MP continues campaign to reunite refugee families

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is bringing the issue of reuniting refugee families back to the House of Commons today (Thursday) when he leads a backbench business debate on his Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill.


Coinciding with Refugee Week, Mr MacNeil is also very pleased to have been able to assist in the reunion of a refugee family in his own constituency – making him even more determined to push for changes to the laws which are currently keeping families apart.


Mr MacNeil said: “Under the Home Offices’ rules, adults with refugee status in the UK are able to sponsor their spouses/partners and their children under 18 to join them. It’s hard to imagine just how much joy and relief must come at that moment of reunion.


“But the restrictive nature of those rules, and the limited definition of family contained within them, leaves many unable to experience that joy. Children over 18 are not covered, nor are elderly parents or nieces and nephews. How many parents think their children stop needing them just because they’ve had their 18th birthday?


“The UK does not allow refugee children any family reunion rights at all, the only country within the EU to do so. Children who have been recognised by the Government as being in need of protection, and for who it is not safe to return home, are not able to be joined by even their very closest relatives. Instead, children have to try and rebuild their lives in a new country without their parents to support them.


“I believe that families belong together, and that these rules are overly restrictive. That’s why, when I was selected in last year’s Private Members’ Bill ballot, I chose to introduce a bill to make some modest changes to these rules and help more families torn apart to be reunited in safety.”


This debate comes in a week when the US Government has caused international outrage for the treatment of asylum seekers at the US/Mexican border where children have been forcibly separated from their parents.


The Bill is supported by MPs from across the House of Commons, as well as organisations including the Refugee Council, British Red Cross, Amnesty International, Oxfam GB and UNHCR. It successfully passed its Second Reading in March and is awaiting the next stage.


Comhairle nan Eilean Siar this week gave their full support to the Bill.

Isles MP walks out of PMQs in protest

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil joined his SNP colleagues in walking out of the House of Commons yesterday (Wednesday) following repeated attempts by the Tory government to silence Scotland’s voice on Brexit.


snpwalkout 1

Angus MacNeil MP with SNP Westminster Group Leader Ian Blackford MP and his SNP colleagues outside the Parliamentary Estate following the walk out from Prime Minister’s Questions.

Mr MacNeil joined the SNP’s Westminster Leader Ian Blackford MP in protest, after the Speaker asked him to leave during Prime Minister’s Questions.


Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Ian Blackford called for the House of Commons to sit in private, following the Prime Minister’s failure to bring forward emergency legislation on Brexit to ensure the Scottish Parliament’s position is considered as the UK leaves the EU.


Mr MacNeil said Scotland’s voice needed to be heard as Brexit will have major implications for vital sectors such fishing and crofting.


He said: “I walked out of the House of Commons because Scotland – and my constituents – have been silenced on Brexit.


“The UK Government’s Brexit legislation ignores the will of the Scottish Parliament and devolution as we know it  – which the people of Na h-Eileanan an Iar, indeed, the whole of Scotland, voted overwhelmingly for.


“Westminster needs to realise they can’t push Scotland about. We’re not in a union of equals and enough is enough.


“Currently we have boats without crews that cannot go to sea due to lack of support from the UK Government in addressing this issue – after Brexit we could have only EU boats in our waters.


“The Westminster Parliament is going to grab powers over agriculture as those powers come back from the EU and this could have serious repercussions for crofting.


“The UK government’s shambolic Brexit is putting jobs and livelihoods at risk and the SNP is the only party who will stand up for Scotland.”

MP welcomes green light for Remote Island Wind in CfD auction

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed the official confirmation from the UK Government that they intend to allow Remote Island Wind projects to compete in the upcoming Contracts for Difference (CfDs) auction.

Angus Brendan headshot Westminster

Angus MacNeil MP


Following a consultation earlier this year – to which Mr MacNeil responded – the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced this week that they intend to proceed to legislate to differentiate Remote Island Wind from other onshore wind projects to enable them to compete for a CfD in Pot 2.

This is subject to Parliamentary approval.


Mr MacNeil said: “This announcement was expected but is very welcome news.


“It is a positive step that the UK Government has listened to the large number of respondents to the consultation, from across the industry and from groups and individuals in the islands, who made the case for Remote Island Wind to be considered differently from other onshore wind projects.”




