ISLES MP URGES BUSINESSES TO REGISTER EMPLOYEES AHEAD OF JUNE 10th FURLOUGH DEADLINE

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.”

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New Phoneline for Covid-19 testing in Western Isles

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.”

Ending of the virtual parliament is reckless says, Isles MP

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus B MacNeil will not risk catching and spreading coronavirus and has therefore taken the decision not to travel to Westminster when Parliament returns on 2nd June.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“The removal of the virtual parliament discriminates against Scottish MPs who are now being forced to choose between breaking the lockdown or attending Westminster.

“The Leader of the House of Commons has stated that Parliament would be Covid-19 secure by 2nd June.  We do not have the evidence of this, but evidence to the contrary;  Public Health England has deemed the voting lobbies unsafe for voting and the Speaker of the House of Commons has issued a letter to all MPs, in which he says that based on the latest professional advice from Public Health England, the House simply cannot conduct votes safely via the lobbies.

“The hybrid system that was in place was working well for remote participation and voting, committees will continue to operate with this virtual system so why can’t the chamber?  “It is crazy to expect MPs to travel from all over Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland into London.

“This decision is purely to line up Boris Johnson’s baying MPs behind him in an effort to cover up his shortcomings at the Despatch Box and I will not dance to Johnson’s tune and put my constituents at risk.”

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Isles MP welcomes “route map” to easing lockdown restrictions

Isles MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed the Scottish Government’s route map to easing lockdown which aims to move into Phase 1 on 28th May.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“This route map to easing the lockdown is good news and I am sure will be welcomed by many. 

“The unpredictable nature of coronavirus makes it difficult to set exact timescales and we must take gradual steps to ensure the virus is kept under control.

“It is important to remember that we remain in lockdown and restrictions will not change before the 28th May.”

“Meanwhile together with Orkney Council Leader James Stockan we have been having exploratory discussions to develop testing with companies who might be able to offer cheaper and quicker testing.  This would ensure Covid-19 is not in our communities and that it is kept at bay, which would give further confidence after lockdown is eased.”

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https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/strategy-plan/2020/05/coronavirus-covid-19-framework-decision-making-scotlands-route-map-through-out-crisis/documents/covid-19-framework-decision-making-scotlands-route-map-through-out-crisis/covid-19-framework-decision-making-scotlands-route-map-through-out-crisis/govscot%3Adocument/covid-19-framework-decision-making-scotlands-route-map-through-out-crisis.pdf

Isles MP calls for greater use of testing capacity

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus B MacNeil is calling for the testing capacity available in the islands to be used to patrol for the Covid-19 virus in the community.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“Yesterday, together with a cross-party group of MPs and Lords, I led an online forum with politicians from the Faroes and Iceland to discuss their different approach to tackling Coronavirus.

“It turns out that the Faroese who have banished Covid-19 from the Faroe Islands are still testing and using their tests to firstly to check anyone who might have symptoms, secondly to do random testing to 3% of their population and thirdly some companies such as the large salmon company, Bakkafrost are testing all employees periodically. 

“It would seem logical and sensible to me that the unused capacity that we have in the Hebrides should be doing the same, to both patrol for the virus and to see if any asymptomatic carriers are discovered. This assumes that our extra testing capacity is capable of doing so, if it is not capable, we have offers from Nordic friends to help out.  It would seem odd when we are ahead of the virus in the islands, to wait for the virus to come and swamp us, now is the time for action. If we get a high number of cases, it would then be too late.

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Isles MP hosts Covid-19 briefing with Nordic neighbours

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus B MacNeil has today hosted a meeting with Icelandic Justice Minister, Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, Faroese MP Kristina Hàfoss and a group of cross-party MPs from across the UK to discuss the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

Iceland and the Faroe Islands are successfully managing to control the spread of Covid-19 by continuing to Test, Trace, Isolate throughout the pandemic.

Commenting after the meeting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“I am grateful to political friends in Iceland and the Faroe Islands for taking time to share their experiences in a very informative meeting on how Iceland and the Faroe Islands are leading in the testing of their population and reducing active Coronavirus cases, with the Faroe Islands having zero active cases and Iceland having just 12. The Faroe Islands have tested 16% of the population and this will continue despite having zero active cases.

“Given their continuous policy of test, trace and isolate throughout the pandemic they have managed to track the virus in its steps, in the case of Iceland all infections were traced. What these countries show is that they have used lockdown wisely by testing and tracking wherever necessary.

“Both countries maintain a strict border policy and arrivals have to quarantine for 14 days, unlike the UK who will not start this policy until June, almost 3 months after lockdown.

“Lifting lockdown was discussed and it was noted that lifting restrictions could be possible sooner in some parts of each nation as well as each nation going at a different pace. Also, Governments should have a plan in place for dealing with further hotspots/outbreaks and whether real time small lockdowns might be needed.

“The Faroes and Iceland have started to reduce their restrictions, Iceland never locked down fully and the Faroe Islands have just about lifted internal restrictions bar mass gatherings. From today, the Faroese social distance has reduced from 2 metres to 1 metre while in Iceland facilities such as public swimming pools will again reopen this week.”

