Isles SNP MP Angus MacNeil welcomes the announcement from the UK Government of the Islands Growth Deal but says caution is needed as this does not dispel all the financial difficulties still facing the island economy.
An Islands Growth Deal of £50m has been announced by the UK Government after several years of negotiation and persistence by island politicians.
The £50m sum allocated by the UK Government will be match-funded by the Scottish Government. The Islands Deal is the latest in a series of growth deals awarded to cities and regions across Scotland and will benefit Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Orkney and Shetland.
Mr MacNeil says the deal is positive but is not likely to fill the gap left as an impact of leaving the EU.
He said: “While we welcome the money we should also be aware that for context, it is about £2.2m coming in to each island group on average per year for each of the 15 years.
“It is a small part of each council budget in the single digit percentages around the 2 to 3 per cent but still it should provide a focus to do particular jobs which have been earmarked in our communities.
“We would hope that the money is transformative and if more is required that the Government who control the purse strings will not be found wanting when more resources are needed.”
Isles MP Angus MacNeil is calling for Covid testing to be extended to include workers coming off ships and oil rigs.
Currently workers are routinely tested going out but are not tested on the return.
Mr MacNeil asked Secretary of State Matt Hancock what the UK Government could do to close this gap, given that 80 per cent of Covid cases are asymptomatic. He received a positive response that the UK Government would be willing to work with counterparts in the Scottish Government to test the hypothesis of Covid positives coming off rigs.
He will now write to Scottish Minister for Health Jeanne Freeman MSP to take this further forward.
Mr MacNeil said: “This is now between Jeanne Freeman and Matt Hancock to take this forward together to work out the testing of people coming off oil rigs. Is it a Scottish or UK Gov responsibility or both? Also it could be interesting from the point of view of the virus, as everyone who goes on the rig should be negative when going on and if anyone emerges positive then it raises interesting questions which may aid the understanding of the virus.
He added: “One serious gap for many communities and workers returning from work as merchant mariners or oil rig workers, people are routinely tested going on to oil rigs but routinely are not tested coming off.
“I know of some oil rig workers who have tested positive, having taken tests for various reasons when they’ve come off. Therefore I asked if he would commit that returning mariners and especially those coming off oil rigs, are tested because we know there is a danger and a gap we’ve left open that unchecked people may be unwitting asymptomatic coronavirus carriers I simply asked him to look into closing that gap.
“Matt Hancock responded at the despatch box indicating that he would look into working with his opposite number in the Scottish Government to test the hypothesis I proposed.”
Commenting on the Chancellor’s Summer Statement, Angus MacNeil SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar said:
“The Chancellor yesterday announced a range of measures in his statement to support the economic recovery, however, none of these go far enough. The Scottish Government called for an £80Bn stimulus package which has been ignored and the Chancellor’s statement falls short of what is required to support our economy.
“In May, I called on the UK Treasury to take account of the health policies of the devolved nations when considering the furlough scheme, the Chancellor’s decision to end this scheme will be devastating for many. It is essential that the Treasury supports business as the financial impact of this pandemic will be felt for a long time.
“On Tuesday, I participated in a cross-party online meeting of the ExcludedUK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) to stand up for the 3 million people in the UK who are being excluded from receiving financial support from the Treasury. It is good to see that over a quarter of MPs in the House of Commons, from all parties support this campaign. Therefore, it is shameful that today the Chancellor made no announcement on extending the duration of The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) or to extend support to the millions of people who are currently excluded from receiving any financial support.
“A VAT cut from 20% to 5% for tourism is good news and something I have long campaigned for, but six-months is not long enough as this will end mid-winter when tourism is generally quiet.
“Scotland should not be at the mercy of the Tories economic policies. It is only with independence that Scotland will be able to make its own financial decisions.”
Angus Brendan MacNeil SNP MP has written to the Managing Director of SSE Renewables to share their plans for an offshore wind farm off the Fife Coast through their subsidiary Seagreen Ltd.
Commenting Mr MacNeil said:
“It is in the public interest to know what promises were made by Seagreen Ltd to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy that Seagreen would achieve as part of a successful bid for taxpayer funded Contracts for Difference (CfD).
