UK Government must get on with the day job for fishing

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is calling on the UK Government to get on with the day job and ensure that much needed non-European Economic Area (EEA) workers are granted the necessary visas to work on island fishing boats.

Mr MacNeil has continued to raise at Westminster the need for urgent action to address crew shortages by allowing non-EEA workers to fill the labour gaps which have left local boats tied up at the pier.

Mr MacNeil said:

“In the middle of the Tory mess on Brexit, aided and abetted by the Labour Party who believe in exactly the same, rather than getting on with the day job we are having to watch resignations and the UK crumbling.

“Our fishing industry is crying out for help, yet the UK Government continues to refuse non-EEA crew the necessary paperwork to enable them to come to Scotland to work on our fishing boats.  Instead, we are having to watch Westminster’s dramatic soap operas.

“The UK Government says this is an argument between migration figures and the economy however seasonal fishing workers under 12 months are not included in their figures.

“The UK must end its bureaucratic one size fits all approach and needs to get out of the way to let Scotland’s islands improve our economy. If ever there was the case to prove that, it is the economic success of Ireland over recent years.  Sadly, we in Scotland have to watch that from the slow lane.”

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Stornoway Harbour

MP reacts with dismay to HIAL plans for Air Traffic Control

MP will write to Transport Select Committee and Islands Minister for action

Possible solution to create separate Islands Airports Group

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil will write to Lillian Greenwood MP, chair of the Transport Select Committee of the House of Commons, to look at Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) plans to centralise Air Traffic Control in Inverness.

Mr MacNeil will also write to the Scottish Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP urging the Scottish Government to take action on plans which will lead to the loss of quality island jobs.

Mr MacNeil said: “It is absolutely no surprise that this is the game HIAL are playing, at the very beginning this was about their empire and jobs in Inverness which I predicted.

“The Scottish Government will have to look at the real social and economic impacts of this. The greatest turnover of staff is in Inverness where they want to put this empire and lowest in places like Benbecula and Stornoway where they are trying to take much needed jobs.

Benbecula airport

“If electronic communications are as good as HIAL are saying, they could easily have put this centre in Benbecula or Stornoway.

“A multi airport centre like this is not as clear cut as Swanage for London City where there is one centre for one airport. This is multi screens, for a whole host of airports, requiring training with a whole plethora of technical complexities.

“I am writing to the Transport Select Committee of the House of Commons about the viability of what HIAL  are proposing, as well as going into their scoping exercise as air traffic controllers have informed me they feel there have been flaws in this.

“I will also write to Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP urging the Scottish Government to get a grip of HIAL because they are running away from social and economic responsibilities here in the Hebrides.

“We have our ferry company being managed away from the islands, our airlines being managed away from the islands and now we can’t manage to have a few air traffic control jobs in the islands.

“This contrasts with our neighbours in the Faroe Islands who have their own national airline, 3 or 4 Airbus 320s, their own airport and airlines all run in the Faroe Islands.

“The Scottish Government have to have a look at this and perhaps one solution might be breaking up HIAL into Highlands Airports and a separate Islands Airports so that we have some measure of control and development in our communities rather than ‘having things done to us’ for a bizarre HIAL vision who are empire building in Inverness.”

Isles MP comments on independent study on islands banks

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus B MacNeil is pleased that business advisers, Johnston Carmichael are to carry out an independent study on the Lochboisdale and Castlebay RBS bank branches.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“I look forward to Johnston Carmichael coming to the islands and having their review complete in September.  RBS are to be praised for taking this step.  Only a few months ago they were telling us that bank the closure of the Castlebay branch was an irrevocable decision and wouldn’t be revisited.

“I raised a number practical problems with RBS following their initial closure plans and welcome that they have now appointed business advisers Johnston Carmichael to carry out an independent review.

“There are a number of factors I hope Johnston Carmichael will take into consideration and I hope that they will spend time in both Castlebay and Lochboisdale.

“Despite the current spell of good weather, it is only a few short weeks since the mobile bank was only able to travel only one day out of three, which means we would have great difficulty in the winter.

“RBS seem to be coming round to the point of view that their initial decision was flawed, something I feel is shared by the Economic Secretary to HM Treasury, John Glen MP who is coming to visit the islands at the end of August.”

Angus pic

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Isles MP hopes ‘penny has dropped’ for RBS that branch closures are false economy  

RBS logo

Isles SNP MP Angus MacNeil hopes the ‘penny has dropped’ for RBS who may be realising that cutting island branches is a false economy.

 

RBS have announced that after just a few weeks of trials, they are suspending the mobile banking service to Barra blaming low usage and ferry capacity issues.

 

The branch in Castlebay is currently under threat of closure but is the subject of an independent review to be carried out by Johnston Carmichael. The Lochboisdale branch is already operating on reduced opening hours and Mr MacNeil is calling for the review to also include the South Uist branch.

 

Mr MacNeil has been campaigning for the branches to be retained to provide a full service to island customers and had accused RBS of taking up valuable space on the ferries at the busiest time of the year.

 

He said: “RBS were planning a three times a week service to Barra, taking up valuable space on the ferry and spending thousands of pounds on travel.

 

“The penny may finally have dropped that it is better not only for their customers but also their own bank balance to abandon all plans for branch cuts.”

