an analysis. He has a scheduled meeting with SSE later this week and has also written to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Strategy Alok Sharma seeking detail of any compensation which might be available.

Mr MacNeil said: “I wrote to SSE to express concerns regarding the effect of the cable failure on community wind farm developers. They replied to confirm that they are aware of the issue and are gathering further information at this stage.

“They are conducting an impact analysis and as part of this, they will be contacting community organisations to assess the scale of impact on revenue for community services.

“I hope to have more detail on this in due course.”

MP commends NHS staff and community for strong efforts to contain local Covid-19 outbreak

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has today (Friday) written to the Chief Executive of NHS Western Isles to commend the local NHS staff and communities of North and South Uist, Berneray, Benbecula and Eriskay for their efforts to supress the spread of Covid-19 during the most recent island outbreak.

NHS Western Isles have confirmed that the outbreak has now officially come to an end as more than 14 days have passed since confirmation of the last positive case associated with the outbreak.

In a letter to Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson, Mr MacNeil said: “I am writing today to thank you and your staff for all the work done to end the outbreak of Covid-19 in South Uist.

“It is testament to the work of NHS Staff, Test and Trace and to the community of South Uist that this outbreak was contained in the way it was and very pleasing to read that we have now had 14 days without a further case.

“The speed of the outbreak and the sad death of the Care Home resident reminds us all of the dangers associated with this virus and as you have said we must all remain vigilant. I would be grateful if you would pass on my thanks to the Staff of NHS Western Isles and their partner agencies for their work in dealing with this outbreak and the ongoing work of the current pandemic.”

To access testing in the Western Isles, contact the COVID-19 Response Team on 01851 601151 or email: wi-hb.covid19queries@nhs.net The phoneline will be staffed from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday with an answering machine available out with those hours.

Alternatively you can complete the online COVID-19 Testing Programme Referral Form (NHS Western Isles) https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=2195 ocked0 L

MP urges those who cannot wear a face mask to apply for Scottish Government card

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed the production of an official face covering exemption card by the Scottish Government to support those who are unable to wear a face mask to feel more confident and safe in public places.

Mr MacNeil was contacted by several constituents who faced a negative response on public transport or accessing public services when they were not wearing a mask.

In response he wrote to the Minister for Public Health Joe Fitzpatrick MSP in support of the call by Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Scotland to create an official card.

Mr MacNeil said: “I am very pleased that action has now been taken on this. No one who cannot wear a face mask due to health conditions, disability or other special circumstances should face any discrimination and the introduction of an official face covering exemption card is a very welcome step.

“I have heard of those who have been asked to provide proof of exemption but did not have this, causing anxiety and upset. The introduction of this card is very welcome step and I would encourage all who cannot wear a mask for various reasons to request a card.”

Physical and digital cards are available to request online from today (29 October) at www.exempt.scot or via a free helpline on 0800 121 6240.

MP says greater resilience is needed now on islands’ electricity supply

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil says greater resilience is urgently needed on the islands’ electricity supply given the current plan B to use Stornoway Power Station is now becoming the only option for the foreseeable future.

Last week’s unexpected system outage across Lewis and Harris was due to a fault identified on the 33,000-volt subsea electricity distribution cable that connects Lewis and Harris to the mainland.

Mr MacNeil has now written to Ofgem, who regulate power supplies, to look at the options with greater resilience.

He said: “The fault is at 100 metre depth, about 15 kilometres from land and it might be the case that the cable has to be fully replaced at a cost of tens of millions of pounds.

“There would be a period of months therefore that Lewis and Harris would be on the backup with Battery Point Power Station.

“The concern here is that the backup is now a long term backup – there is no backup left. 

“I’ve been in touch with Ofgem over the last five weeks about the line feeding the islands, particularly the substations and Quoich and Broadford in Skye,  SSE had flagged them up as being of concern but now the undersea cable has gone and I think Ofgem have to engage. 

“Do we want to have a triangular area in the Minch for resilience and backup so that we could have a cable between Harris and North Uist?  Then there is the question of the undersea cable that renewable energy would have brought in.  Ofgem don’t use backup as being a factor for having the interconnector.

“Finally, it what would be good to know how much renewable energy is able to help and ameliorate the amount of diesel that’s required at the Battery Power Station.

“Ofgem has to engage with the local community to make sure that resilience improves for the islands.

“This is particularly important as Battery Point Power Station in Stornoway is a backup but is now becoming for the foreseeable few months, the permanent and only source.”

Isles MP welcomes plans to fill 4G ‘not spot’

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed plans to fill a current 4G ‘not spot’ in North Uist and is urging constituents to identify other places where mobile phone signal is lacking.

The area around Grimsay in North Uist has been identified as part of Wilkinson Helsby Projects Telecoms Ltd’s (WHP) contract with the Scottish Government to deploy crucial mobile coverage.

Funding has been committed by the Scottish Government and secured from European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to support activity in the Highlands and Islands region.

Mr MacNeil said: “I was informed by WHP who are involved in telecommunications that they are proposing a welcome telephone installation in Grimsay, North Uist for 4G, a ‘not-spot’ where 4G is unavailable, this is very welcome but I would encourage constituents to inform WHP and I of other places where there may be ‘not spots’ and infilling.

“This is part of a Scottish Government contract to deploy crucial mobile coverage – probably on the EE, BT network. It is a 21st century requirement and something we need for day to day business and of course crucially in emergency situations.

“I will respond to Telecoms consultation on this project and will highlight any further ‘not spots’ brought to my attention by constituents.”

WHP are exploring solutions to some issues which may arise such as technical constraints, availability of power, availability of land, any other cost constraint and attracting a mobile operator but the site identified is at Baymore, Grimsay, North Uist.

WHP was awarded the contract by the Scottish Government to acquire, build and operate the passive infrastructure such as the base, mast, power supply and transmission link required to attract mobile operators to deploy sites in Not Spots where otherwise it would not be financially viable to do so.

If you would like to highlight a 4G ‘Not Spot’ within Na h-Eileanan an Iar please email WHP at d.hosker@whptelecoms.com and CC to angus.macneil.mp@parliament.uk

Isles MP welcomes plans to fill 4G ‘not spot’

Isles MP urges those turning 18 not to miss out on hidden savings

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is calling on all constituents turning 18 this month and beyond to make sure that they access money put aside for them in the former Child Trust Fund (CTF).

For every child born from 1 September 2002 until the Conservatives closed the scheme in January 2011, the Labour government invested £250 in a fund that only they can access.

The money went into an account their parents could open with a financial services provider, using a voucher sent out by the government. For children whose parents didn’t use their voucher, the government set up an account for them.

Mr MacNeil said: “If you are turning 18 this month or any time until 2029, you can access this fund and I would encourage everyone to take action on this.

“The problem is that not everyone knows it is there because the Conservatives stopped paying into it and then cancelled it altogether.

“Now more than ever, every pound counts and don’t miss out on cash that is yours.”

A Child Trust Fund (CTF) is a long-term tax-free savings account for children.

https://www.gov.uk/child-trust-funds/find-a-child-trust-fund

If you’re looking for your own trust fund, you’ll need your National Insurance number.

HMRC will send you details of the Child Trust Fund provider by post within 3 weeks of receiving your request.

Fill in the form online at  https://www.gov.uk/child-trust-funds

You’ll need a Government Gateway user ID and password. If you do not have a user ID, you can create one when you fill in the online form.

If you’re a parent looking for your child’s trust fund, you’ll need either: