Angus Brendan MacNeil, SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, has praised two Barra businesses for winning awards from SME News (Small Medium Enterprise News) in the Family Business Awards 2022.
Tigh-Na-Mara Guest House was awarded “Best Traditional Stone Cottage Accommodation” in Scotland while the Heathbank Hotel won “Best Family-Run Hotel” in the Hebrides.
Commenting Mr MacNeil said:
“Congratulations to Linda and Archie MacLean, Tigh-Na-Mara Guest House and Marion MacNeil and her team at the Heathbank Hotel.
“Linda has run the Guest House in Castlebay for a number of years, and I of course might be biased as it was my granny’s house and Linda is my cousin and I can’t forget that Marion is my neighbour. But of course the judges of this competition weren’t biased, so like many others, I am absolutely delighted that they are both winners in their categories.
“Both are very deserving of such an award. The fact that the Guest House is the best in Scotland says something not just for Linda but for Barra as well similarly for the Heathbank team. It is congratulations all round or “slainte” as they say in Heathbank.”
NO EVIDENCE’ OF BREXIT DIVIDEND SAYS BUSINESS LEADER
Households and businesses in Na h-Eileanan an Iar are being made to suffer from the worst of the Tories’ botched Brexit, Angus MacNeil MP has warned, after a top business leader slammed Brexit and said there is ‘no evidence’ of the promised dividend to businesses across the country.
Households in na h-Eileanan an Iar face a shortfall of £953 a year as a result of the Tories’ Brexit, prompting renewed calls from Mr MacNeil for Scottish independence as a means to escape Tory Brexit chaos and re-join the EU.
Shevaun Haviland, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, told Bloomberg that Rishi Sunak should pursue a veterinary agreement to remove checks on food products, something that has hammered Scotland’s world-class food and drink sector.
Ms Haviland also called for changes to the visa system for skilled workers from Europe to work in the UK to fill the gaps in the labour market caused by Brexit.
Commenting, Mr MacNeil said:
“Again, we have even more confirmation that Brexit doesn’t work at the expense of households and businesses here in Na h-Eileanan an Iar.
“Obviously, a veterinary agreement would greatly help crofters, farmers and those exporting shellfish. The fact that the UK has this is more Brexit ostrich thinking and it is very costly.
“Businesses have taken a hammer blow because of Brexit and continue to suffer as a result, the only way they and the rest of Scotland can flourish is by escaping Brexit and becoming an independent country back in the European Union.
“Scotland’s economy has suffered the double whammy of leaving the EU and the Tory-made cost of living crisis. Last week we learned that Scottish exports had nose-dived by 13% since Brexit.
“However, there is no way back to the EU under Westminster control with Labour signed up as a fully-fledged Brexit party. No matter the economic consequences, Labour will keep Scotland out of the European Union, a market seven times the size of the UK.
“Meanwhile countries of a similar size to us continue to outperform the UK. That is why it is only with independence that Scotland can unleash its full potential by re-joining the European Union.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is encouraging all who are eligible to get their Winter vaccinations.
Some will have received scheduled appointments, but drop-in clinics for certain groups are also available this weekend.
Mr MacNeil got his vaccines last week and is encouraging others to make sure that they attend when it is offered.
He said: “It is that time of year again when vaccines are being offered. Evidence shows that protection from the COVID-19 vaccine fades over time and the flu virus also changes over time. A winter dose of the vaccines can top up your protection and help reduce your risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and flu.”
Check if you are eligible to attend a drop-in clinic at nhsinform.scot/wintervaccines
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil says the UK Government has zero interest in tackling the excessive transmission charges in the North of Scotland, which are one of the biggest barriers to the region’s renewable potential.
Mr MacNeil wrote to the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, in September following a meeting earlier this year, urging an end to unjust transmission charges.
Despite some indications at that meeting that this issue would be looked at, the Treasury stated in their response to Mr MacNeil that generators in Scotland do pay higher transmission charges than counterparts in England and Wales.