Isles politicians call for urgent action on Uig mobile outage

Loss of mobile phone signal is causing major disruption for residents of Uig, Isle of Lewis and local politicians are calling on the mobile phone operator to take urgent action to resolve the situation.

Angus MacNeil MP and Alasdair Allan MSP have been in regular contact with EE over recent days and weeks after many constituents contacted them to report repeated disruption to the network in the Uig area.




The poor signal for EE customers is caused by ongoing works to upgrade the mast to a 4G service, however Mr MacNeil said customers have not been kept well informed and are becoming increasingly frustrated.


He said: “This situation with EE has been ongoing for several months now and my constituents are fed up by the lack of communication from the mobile phone operator.


“I understand that progress is expected to be made this week but I will be maintaining pressure on EE to sort this out and inform their customers.


“The mobile phone signal is so important to communities, particularly in the busy tourist season, and at the moment these communities are not getting the service they deserve and indeed the service which customers are paying for.”


Alasdair Allan MSP said: “To go a month without any mobile reception and to be given no clear idea of what the problem is or when it will be fixed is an intolerable situation to place Uig residents into, especially as we approach the height of the tourist season.


“EE need to update their customers in Uig and get this problem resolved as quickly as possible.”


John Maciver, Chair of Uig Community Council said: “The situation in Uig is nothing short of a shambles. We have had no mobile signal for almost a month without any information from EE to customers. At a peak time in the tourist season, we are very vulnerable should there be an emergency in such a remote community.”



Cutting island bank branches is false economy for RBS, says MP

Isles MP Angus B MacNeil says one department of RBS is ‘pulling the wool over the eyes’ of another in claiming closure of the Castlebay branch and cuts to the Lochboisdale branch will save them cash.


He says RBS could spend more than £2,000 a month on travel costs if they proceed with the closure of the Castlebay branch, Isle of Barra.


The mobile bank is due to visit the island three times a week at a cost of more than £200 a return ferry trip, together with staff costs and any unforeseen travel disruptions – the cost of cutting the branch may not be as cost effective as RBS have been insisting.


Mr MacNeil has reiterated his call for RBS to drop the closure plans:


He said: “Closing branches is supposed to be a money saving exercise but in the case of the island branches, the costs involved in a mobile banking service might prove otherwise.


“When RBS add up all the travel costs and the additional unexpected costs that can incur if there is travel disruption, they should think again.


“One department of RBS is pulling the wool over the eyes of another department if they’re selling the closure of the Castlebay branch as a saving.  I hope that the independent reviewer will also look at this issue, and the fact that the RBS van will put further pressure on an already busy ferry service.


“The local community are telling RBS to drop their plans; the Scottish Affairs Committee are telling RBS to drop their plans; and now their own bank balance might tell them to drop their plans for Castlebay and Lochboisdale too.”

MacNeil calls for RBS to abandon branch closure plans

Isles SNP MP Angus MacNeil is calling on RBS to ‘do the right thing’ and abandon plans for branch closures and cuts – including those at Castlebay and Lochboisdale.


Speaking after the publication of a damning report by the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee which calls for RBS to rethink plans and urges the UK Government to step in, Mr MacNeil said: “The Scottish Affairs Committee report, published this weekend, shows how badly RBS has dealt with the situation and taken no account of the communities, many in remote areas, that will be affected.


“The government must now step in and take action and insist on a u-turn.”


RBS had given the Castlebay branch a reprieve until the end of this year as one of ten branches due to be evaluated in a review by an independent assessor.


However an appearance by RBS CEO Ross McEwan at the Scottish Affairs Committee earlier this month highlighted the lack of information on the review process and MPs concluded that ‘it is not currently possible for us to have confidence that this process will be fair and independent.’


Mr MacNeil added: “It is not yet clear who will carry out the review of Castlebay branch or any other branch; it is not clear what criteria will be looked at; and it is not clear whether the independent reviewer or the bank will be making the decisions.


“On top of that it is difficult to see how RBS can assess the performance of a branch while at the same time trialling a mobile bank service which is clogging up our ferry.


“I hope RBS will see sense and abandon their plans which would also retain opening hours at Lochboisdale.”

RBS Castlebay

Mr MacNeil is calling for a u-turn on closure plans.

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.”