It was great to meet today with ‘A Dyslexic Life’ campaigners Donna Macleod and Donna Inglis who are doing great work in raising issues around dyslexia and how children with reading difficulties need more support.
An amazing statistic they shared with me was that half of the prisoners in jail have a reading age of under 11. Therefore, spending money to help people with dyslexia deal with reading could save some people a lot of trouble in adult life and the country great expense.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed confirmation today (Tuesday) that Unions representing airport staff in island airports have voted to accept an enhanced pay offer.
The new offer, which has been accepted by more than 90% of union members, will bring an end to industrial action.
Mr MacNeil said: “I am very glad to hear that an enhanced pay offer has been offered and accepted by airport staff. It was understandable that staff would want to protect their incomes. This will hopefully bring an end to disruption at island airports which was also impacting patient travel to appointments on the mainland.”
PCS union have still to confirm the outcome of their ballot, but Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) say action taken by PCS members has not impacted operations.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil says he is strongly opposed to proposals for Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMA) and urges island stakeholders to make their views heard in the consultation which closes on April 17.
Mr MacNeil will write to the Minister for Environment and Land Reform, Mairi McAllan, to stress the strength of feeling against the proposals in the islands and calls for the legislation to be dropped.
Commenting Mr MacNeil said: “HPMAs are ill-conceived, not thought through, and are not something that any island or coastal community would impose upon themselves. It is driven by people who don’t understand the issues. In short, the whole scheme should be put in a recycling dustbin. Having taken part in an online consultation last month, and as an islander, I got little comfort from the concepts and was only alarmed at the idea.
“Thankfully no such step has been thought of, for the countryside or in cities. Making a blanket 10% of places, at land or sea ‘verboten’ is not sustainable.
“Small-scale environmentally harmonious activity has been going on for generations, and these Marine Protected areas will destroy much of that. Island communities need to be protected from these so-called environmental protectors, who are damaging and many feel even dangerous, with their ill-conceived schemes.
“I will write to the Scottish Government urging a re-think on these damaging proposals and I hope that the strength of feeling from island communities is relayed in the consultation. It may of course come to pass that a change in SNP First Minister could signal the end of these doomsday proposals. I will certainly encourage any new First Minister to ditch this dangerous bill.
“The closing date is April 17th, and I would urge constituents to make their voices heard and submit responses even if it is a short response, simply saying it should be ditched.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil slammed this week’s UK Budget as a budget of admission and confession.
Commenting after attending the Budget Statement by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr MacNeil said: “This budget was a long series of confessions from Jeremy Hunt on how the Tories have failed over the last few years. Despite the ever-changing approaches to corporation tax, it looks like business investment in the UK is well behind its counterparts in other sensible European countries.
“For Households, when the average electricity bill is far higher in Scotland than the rest of the UK, the Chancellor offered very little to energy-rich Scotland. This is particularly galling in a constituency such as mine where the level of fuel poverty is high and especially when we have the capacity to generate so much energy.
“The budget also made no mention of the Rural Fuel Rebate on which I have been pressing the UK Government for some time for an increase from 5p a litre to 10p a litre.
“The Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) called it the ‘mañana’ budget with all these promises being something to come in future years, probably long after the Tories have left office, therefore making it utterly meaningless.
“Very saliently it has been pointed out that the budget, if it works, is only 0.2% boost to GDP. This contrasts with Brexit, which is costing the UK economy twenty-five times more than that.
“The best thing that can happen to the UK economy is for Labour and the Tories is to confess and abandon and admit they have made a mistake on Brexit which is damaging people’s jobs, livelihoods, food costs and general household bills. Brexit has been a disaster and the UK Government is ill-equipped to deal with it.
“As a backdrop in London, there were tube strikes, reflecting the many other strikes up and down the UK as workers struggle to get a decent pay. I do note that in an independent Ireland, the workers aren’t striking because they are earning far better. Independence pays and pays in the pay packet.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil demands that additional support for households is announced in this week’s UK Government Spring Budget.
