Frustration for islanders as ferry capacity issues continue – MacNeil reiterates call for changes to booking system

Capacity issues on the ferries network continue to cause difficulties for islanders and once again, Isles MP Angus MacNeil is calling on The Scottish Government to take action to alleviate the problem. 

Mr MacNeil has been calling on the Scottish Government to implement changes to the booking system and release bookings of deck space in stages, Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP has previously told Mr MacNeil that he is keen to address this issue.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“Our ferries are a lifeline service and all travellers must be able to access these ferries.  This is why I have been calling on the Scottish Government to make changes to the booking system that will allow a percentage of car deck bookings to be released prior to departure.

“When CalMac open bookings they could open it to 70% of bookings, then a month prior to travel they could release another 20% of bookings and sell the remaining 10% during the week of travel.  This is a solution that would help individuals and businesses who need to travel at short notice.  I am aware of people unable to make a booking in August as ferries seem to have been booked far in advance.”


Bethesda Hospice – funding solution must be found

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is adding his voice in support of calls made by his colleagues Alasdair Allan MSP and SNP Councillors Rae Mackenzie and Gordon Murray for a fair funding settlement for Bethesda Hospice.

Bethesda Hospice has four beds to care for terminally-ill patients and there are concerns that the hospice is not receiving the correct funding settlement.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

““Bethesda Hospice is a very important community facility, with many families having benefited from the excellent service provided.

“It is concerning that this funding shortfall has been ongoing for a number of years.

“It is vital that a speedy resolution can be found and that the Western Isles Integration Joint Board and Bethesda reach an amicable and lasting agreement.”


MP digs up detail on Isles tunnel potential

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has had discussions with Norwegian consultants on the potential for subsea tunnels for the islands.

Norconsult have led projects to construct tunnels in Norway and the Faroes and have confirmed they are willing to conduct further studies on potential in the Hebrides.

Following discussions with Mr MacNeil, the consultants prepared a brief suggesting a tunnel between Harris and Skye as the best option with a possible additional inter-island link between Harris and North Uist.

Mr MacNeil said tunnels were a serious option for the islands as a means of reducing reliance on the ferry network and making savings in the long term.

He said: “A transport network which includes tunnels is a system we should aspire to follow in the Scottish islands. We need solutions to the long term challenges.

“My discussions with Norconsult were very positive on the potential they see in the islands. They are currently working on three subsea projects including a 27km tunnels in Norway which, when completed, will become the world’s longest road tunnel.

“They say the rocks in Scotland and the islands are similar to rocks found in parts of Western Norway so that similar construction methods could be used.

“They estimate that with investment costs and discounted operating costs, the sum of time savings and saved ferry costs could amount to more than £300 million over 60 years.

“I have shared the information from Norconsult with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the Scottish Government and I hope this is something they will seriously consider.”

The consultants estimate socio-economic benefits from reductions in travel times and reductions in costs. In addition, increased connectivity to the islands to the rest of the UK would be likely to stimulate the local economy. It would reduce lead times and improve punctuality for export of goods to the UK and abroad.

MP welcomes plan to improve ferry booking system

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed reports that CalMac are developing a new ferry booking system – which could include retaining deck space for bookings closer to date of travel.

Mr MacNeil has already suggested to Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP that introducing different time windows to the booking system would ensure space was available for island residents and businesses who need to travel at short notice. Mr Wheelhouse reacted positively to the idea.

Mr MacNeil said:

“Investment by Transport Scotland in a new booking system is very welcome.

“This will modernise the whole system and allow the company to manage deck space more efficiently and improve communications during adverse weather.

“Consultation on this will provide an opportunity for communities to tell Calmac what they want.

“The current situation is unworkable for short term travellers which includes businesses and those who need to travel due to a bereavement or family illness.  Many ferry services are booked up months in advance so in order to relieve this issue, an instant solution would be to alter the system.

“This would also work for flights which are in high demand such as those between Barra and Glasgow which are currently fully booked up to end of August.”

Boris needs to buck up ideas for Scotland, says Isles MP

  •               Pushes new Home Secretary to include fishing visas in reformed immigration rules

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil says Scotland needs ‘better government, not a bribe to stay chained to the union.’

