Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has today welcomed the initiative by the Scottish Government to look into tunnels on the sounds of Harris and Barra, as well as a tunnel link between Mull and the mainland.
Commenting Angus MacNeil said:
“This shows that persistence pays, I am glad to see that this has reached government level and Transport Scotland are now looking into the feasibility of tunnels.
“Our neighbours in the Faroe Islands, not too far away, are currently constructing their fourth tunnel with three in operation. It would appear to me that tunnels provide the natural progression in our links, from the causeways that joined the islands in the 90’s and the early part of the century.
“Now we must catch up with people like the Faroese who have been linking the islands, over lengths of 10km, at about 10million per km to construct. Over 25 years this is very doable and affordable, this could revolutionise transport on the islands and on the west coast of Scotland.
“ Tunnel links will make it easier for us to travel between the islands and will also give us more options to use other ports to get to the mainland. The tunnel link to Mull would obviously benefit Mull but also Coll and Tiree and could make Tobermory the port in the south end of the west coast.
“We look forward to seeing what the proposals bring forward and I hope that we can follow the Faroese model which is very successful indeed. In the Faroe Islands no one would go back to having ferries once they have the tunnels, similarly with the causeways, people would not want to go back to ferries either in the Hebrides.”
Angus MacNeil MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar has praised Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for organising an online workshop tomorrow night (Tuesday) to inform and encourage women in the Western Isles to stand in the upcoming Local Government elections.
So far over 70 have signed up to the workshop which will be held online with representatives from Elect Her, an organisation working to motivate, support and equip women to stand for political office, who will be present to provide advice and answer questions.
Mr MacNeil said: “I commend Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for organising this workshop and it is encouraging to see so many women in the Western Isles signing up.
“Local Governments make decisions on matters affecting everyday life including schools, home care, roads and much more and it is important for the Comhairle’s Council members to fully represent the people of the islands.”
The last Census in 2011 found that 50.6% of the Western Isles population is female.
The workshop will take place on Microsoft Teams and a link is provided to those who have registered. The Comhairle have issued a last reminder for those who wish to take part to register now by visiting:
Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has called for the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to resign in light of the shocking revelations of Covid rule-breaks at No.10 in May 2020 at the peak of the pandemic.
Mr MacNeil has been contacted by a large number of constituents who are appalled at the conduct of the Prime Minister at a time when families were separated and unable to see loved ones, in some cases at the most heart-breaking moments.
Mr MacNeil was in the House of Commons for Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday (Wednesday) where he joined with hundreds of cross-party MPs calling for Boris Johnson to resign.
He said: “I have been contacted by constituents who are, quite rightly, angry at the actions of the Prime Minister.
“At a time when there were challenges for everyone as we adapted our lives to abide by the strict rules with the aim of protecting the NHS and saving lives, it is beyond belief that this gathering was organised and went ahead.
“There is no way back for Boris Johnson who has lost all public confidence and the only decent option for him is to resign.
“The disregard to his own rules by the Prime Minister is also a reflection on the Tory party as a whole as its MPs were dragooned into the Chamber yesterday by the whips but sat in stony silence during PMQs.
“The Investigation into the circumstances of the gathering at No.10 is to be carried out by Sue Gray, a Civil Servant appointed by the UK Government to investigate the UK Government. Essentially this is to find out if Boris Johnson knew that Boris Johnson was at a party in Boris Johnson’s garden. The Prime Minister is trying to make mugs of the public, but the public sees through him.
“Clearly now is the time for Scotland to make its own path and plans must get underway for an independence referendum.”
SNP Leader Ian Blackford, spoke in the Chamber yesterday stressing that the public no longer had confidence in the Prime Minister and that the ‘right thing to do’ would be to resign.
The Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross also called for Boris Johnson to resign but was ignored and his role in the party was played down by senior Conservative figures.
Isles MP Angus MacNeil is encouraging all children and young people in Na h-Eileanan an Iar to apply for a new or replacement National Entitlement Card (NEC) which will now provide free bus travel to everyone up to the age of 22.
From this week, all young people and children aged 5-21 years old can apply for their new or replacement National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot NEC to access the scheme from 31 January 2022. The scheme, extending free bus travel to everyone up to 22, builds on the Scottish Government’s commitment to providing free bus travel to all under-19’s in Scotland which started in August 2021.
Mr MacNeil has welcomed the initiative which will cover travel across the Western Isles and also on the mainland which will be particularly helpful to island students travelling regularly between their island homes and mainland locations for university and college.
The scheme is set to benefit around 930,000 young people across Scotland with research from Transport Scotland indicating that 70% of young people would use public transport more frequently if it was free.
Commenting Mr MacNeil said:
I am delighted that applications are now open for young people in Na h-Eileanan an Iar under the age of 22, to apply for free bus travel across the country. This is a hugely significant commitment from the Scottish Government that will benefit hundreds of thousands of young people.
“Making bus travel free for under 22’s is not only important for helping tackle the climate emergency but it will also take pressure off young people’s finances and improve their access to education, leisure, and work.
“Whilst we continue to live through the pandemic, we all recognise that essential travel must be prioritised so I want to specifically encourage children and young people with essential journeys to make to apply now.
“The SNP Scottish Government is once again making an investment in our young people’s future, supporting them to have the best possible start in life and creating the fairer, greener Scotland that we want to build.
The scheme will be delivered in partnership with Transport Scotland, the Improvement Service, the National Entitlement Card Programme Office (NECPO), Young Scot, local authorities and bus operators.
MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar Angus MacNeil is to meet with the Hebridean Housing Partnership (HHP) in the coming weeks regarding concerns over housing on the islands.
Commenting Mr MacNeil said:
“At the recent Western Isles Fishermen’s AGM concerns were raised about the lack of housing in Leverburgh. Following that meeting I wrote to HHP raising the need for greater accessibility to housing in Leverburgh and in other areas and was delighted to learn from HHP that they are indeed conducting a feasibility study in Leverburgh.
“HHP tell me that they are currently researching and will reporting on the housing needs in Leverburgh with a view to building. I hope that they do go ahead and build in Leverburgh but I understand that they have to go through their procedures.
“It is right that HHP do their processes of diligence, but it is also right that voices in the community that probably instinctively know what is required, are given due weight as well. I am amplifying these voices and calling for houses to be built in Leverburgh to meet the needs of the community, businesses and all.”
Isles MP Angus MacNeil stood with cross party MPs at Westminster yesterday (Tuesday) calling for the UK Government to finally act and secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Mr MacNeil was contacted by a high number of constituents asking him to attend yesterday’s debate and put pressure on the UK Government to act.
Nazanine Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been unlawfully detained in Iran for nearly six years, separated from her young daughter and family.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, began a hunger strike outside the Foreign Office on 24 October, hoping to put pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to meet Iranian delegates at the COP26 climate summit and to demand freedom for Britons detained in Iran.
In an Intervention at the Westminster Hall debate yesterday, Mr MacNeil said: “If we were able to engineer a vote today on the payment of the debt, it would be unanimous.
“Is there a way that we can engineer a vote in the main Chamber on the debt, so that we add pressure on the Government to pay the debt and get Nazanin home?”
The UK owes money for failing to deliver tanks Iran bought in the 1970s.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe believes she has been imprisoned as leverage for the debt.
The case of Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe made headlines again in recent weeks after she was sentenced to another year in prison, just weeks after she reached the end of a five-year sentence. She was first jailed in Tehran in 2016 on spying charges, which she has always denied.
Her husband, Richard, maintains she is being used as a bargaining chip in the dispute over the unpaid debt, as well as leverage in talks over the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
Mr MacNeil met with Richard Ratcliffe during his previous hunger strike in 2019 and has written several letters to the UK Government urging them to redouble efforts to secure her release.
He added: “SNP MPs in Westminster continue to press Boris Johnson and the Foreign Secretary to do much more to help Nazanin’s release. The fact that Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and other ministers did not take the time to come out of their offices to visit Richard Ratcliffe at his tent and see first-hand how desperate the situation is, is a sign of their disregard for the issue.
“Empty words will no longer be enough – a proactive approach is needed by this government. The FCDO must now once and for all set out evidence of detailed and concrete steps to get her home.”
Angus MacNeil MP has today introduced a bill in the House of Commons to limit those who donate money to political parties from getting a peerage.
The Peerage Nominations (Disqualification of Party Donors) private members bill would mean that those who donate more than £50,000 to a political party would be banned from a place in the House of Lords for 5 years after their donation.
This follows recent reports in The Sunday Times where 18 political donors, who donated more than £3 million, to the Conservative Party were nominated for peerages.
As well as the private members bill, Mr MacNeil also laid an early day motion on Monday 15th November in Parliament which has received cross party support.
Commenting the MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar said:
“Those who donate large sums to political parties often magically find themselves in the House of Lords.
“Following the recent revelations by The Sunday Times, I wrote to the Met Commissioner Cressida Dick calling for an investigation into this and I also wrote to the Leaders of the political parties who deal in peerages, namely the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats calling on them to halt this procedure.
“If the House of Lords and democracy at Westminster wants to stop being the joke of Western European Democracies, the practise and the possibility of cash being exchanged for a place in the Parliament must clearly come to an end.
“The fastest and clearest way for this to happen is for Boris Johnson, Sir Keir Starmer, Sir Ed Davey to either individually or collectively say they will no longer appoint people to the House of Lords if they give their political parties money. Anything other than this is a maintenance of a practise which corrupts the UK.”
Bill below: Peerage Nominations (Disqualification of Party Donors) Bill
Democracy must not be eroded, says Isles MP Angus MacNeil who has this week written to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police calling for more investigation into the links between Cash and Honours.
He has also written to the three main party Leaders – Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Leader of the Conservative Party; Sir Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party; and Sir Ed Davey, Leader of the Liberal Democrats – urging them to commit to stopping this practice.
Mr MacNeil raised the issue of Cash for Honours back in 2006 but it was decided by the Crown Prosecution Service at that time not to pursue this further. He raised it again in 2014 when the departing Lib Dem, Lord Oakeshott, bemoaned that he had not ended the practice. Mr MacNeil stressed that there is agreement amongst all parties that this is a problem.
The issue is now back in the spotlight with it being reported in the media this week that at least 18 people who donated £3 million, or more, to the Conservative Party are now sitting in the House of Lords.
In a letter to Dame Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Mr MacNeil said: “I think at the very least your officers should be conducting preliminary investigations and questioning those involved. Standards in public life demand that such a step is taken. If you, as the gatekeepers of Law & Order, look the other way on such matters, then this practise will continue and our democracy will be further eroded.
“I raised this issue in 2006, yet the practice continues today. In 2006, it was only on the balance of probabilities that the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to carry this further to the courts. However, the balance of probabilities may be different this time, however, we cannot get to that stage unless you are prepared to step up to do the public and the standards in public life a great service to the United Kingdom.”