“It is only right that we know which parts of the contract SSE plan to place in Scotland, particularly at this difficult time economically. There are shovel ready projects and yards waiting to build wind farm jackets which would employ people in Arnish on Lewis and in Fife. We can’t have this work going overseas in the United Arab Emirates or China, when it is funded by Scottish taxpayers.
“It is important that SSE fully communicate their intentions on this so that they can be held accountable. They are a green energy company but is this only a veneer if they are acting unethically and ignoring the communities around them.”
Islands MP to ask UK Energy Minister to release the Seagreen Offshore Wind Farm Supply Chain Plan document from Seagreen Ltd, a subsidiary of Scottish and Southern Energy for their offshore wind farm off the Fife coast.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has been alerted to the fact that Scottish and Southern Energy through their subsidiary Seagreen may not be living up to promises made to get Contracts for Difference (CfD) when seeking UK government assistance for their offshore wind farm off the Fife coast. As a result Mr MacNeil is urgently writing to the Energy Minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, to ask if he will release the supply chain documents forthwith.
Commenting Mr MacNeil said:
“I am hoping to help the Energy Minister ensure promises are kept. It’s vitally important, time is of the essence, this report should be in the public domain to see what promises were made by Scottish and Southern Energy, when they were in the competition for the contracts for difference, to the UK government.
“Particularly prescient at this time, that there are shovel ready projects and yards waiting to build wind farm jackets which would employ people in Arnish on Lewis and in Fife. We can’t have this work going to yards in the United Arab Emirates with questionable work practices or indeed Chinese yards which are massively state subsidised, when all this is based on promises made by companies in Scotland to get tax payers money.
“It is therefore vitally important that the supply chain documents are provided so we can see what promises were made and so we can hold companies accountable to those promises. There is little kudos in producing green energy in a highly unethical manner and ignoring the communities on the door steps as you do this in the pursuit of a very naked profit while giving yourself the veneer of being green.”
Angus MacNeil MP and Alasdair Allan MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar have both laid motions, respectively, to the House of Commons and Scottish Parliament this week to remember the 80th anniversary on June 12th 1940 of the capture of 10,000 men of the 51st Highland Division taken prisoner near St Valery en Caux, 6 days after the Dunkirk evacuations. The 51st Highland Division were attached to French defence forces, facing the onslaught of the invading Germans.
Commenting Angus MacNeil said:
“It is important that we remember those who tragically lost their lives when they were forced to surrender, after they had been left behind following Dunkirk, as they were fighting with the French at the time in defending the retreat from the Somme. Later, in 1941, 134 of the 219 returned escapees to Britain were from the 51st Highland Division, of this three men were Ballachullish who used Gaelic to confuse the Germans to convince them that they were from a part of the Soviet Union.
“The bravery and heroism of the soldiers is most notably captured in the memorial in St Valery en Caux “La a bhlair is math na cairdean” – “On the day of battle it is good to have friends/relations”.
“A gripping account of events at St Valery, capture and captivity is given in the book by Donald John MacDonald of South Uist “Fo Sgail a Swastika” (Under the Shadow of the Swastika) and I would recommend it for anyone interested in further reading about the 51st Highland Division.”
Commenting Alasdair Allan said:
“While the anniversary of the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk draws significant national attention, what happened to members of the British Expeditionary Force who were left behind in France is less well known.
“The soldiers of the 51st Highland Division, made up of men from the Western Isles, North and West Coast of Scotland, were charged with the task of recapturing a strategic position on the Somme after the rest of the Allied Forces had been evacuated. Under heavy bombardment, outflanked and greatly outnumbered by Rommel’s 7th Panzers, the 51st fought a retreat to the coastal town of St Valery where, when all hopes of evacuation faded, they were forced to surrender.
“Their story deserves much greater prominence. On the 80th anniversary of their capture, it is important that we remember the courage of 51st Highland Division, the sacrifice of the fallen, and the suffering endured by captured soldiers who would spend the next five years as prisoners of war.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus Brendan MacNeil calls on NHS Western Isles to offer testing for Covid-19 to all returning seafarers and oil workers when they return from their period at sea.