In the Highlands and Islands, it costs £7.36 per mega-watt (MWh) to transmit electricity from the European Union into the UK energy market. This is 16 times more than sending energy from the European Union into the UK energy market.
Westminster’s sky-high transmission charges are currently the biggest barrier to Scotland’s renewable potential.
Mr MacNeil said: “There seems to be a lack of urgency or interest from the UK Government to change their artificial transmission charging system. This is in a week when the world gathers for COP 27 with the target of addressing climate change and speeding up the transition to renewable energy.
“This system is costing 16 times more to take power from the Scottish Highlands to the centre of the UK market than it costs independent countries in the European Union to take energy to the centre of the European market.
“Something is clearly wrong. They have an artificial structure from Ofgem, and this is creating a situation which is working against renewable energy.
“Any other government in Europe, when seeing this crazy situation, would do something to change it, but the UK remains twiddling their thumbs year after year.”
TWO events are colliding in Scottish politics – the Supreme Court case on whether the Scottish Parliament has the power to legislate on an independence referendum and almost daily calls for a Westminster election. Don’t shoot the messenger, but neither vote is likely to happen.
In the background, the Scottish Government’s visit to the Supreme Court puts a tombstone on the eccentric days of three years ago when we heard the vacuous nonsense of “Plan A” (the referendum route to independence) having “momentum”. That was a time when “Plan B” (the election route) couldn’t even be discussed.
Obviously, Plan A does not have that asserted momentum. However, the repercussions of the lack of discussion and consequential learning are still affecting current conclusions.
It is arguable that it would have been better for Holyrood to have legislated for a referendum and have the Supreme Court process done by now. Actually, it might have been even better to go to the Scottish electorate with the background of the UK Supreme Court striking down the decisions of a democratically elected Parliament on self-determination. However, the decision was made before the debate was had. But, the “court of the people” might subsequently have taken a dim view of the Supreme Court’s actions at any plebiscite election (and may still do), thus adding percentage points to an independence win.
Regardless, now it is clear Plan B is winning out, especially given the Supreme Court visit. Lately, the First Minister’s sudden conversion in announcing the use of elections as a vote on independence was a welcome eventual realisation that the referendum route was, as warned, somewhere between blocked and non-existent within the 1998 Scotland Act.
When the Supreme Court rules, it probably will indeed leave the election route as the only possible ballot box event for independence.
As the other big event of the moment, we have had calls for a UK General Election as this week, Rishi Sunak became the latest Prime Minister to assume office without the backing of a public vote.
Currently, we in the parties of opposition all want an election. However, the current parliamentary arithmetic from what I dubbed at the time the “Christmas Present Election” of 2019 still casts a shadow. Back then, when the Tories were riding high in the polls, a combination of the opposition parties’ miscalculations and a variety of other zany reasons contrived to gift Boris Johnson victory and a majority of more than 80 MPs, I was one of very few MPs to vote against a snap election, which was such an obvious favour to the Tories. That gift has another two years to run.
Conservative MPs, who are now seeing the polls run against them, are very far from being minded to return the naive favour. They will, therefore, cling on at Westminster for as long as they can and hope that something turns up. There will be no immediate UK General Election.
Now to the upshot – if the Supreme Court confirms the referendum route to independence never actually existed and a UK General Election isn’t happening, will Scotland’s politicians and Parliament complain for two years about Westminster choices or make an opportunity for the Scottish people to vote for independence and hold an extraordinary Holyrood election under the 1998 Scotland Act (Sec 3, Subsection 1)?
After all, there will be elections in Northern Ireland on December 15 under Section 22 of its 1998 Devolution Act. The debate will logically coalesce over Holyrood or Westminster elections for independence. So then, do we wait for a Westminster election of an uncertain date, with a franchise different to the 2014 referendum, in which 16 and 17-year-olds and EU nationals cannot vote?
THIS could mean leaving Scotland at the mercy of Tory economic extremists for two long, difficult years or having an election as soon as seven weeks away at any near-random point in time. Would the Scottish Government be ready to dance to that tune tomorrow?
Then there is the question of the “media narrative”, which will essentially be about how many seats Labour will win in England – a sort of “1997 election” all over again.