Mr MacNeil says a comprehensive package of support is needed including the continuation of the £400 Energy Bill Support Scheme payments for all families that currently receive them, beyond March, and an immediate U-turn on Tory plans to raise people’s energy bills by a further £500 from April.
6 out of 10 households in the Outer Hebrides are classed as being in fuel poverty. A household is said to be in fuel poverty when its members cannot afford to keep adequately warm at a reasonable cost, given their income.
Mr MacNeil said: “After thirteen years of Tory cuts, Brexit damage and economic failure, the UK government must deliver a Budget which will support families instead of making households even poorer.
“Scotland is a wealthy, energy-rich country but families are paying an unacceptable high price under Westminster control as living costs soar, real wages tumble, and inflation goes through the roof.
“Energy bills need to be cut by at least £500, following Scotland’s lead with higher public sector pay deals, and introducing a Real Living Wage for all workers.
“The £400 Energy Bill Support Scheme payments must continue for all families that currently receive them.
“With the wholesale price of gas falling, the UK government is already saving billions of pounds.
“If the Chancellor follows the SNP’s demands to scrap non-dom tax status, tax share buy backs, and expand the windfall tax, he could raise billions more to benefit ordinary families.
“An independent Scotland would have already acted long ago. The fact that the Tories are still refusing to help families, shows exactly why Scotland needs the full powers of independence.”
Mr MacNeil has also called for the UK Government to increase to the Rural Fuel Rebate from 5p a litre to 10p a litre in this week’s Budget.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is piling further pressure on the UK Government to increase the Rural Fuel Rebate at next week’s Spring Budget.
In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, Mr MacNeil is pressing once again for an increase in the Rural Fuel Rebate from 5p a litre to 10p a litre.
The Rural Fuel Rebate was introduced in 2012 after many years of heavy lobbying by Mr MacNeil and others to take 5p off a litre of fuel in island and other rural locations.
Mr MacNeil wrote to the then Chancellor Rishi Sunak in March last year calling for an increase to the Rural Fuel Rebate from 5p a litre to 10p a litre and the response received from Helen Whately, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, confirmed that there are no plans to change the Rural Fuel Rebate.
With additional pressures placed on households in the islands, Mr MacNeil is reiterating this call once again.
Mr MacNeil said: “I had asked the Chancellor to increase the Rural Fuel Rebate from 5p a litre to 10p a litre in March last year, but this request was woefully brushed aside.
“Rather than taking action to help families, the Tories choose to make the rich richer.
“Scotland is an energy-rich country but sadly being in the UK we are not getting the benefits of our vast resources. The UK is hampering and harming Scotland and only with independence can we get out of this mess.”
Mr MacNeil is also supporting calls from the Road Hauliers Association (RHA) for an Essential User Rebate of 15p per litre which has been introduced in many European nations including Ireland, France, Italy and Belgium.
Na h-Eileanan an Ian SNP MP Angus MacNeil has called for an urgent meeting of NHS Western Isles, Loganair, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, politicians, and other affected parties to discuss the huge problem that has been created by Loganair suspending services from Inverness to Stornoway and Benbecula.
Loganair is suspending services from Inverness to Stornoway and Benbecula, from 17th March, for a period of six weeks.
NHS Western Isles’ analysis of patient appointments and schedules indicates that around 230 patients, who require to travel to Inverness for medical appointments, could potentially be affected.
Up to an additional 270 patients who were scheduled to attend an appointment on-island with a visiting consultant could potentially also still be affected by the suspension of flights.
Commenting Mr MacNeil said:
“The numbers of people affected released by NHS Western Isles today are huge. Hundreds of people, some with life-critical care considerations will be affected by the suspension of these flights.
“Loganair, while a private company, has also been supported by the community, so I think that urgent dialogue going forward is the best way.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has contacted Transport Minister, Jenny Gilruth regarding the suspension of Loganair flights due to ongoing HIAL industrial action.