As new Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Scotland today (Monday), Mr MacNeil said the UK Government are running out of time to keep Scotland onboard a sinking ship.

He is reiterating calls for the Tory Government to take urgent action to support the Scottish fishing industry and allow skippers access to non-European Economic Area workers to relieve the crew shortage crisis. He says at no cost, the Tory Government can lift the pen, make a change and solve a crisis.

He said: “Instead of making promises they cannot keep and announcing funding which has already been committed, the Tory Government have a genuine chance to make a real difference to a Scottish industry by allowing skippers to source crew from outside the EEA.

“The new Home Secretary says she wants to reform the immigration system to allow UK entry based on what skills they have to offer. There are skilled seaman waiting to come to the UK and to fill the gaps in labour which are causing boats in my constituency and across the west coast to be tied up.

“I will write to Ms Patel asking her to take on this urgent matter.

“I invited former Home Secretary Sajid Javid to the islands to see for himself the extent of this issue and disappointingly he did not take up this offer.”

He added: “Boris needs to buck up his ideas on Scotland. He has come to Scotland today making desperate promises to try and quash any aspirations for independence.

“The reality is that he is leading us to a No Deal Brexit disaster which we didn’t vote for and that leads us with only one option of escape.”

Angus MacNeil MP

PM Boris pushes independence Plan B to SNP Conference for debate.

SNP MP Angus MacNeil and Leader of Inverclyde SNP Council Group Chris McEleny are to resurrect the idea of using a General Election to progress independence in light of the Boris Johnson premiership and Westminster not respecting the Election mandate of 2016 and the Scottish Parliament Mandate of March 2017 for an independence referendum.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar’s MP Angus Brendan MacNeil said: “All Scotland is aghast at the latest choice being foisted on our country.

“Clearly Boris and his party are not Scotland’s choice and haven’t been for over six decades, and we can see from our independent Nordic and Irish neighbours that there is a better way.  Scotland has a mandate for a referendum on independence and Westminster must respect this. If it doesn’t then we must ensure that the Scottish Government, on behalf of the people, has another club in its bag to influence negotiations over a Section 30 order. Namely we need the prospect of a direct mandate for independence from a majority of MPs from a  Westminster Election (or MSPs from a Scottish Election) to positively progress Scotland to the prosperity of our Nordic and Irish neighbours and away from the damaging policies of Westminster.”

The proposer of the motion Chris McEleny – who represents ordinary party members on the SNP’s ruling national executive said:

“SNP members and the independence movement were not happy when our motion was rejected without even allowing a debate. Now we will have the opportunity to recognise all we have achieved thanks to the Scottish Parliament but importantly put in place a plan B to give our Parliament all the powers of an ordinary independent country if the UK Government refuse to agree to Section 30 order.”

Both Mr McEleny and Mr MacNeil are encouraging ordinary SNP members who want this debated at conference to email National Secretary Angus MacLeod to have their names added to the amendment to Motion 5 at SNP October conference.

Amendment to Motion 5:

Conference calls on the UK Government to devolve Section 30 powers to the Scottish Parliament so that the people of Scotland can be given a choice about their future in an independence referendum in accordance with the established principles of the Edinburgh Agreement.

Conference instructs, that in the event of the UK Government failing to agree to grant a section 30 order, that the manifesto for the next Scottish or UK Parliamentary election – whichever may come first – shall state that, a pro independence electoral victory shall be a mandate from the people of Scotland to commence independence negotiations with the UK Government.

New PM: Time for independence to escape nightmare says Isles MP

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus B MacNeil says Independence will give Scotland the much-needed escape from a hard Brexit future led by right wing Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He warns Scotland to brace itself for the damage of a No Deal Brexit and that the path to independence for Scotland is now the only positive way ahead.

Mr Johnson was elected as leader of the Tory Party today (Tuesday) and will become Prime Minister tomorrow.

The ineffective Opposition led by Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn look unable and unwilling to do anything to stand in the way of a hard Brexit.

Mr MacNeil said: “I think we can all agree that this isn’t the best situation for the islands or for Scotland.

“Boris Johnson doesn’t have much time to realise that a hard Brexit would be a bungling disaster. Reports of him being shocked that official briefings he has had warning of civil unrest from empty shops maybe show he is not impervious to logic and reason.