A UK election will see Scottish independence only as a footnote. The narrative will concentrate on the majority in the sinking ship of the UK and not the 8.4% of the UK population, Scotland, which has a lifeboat. A Westminster election is never on Scotland’s terms and certainly won’t be in the now-panicked UK.
By contrast, triggering a Holyrood election is something the Scottish Government can control, in terms of timing. The media narrative on an election only in Scotland, called on independence, is obviously going to reflect that.
It would have the proper franchise and would save the Scottish population a possible two years of difficult Tory policies from over the Border at Westminster.
The day of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement at Westminster on November 17 could be the carpe diem moment.
In any independence plebiscite, the strengths of the opponents are a huge part of the equation. The former head of the UK civil service, Lord Bob Kerslake, stated this week on Sky News that the UK is facing a perfect storm. Inflation is at 10%, –or 14% for food inflation – interest rates have almost doubled; we are likely moving into a recession, government finances are in deep trouble, public services are more strained, and austerity cuts are likely incoming. This will put the UK Government on the back foot.
Meanwhile, as Scotland suffers due to UK mismanagement, independent Ireland (newly number eight in the UN Human Development Index) is free of Tory-induced misery A Scottish Government showing that independence is seriously on the cards with a definite ballot-box date and a broad-based inclusive campaign will win against the weakened UK Government position.
Given that the referendum route is 99% dead and the Westminster election route is not about to be gifted by the Tories, does Holyrood act positively or dither on the sidelines, moaning about the battering from the coming clearly predicted dark economic storms on the population?
Ultimately, it is down to collective choices and leadership to make itthe weather. The alternative is the anxiety of missed opportunity and continuing with passive coping strategies – such as asking Westminster to gift us an election, please.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has called on the Royal Mail to ‘stop the threats of job cuts to valued postal workers’ and ‘engage meaningfully’ with the Communications Worker Union to find an acceptable solution to prevent further postal strikes.
Local postal workers took strike action earlier this week and several more strike days are planned next month.
Mr MacNeil – whose late father was a Post Man – signed a Joint Letter from SNP MPs to the Royal Mail Chief.
The letter stated that it is “unacceptable to see the language employed by Royal Mail in threatening its workforce with job losses because they dare to ask for a fair work package.”
Last week, the Royal Mail’s announced its intention to slash 10,000 jobs, citing the strike action and low parcel delivery sales as the reason. Mr MacNeil has called this move a ‘tactic in the ongoing pay dispute with postal workers’ and has accused Royal Mail of ‘acting in bad faith’.
Commenting, Mr MacNeil said:
“Postal workers are struggling to make ends meet in the face of the cost-of-living crisis while Royal Mail shareholders benefited from bumper profits in the millions.
“It is understandable that postal workers find the argument that there isn’t money for them to have a fair wage unpalatable when there are millions of pounds of profit for shareholders, who should share the burden – when hard working postal staff are struggling to put food on their table this winter.
“Royal Mail staff and their families need financial security. The decision to strike will not have been easy for any of them, but this is about more than pay; it is also about protecting the universal mail service we all expect and value.
“Royal Mail need to get back to the negotiating table – in a meaningful way – and put our communities at the heart of discussions.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed today’s announcement that two new ferries will be built which will provide a dedicated ferry service on the Skye triangle during the summer months.
The Scottish Government has prioritised additional funding to enable Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) to accelerate plans for replacement vessels in the CalMac fleet.
Mr MacNeil: “The announcement that two new ferries will be built is to be warmly welcomed and I commend Transport Minister, Jenny Gilruth, for listening to voices from the island communities. I met with Ms Gilruth earlier this year and made clear that the current situation was completely unsustainable, and progress was needed.
“I am also very glad to hear that the Scottish Government is pursuing all reasonable and appropriate opportunities to enhance capacity and resilience in the short term through second hand vessels. The Transport Minister has assured me that work is underway in that area.
This additional investment by the Scottish Government will bring two new vessels to the fleet, meaning a total of six major vessels will be replaced by 2026.