Loganair have taken the decision to temporarily suspend services from Inverness to Stornoway, Benbecula, Kirkwall and Sumburgh, and between Kirkwall and Sumburgh due to the industrial action. Starting on Friday 17 March up to and including 30 April, no Loganair services will fly from the islands to Inverness. This could be extended into May.
Mr MacNeil said: “We cannot have a situation where these lifeline services are suspended, which will cause enormous disruption to island communities, and a resolution must be found.
“This will be especially difficult for those going to hospital in Inverness and those working in the oil industry. It will mirror the difficulty many constituents have come to me with accessing the hospital in Stornoway from Uist and particularly Barra when the Comhairle walked away from its transport commitments when it cut flights a number of years back.
“This situation will affect even more people than the Comhairle’s flight axe.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is urging island households with prepayment gas and electricity meters to make sure they have redeemed their energy rebate vouchers.
According to figures from Advice Direct Scotland, almost one in five households in Scotland use prepayment meters for their gas or electricity.
Most households will have £400 automatically taken off their electricity bills in six instalments or will have the money added to their accounts. However, those on traditional prepayment meters need the vouchers to get the discount. PayPoint said that 79 per cent of customers have so far redeemed their December vouchers, which have a deadline of March 8. Customers who have not yet redeemed their January vouchers have until April 9.
Mr MacNeil said: “I would urge any households in Na h-Eileanan an Iar who use prepayment meters to check if they have received vouchers. With energy prices still incredibly high, it’s vital that households get all the support they’re entitled to.”
Advice Direct Scotland urges households to:
Check unopened mail, in case the vouchers have been missed.
Check with energy suppliers, using contact details found on bills, statements, and official websites.
Contact energyadvice.scot if there are any difficulties getting through to suppliers or resolving issues. The team can be contacted on 0808 196 8660 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm), or through www.energyadvice.scot.
Amendment to SNP Conference for branches to support
If your Branch would like to add their support to the motion, please email: ScotIndy2023@gmail.com
“Conference restates the SNP’s founding belief that the best future for Scotland is as an independent nation, and reiterates the following principles:”
(end sentence at “nation” then Delete from “nation” and add the amendment below after “nation”)
Conference notes that:
1. Paragraph 81 of the Supreme Court’s decision states that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to use ballot boxes for a referendum on independence, as the “referendum on the question envisaged…would undoubtedly be an important political event.”
2. The Supreme Court further stated, “A clear outcome…would possess the authority, in a constitution and political culture founded upon democracy, of a clear expression of the view of the Scottish Electorate” and would “have important political consequences relating to [both] the Union and the United Kingdom Parliament.”
3. The Supreme Court therefore felt, not for legal but for political consequences, bound to block a referendum originating in the devolved parliament due to the effects on non-devolved matters, namely the current “Union”
Therefore, given the acceptance of a “political culture founded upon democracy”, Conference resolves to use the self-same ballot boxes, at an election event to gain the “view” of the people and their democratic “authority” on the matter of independence for Scotland, noting that Courts in the democratic world do not block elections.
Given the current reality of Westminster blocking a referendum on independence, Conference resolves that the people shall speak at an election, with “authority” on independence; and a majority of votes for the SNP and other parties stating a clear pro-independence position in their manifestos shall be regarded as the authoritative view of the people on independence in the event of a majority of such votes combining for independence.
Conference also notes that there are three ways to trigger an early Holyrood Election:
1. Resignation of First Minister to trigger – as per The 1998 Scotland Act;
2. Two thirds of the current MSPs voting to dissolve Parliament – as per The 1998 Scotland Act;
3. Amending the standing orders or legislation using Scotland Act 2016 [Sec3] to cause an election by simple majority- as per The 2016 Scotland Act [Sec3(1)(a)]
Conference therefore resolves that the next election or elections should now logically be used for independence and the first such opportunity should be an early Holyrood Election, held on or around 19th October 2023 brought about by option 3 above, namely through the 2016 Scotland Act enabling a majority of MSPs at the Scottish Parliament to bring about an election.