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MacNeil on furlough scheme extension


The UK Treasury has rightly today announced the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of September; however, the Chancellor should also remove all the complications which he is introducing to the scheme, says Isles MP Angus MacNeil.


Mr MacNeil has warned that the ultimate ending of the furlough scheme must depend on health needs in each devolved nation and not be guided by the policies chosen in only one nation. 

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“Last night in the virtual Commons I asked for the Treasury support which underpins health needs to be maintained and to follow the needs of all the health policies of each devolved nation. Therefore, the furlough scheme has rightly been extended but it cannot end when the needs of one nation are such that it is not needed. 

“Certainly, Treasury support should not be kicked away when the health policy of England dictates it is no longer required in England, this is particularly important after the Prime Ministers confusing divergence from the health policies being followed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  
 “The Chancellor should make clear that any health decision being made in any devolved nation can be made on health grounds alone without his financial penalties. 

“We have to make sure the welfare of everyone is looked after, when their government is taking steps for public health.

“Finally, as regards to health, we in Scotland have tasted what health independence is like we just need to taste what independence is like in every other policy area.”

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MACNEIL CALLS FOR PILOTING OF TEST, TRACE AND ISOLATE IN THE HEBRIDES NOW

Angus MacNeil MP has again redoubled his call to change the policy to test, track and trace rather than go with lockdown alone.

Commenting Angus MacNeil said:

“We should be testing, tracing and isolating in the islands now as our confirmed Covid-19 numbers are so low and we can keep them low with test, trace and isolate. It is argued that Test Trace Isolate can’t work in other places because the reinfection rate is so high. Fortunately in the Hebrides we still have the ideal situation to stay ahead of the virus by testing and tracing.

“The policy of lockdown alone without knowing what Covid-19 is doing in our communities, is not a sustainable policy. We have already seen in Skye what lockdown alone, without testing, has resulted in. A sad and shocking 54 case outbreak and this is only what has been found at a care home, who knows what the wider numbers will be.

“We surely now have to move to a position where we are chasing the virus and not waiting for the virus to come to us. Testing, tracing and isolating is the alternative, it will determine whether we have coronavirus around us and what we need to do to make sure we get rid of it. Or it will tell us if we can lift lockdown.  At the moment we are blind and we do not want to wait until we have an outbreak as we have sadly seen in Skye, we do need to change the policy now. I have written to the Health Secretary and await a response. 

“We have outstanding offers from the Faroese government and a private company to add to our testing capabilities. I have been trying to find out from the NHS Western Isles whether they are using the current testing capacity to its maximum and if not then why not. They are currently telling me they are “awaiting guidance” with regards to a testing policy change.
 

“Everything else is in place, we just need a pen lifted to change the policy so that the Health Board will bring about a change to testing in the islands so that we can all have some confidence as to what is going on with coronavirus.

“Sitting tight for coronavirus is a risky and failing policy, we can’t continue with this any longer.”

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Isles MP reminds crofters to submit Single Application Form (SAF)

Isles MP reminds crofters to submit Single Application Form (SAF)

Isles MP Angus B MacNeil is reminding crofters to submit their Single Application form (SAF) as the closing date for submission is fast approaching.

The closing date for submission of Single Application Form (SAF) is Friday 15th May. 

The Single Application Form is the form you need to fill in if you want to claim payments under the following schemes:

https://www.ruralpayments.org/publicsite/futures/topics/apply-for-funding/single-application-form/

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“This year especially we must try and get as much money into the islands as we can, crofters need to be claiming for their land.  I know how busy this time of year is for many crofters with lambing etc and this year has its own additional pressures given the ongoing situation with Covid-19.

“The date for submitting the SAF application is less than 2 weeks away, Friday 15th May, and I want to remind crofters if they haven’t already done so to submit their application.

“The easiest way to complete the Single Application Form is online. To do this, you must be registered with Rural Payments and Services. How to register

“Area Offices are currently operating an answer machine service. If you require assistance, you are asked to leave your name, contact number and brief details of your query and you will be contacted as soon as possible.  I have included below the details for the Benbecula and Stornoway Office”:

Benbecula – Tel: 0300 244 9600 – SGRPID.benbecula@gov.scot

Stornoway – Tel: 0300 2448501 – SGRPID.stornoway@gov.scot

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MP commends Isles communities for volunteering

The high levels of volunteering by the people of Na h-Eileanan an Iar is making a massive difference as the region copes with the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, says Isles MP Angus MacNeil.

In 2017 figures showed that 35% of islanders were volunteering formally through an organisation or group, compared to 28% across Scotland. This figure is now expected to be much higher as communities come together during the pandemic.

Mr MacNeil commended the community for all they are doing and made mention of local business Sandwick Bay Candles in Lewis, as just one of many examples, who organised an online raffle for Bethesda Hospice in Stornoway raising more than £50,000.

He said: “The people of the islands have always gone out of their way to help others within their own communities and beyond. This cannot have been highlighted any clearer than in the current pandemic.

“Every village and community has its own voluntary support systems up and running and so many people are coming forward to offer help where needed. We should be proud of our island communities and we should all continue what we are doing and following the ongoing guidelines on social distancing.”

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