The new ferries will be built to the same specification as the existing ferries under construction for Islay. This will speed up the replacement of the major vessel fleet and provide a more standardised vessel type that can be used on a variety of different routes.
The overall project costs are estimated at around £115 million, including allowance for minor port improvements.
The SNP has warned struggling households could face bills of up to £5,000 next April, after the Tories performed another screeching U-turn and scrapped protections offered to families on the energy price cap – and Labour abstained on an SNP amendment that would have prevented this.
In scrapping the majority of the proposals contained in the former Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng’s, financial statement, new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced a scaling back of the energy price cap freeze, which will now last for only 6 months instead of the two years initially promised.
Isles MP, Angus MacNeil has branded the decision reckless, warning households face massive energy bill rises again in April 2023.
Accusing the Labour party of failing to offer real opposition after their failure to vote against the changes, Angus MacNeil MP said that real support to support households could only come with the full powers of independence.
Commenting, Angus MacNeil MP said:
“It can be in no doubt that Scots, who are paying a heavy price for Westminster’s failures, would be better off with the full powers of independence.
“On a day where the Scottish Government set out a prospectus offering a brighter economic future the Tory UK government were forced to roll back heavily on its proposals that crashed the UK economy. And with it they recklessly removed the very little protection they offered to households through what is set to be an ever-worsening cost of living crisis the Tories have failed to get a grip of.
“They were already too late to act on energy bills, and now households face even bigger rises in April when the measly half-baked proposals to help families are scaled back in the latest iteration of Westminster Tory austerity.
“What’s worse is that, given a chance to stand up for struggling households, the Labour Party once again sat on its hands and refused to offer up real opposition, leaving families in the firing line. There is little difference between the Conservative and Labour parties these days.
“By contrast, to help with the cost of living crisis the Scottish Government have used their limited powers to uprate eight benefits and bring in further increases to the Scottish Child Payment, but all of that work risks being undone or offset by the calamity ensuing in Westminster. It is clear real support can only come with independence.
“Scots should no longer be forced to bear the rising cost of Westminster failure and must be able to assume the full powers of independence so they can set out on a different, better path.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is urging households across the islands to take energy meter readings before October 1 and ensure they are submitted in the next week to avoid being charged new rates for energy used before the price hike.
Mr MacNeil also warned that reports from the Prime Minister Liz Truss that no household would pay more than £2500 were inaccurate and had led to the spread of misinformation.
He said: “Householders should take a meter reading by October 1 and then submit it to your energy provider. The reading does not have to be submitted on that day as this has previously crashed the systems but please ensure that meter readings are taken and noted, even take a photo of the reading for evidence, and then submit within a few days.
“Nobody wants the September usage to be estimated into October usage because it will be a higher price. Also, in October you will be using more electricity.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has submitted a Written Question to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Jacob Rees-Mogg, asking for detail on how off-grid energy users can access the £100 additional support payment.
Mr MacNeil has been contacted by constituents who are concerned about ordering fuel prior to receiving funding support.
The funding was announced by the UK Government earlier this month to offer targeted support for off-grid households with energy costs this winter, however no further details have been announced.
Mr MacNeil had previously written to the UK Government asking for details of support for off-grid households and was told that the £400 rebate announced would come off electricity bills and would be accessed by households that way. The additional £100 is a top-up to the £400 payment, which is going to all UK households.
The written question states:
1. To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy how oil customers will access the £100 one-off support payment towards their energy bills this winter?
2. To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what more can be done above the £100 to help off-grid energy users have parity of support with those in area of grid gas, oil and gas central heating as well as bottled propane?
Mr MacNeil said: “Any additional support for households is to be welcomed but this does not in any way go far enough. So far there has been no clarity given on when or how this will be received. The majority of homes in Na h-Eileanan an Iar are off-grid and will be entitled to this additional support. The UK Government needs to make this clear.
“As the economic crisis facing the UK deepens, it’s never been clearer that Westminster is failing Scotland and independence offers the only way for Scotland to build a better future for everyone.”