“To reiterate, a hard Brexit would cost 8% to GDP, that means hits on pay, public spending, jobs and the businesses in the economy.  The 2008 crash was only a 2% event.

“If Boris chooses a hard Brexit, sensible heads know that the consequences for the UK and those of us stuck in the UK are chronic. 

“Boris has been full of wheezes – it is not impossible he comes up with one to pull the wool over the eyes of the extreme wing of the Brexiteers.

“I believe that the people of Scotland’s future will be best served by an independent Scotland in Europe.

“The Tories and Labour have destroyed themselves on Brexit and clearly Scotland needs Independence to get out of the mess those parties have created.”

UK Government contact Ofgem after MP’s push for interconnector

Senior Government officials have relayed concerns raised by Isles MP Angus MacNeil to the energy regulator Ofgem ahead of the final decision on the Western Isles interconnector.

Mr MacNeil is calling on Ofgem to do what is best for the environment, the consumer and the economy and approve the Needs Case for the construction of a 600MW link to the islands.

This comes after Ofgem said they were minded to favour a 450MW option despite revealing in a letter to Mr MacNeil that the 600MW option would cost the consumer just 4p extra per year.

Mr MacNeil said: “The UK Government have set an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero by 2050 and releasing the full renewables potential of the Hebrides by constructing an adequate link will help towards that aim.

“I raised this with Business Secretary Greg Clark MP in Parliament recently who said he would ensure this was brought up with Ofgem. This week I received a letter from the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Chris Skidmore MP to confirm that this had been done. I hope Ofgem will listen and make the right decision later this summer.”

The letter from Mr Skidmore stated: “Clearly any decision on the Western Isles transmission link is important to you and your community and senior officials in my Department have made Ofgem fully aware of your concerns.”

Mr MacNeil has campaigned for the 600MW option to be taken forward for many years as have colleagues in the Scottish Government and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

He has repeatedly raised this directly with Ofgem and the UK Government.

600MW option would cost consumers just 4p more per year compared to the 450MW option.

Further Frustration for Island ferry passengers

Angus MacNeil MP calls on Calmac to save island Weddingmv-isle-of-lewis-castlebay-2

Angus MacNeil MP has again been in touch with Calmac this morning regarding the unacceptable situation of the cancellation of all sailings between Oban and Castlebay on Friday and Saturday due to a technical fault with the MV Isle of Lewis.

Angus MacNeil said “It came to our attention late last night that the   Friday and Saturday sailings between Oban and Castlebay were to be cancelled in their entirety leaving Barra with no connections.

There is a big wedding on the Island this weekend so clearly this situation is not acceptable. It is very important that the MV Isle of Mull can serve Barra on Friday to get the wedding party and band to the island.  There are a lot of people coming to the wedding over and above the normal and very important tourist and business connections at this particularly busy time of year.

The best solution would be to deploy the MV Isle of Mull on the Barra run, and I know that Calmac are actively working on this and are looking for crew to enable this to happen. So I would appeal to all involved at Calmac to do their best to get a sailing from Oban to Castlebay today.

For Saturday, deploying the MV Lord of the Isles to run to Barra during the day has also been suggested locally as another possible solution.  This makes sense as sailing to Islands must be prioritised rather than sailing to ports that can be and are connected by road.

Calmac are working to resolve this issue but Island frustration is evidently huge given the time of year and the various pressures that people are feeling. Particularly for those involved in the Island wedding time is critical.”



Isles MP calls on Deputy Prime Minster to announce Islands Deal

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP Angus MacNeil MP extends a welcome to Deputy Prime Minister David Lidington MP for his visit to the Hebrides today and expresses a hope that he will finally announce an Islands Deal – as he did for Moray today.

Mr MacNeil said:

“I welcome Mr Lidington’s visit to the islands.  I know he has announced a deal for Moray and I hope that during his visit today he will make an announcement on the Islands Deal.

“A lot of people have been working very hard on ensuring continued progress with the Islands Deal and now with this visit from the Deputy Prime Minister, David Lidington, surely he will be using his visit to the islands to deliver the Islands Deal.”