Commenting Angus MacNeil said:
“I have emailed the Chief Executive of NHS Western Isles, Gordon Jamieson and Chairman Ian Burgess to ask them to use their available capacity to offer tests to oil workers and seafarers as standard on their return to the islands.
“It would seem a sensible and responsible approach to make sure that no asymptomatic carriers are coming in. From soundings with oil workers and seafarers, as well as their families, there is great support for this. It would provide, not least, peace of mind but to ensure Covid-19 is kept at bay in our communities. We can clearly see what has happened in other countries nearby, to our north west with Faroes and Iceland where they have greater testing and greater success against Covid-19.
“At the moment we have an opportunity to do likewise and to keep on top of this to be well prepared in case any second wave returns. I hope NHS Western Isles takes the opportunity to offer this, I am sure it would be welcomed by many of those returning home after working away for a period of weeks.”
Angus MacNeil MP is today reminding constituents of the new Test and Protect system which went live in the Western Isles last week. Anyone over the age of five who displays symptoms of coronavirus can now get tested by contacting a local telephone number and attending an appointment in Stornoway, Balivanich or Castlebay.
Mr MacNeil said
‘It is important in this phase of the pandemic, as lockdown is gradually eased, that anyone who thinks they may have symptoms of coronavirus comes forward for testing.
Anyone in the Western Isles with a new persistent cough, high temperature or loss or change in sense of smell or taste should phone 01851 601 151 to arrange a test. An online booking form is also available at: https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/?page_id=2195)
‘This is particularly important for those who have recently travelled from their work as seamen, in the oil and gas industry or have been off the island for any other essential reason. Do not ignore symptoms which could put yourself, your family and other islanders at risk, also as many people are asymptomatic it could be argued that getting tested for even the slightest symptoms is a social good to family and community especially as there is testing capacity available.
‘Maintaining social distancing, washing hands and staying at home as much as possible are all important ways to prevent the spread of the virus. If you have symptoms immediately self-isolating with your household and arranging a test is the best way of protecting everyone at this time.
Angus MacNeil MP is encouraging businesses to register their employees for furlough before the scheme closes for employee registration on Wednesday.
The furlough scheme was introduced in March to protect 80% of staff wages, while the scheme was originally due to end on June 30th, it has now been extended to October 31st, however the deadline for registering employees remains June 10th.
Commenting Mr MacNeil said:
“It is important that businesses must act before Wednesday 10th June to ensure that their employees are registered for furlough or they will lose out on the scheme.
“As businesses need flexibility it would make sense for the UK Government to extend the deadline for registering employees as they have extended the scheme itself, however, as things stand June 10th is the deadline businesses should work towards to ensure they are registered.
“In May I wrote to the Chancellor asking him to ensure that the scheme would be extended in each devolved nation depending on health grounds alone without his financial penalties. As it is important that due to different roadmaps on easing lockdown, Scotland may require the scheme to run longer.”
Test and Protect phone line launched by NHS Western Isles
Isles MP “No Hesitation” in use of Test and Protect in Western Isles
A new telephone number for Covid 19 testing is available in Western Isles and Angus Brendan MacNeil MP has encouraged constituents with any symptoms to use the new telephone number launched today by NHS Western Isles as part of Test and Protect which is being rolled out across Scotland.
The Scottish Government’s Test and Protect scheme was launched last week and is based on testing for anyone over five years of age who has symptoms of COVID-19.
Angus MacNeil MP said, ” Any Western Isles resident with symptoms can now book a test via the local phoneline: 01851 601 151. The phoneline will be staffed from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday with an answering machine available outwith those hours. And if they have symptoms they should not hesitate to do so.
I am pleased to see that facilities will be available locally in Stornoway, Balivanich and Castlebay to enable Island residents to be tested for Coronavirus and I would urge anyone with symptoms to call this new phone line.
“We are fortunate in the Islands to have had only a small number of confirmed cases and none for a number of weeks but that does not mean that the virus is not present in our area.
“Anyone who has symptoms- a high temperature, a new persistent cough or loss or change in sense of smell or taste – should contact this number as soon as possible to get a test and follow the advice to self- isolate with their household until the result is known. This will help to maintain the safety of our families, friends and neighbours from this illness.
“The message is simple don’t hesitate if any symptoms present themselves.”