Isles MP asks RBS about reliability of mobile banking service

Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil is writing again to the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) regarding the introduction of the mobile van in Barra.

Mr MacNeil understands that there were disruptions to the mobile banking service during a week in June, which prevented this service from operating in Barra.

At the invitation of Mr MacNeil, John Glen MP, Economic Secretary to HM Treasury will visit the Isle of Barra in August to gain a better understanding about the implications of the RBS decision to close the branch in Castlebay and reduce the hours of the branch in Lochboisdale.

RBS logo

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“My understanding from locals is that the mobile van only managed a third of its scheduled crossing to Barra during a week in June and I have asked RBS to confirm if this is indeed accurate.

“If so, RBS really need to ask themselves what this tells them about the disruption this will cause to loyal customers particularly in situations of bad weather.

“RBS must abandon their damaging cuts programme.”

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MP continues campaign to reunite refugee families

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is bringing the issue of reuniting refugee families back to the House of Commons today (Thursday) when he leads a backbench business debate on his Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill.

 

Coinciding with Refugee Week, Mr MacNeil is also very pleased to have been able to assist in the reunion of a refugee family in his own constituency – making him even more determined to push for changes to the laws which are currently keeping families apart.

FamiliesTogether

Mr MacNeil said: “Under the Home Offices’ rules, adults with refugee status in the UK are able to sponsor their spouses/partners and their children under 18 to join them. It’s hard to imagine just how much joy and relief must come at that moment of reunion.

 

“But the restrictive nature of those rules, and the limited definition of family contained within them, leaves many unable to experience that joy. Children over 18 are not covered, nor are elderly parents or nieces and nephews. How many parents think their children stop needing them just because they’ve had their 18th birthday?

 

“The UK does not allow refugee children any family reunion rights at all, the only country within the EU to do so. Children who have been recognised by the Government as being in need of protection, and for who it is not safe to return home, are not able to be joined by even their very closest relatives. Instead, children have to try and rebuild their lives in a new country without their parents to support them.

 

“I believe that families belong together, and that these rules are overly restrictive. That’s why, when I was selected in last year’s Private Members’ Bill ballot, I chose to introduce a bill to make some modest changes to these rules and help more families torn apart to be reunited in safety.”

 

This debate comes in a week when the US Government has caused international outrage for the treatment of asylum seekers at the US/Mexican border where children have been forcibly separated from their parents.

 

The Bill is supported by MPs from across the House of Commons, as well as organisations including the Refugee Council, British Red Cross, Amnesty International, Oxfam GB and UNHCR. It successfully passed its Second Reading in March and is awaiting the next stage.

 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar this week gave their full support to the Bill.

Isles MP walks out of PMQs in protest

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil joined his SNP colleagues in walking out of the House of Commons yesterday (Wednesday) following repeated attempts by the Tory government to silence Scotland’s voice on Brexit.

 

snpwalkout 1

Angus MacNeil MP with SNP Westminster Group Leader Ian Blackford MP and his SNP colleagues outside the Parliamentary Estate following the walk out from Prime Minister’s Questions.

Mr MacNeil joined the SNP’s Westminster Leader Ian Blackford MP in protest, after the Speaker asked him to leave during Prime Minister’s Questions.

 

Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Ian Blackford called for the House of Commons to sit in private, following the Prime Minister’s failure to bring forward emergency legislation on Brexit to ensure the Scottish Parliament’s position is considered as the UK leaves the EU.

 

Mr MacNeil said Scotland’s voice needed to be heard as Brexit will have major implications for vital sectors such fishing and crofting.

 

He said: “I walked out of the House of Commons because Scotland – and my constituents – have been silenced on Brexit.

 

“The UK Government’s Brexit legislation ignores the will of the Scottish Parliament and devolution as we know it  – which the people of Na h-Eileanan an Iar, indeed, the whole of Scotland, voted overwhelmingly for.

 

“Westminster needs to realise they can’t push Scotland about. We’re not in a union of equals and enough is enough.

 

“Currently we have boats without crews that cannot go to sea due to lack of support from the UK Government in addressing this issue – after Brexit we could have only EU boats in our waters.

 

“The Westminster Parliament is going to grab powers over agriculture as those powers come back from the EU and this could have serious repercussions for crofting.

 

“The UK government’s shambolic Brexit is putting jobs and livelihoods at risk and the SNP is the only party who will stand up for Scotland.”

MP welcomes green light for Remote Island Wind in CfD auction

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed the official confirmation from the UK Government that they intend to allow Remote Island Wind projects to compete in the upcoming Contracts for Difference (CfDs) auction.

Angus Brendan headshot Westminster

Angus MacNeil MP

 

Following a consultation earlier this year – to which Mr MacNeil responded – the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced this week that they intend to proceed to legislate to differentiate Remote Island Wind from other onshore wind projects to enable them to compete for a CfD in Pot 2.

This is subject to Parliamentary approval.

 

Mr MacNeil said: “This announcement was expected but is very welcome news.

 

“It is a positive step that the UK Government has listened to the large number of respondents to the consultation, from across the industry and from groups and individuals in the islands, who made the case for Remote Island Wind to be considered differently from other onshore wind projects.”

 

 

 

Isles politicians call for urgent action on Uig mobile outage

Loss of mobile phone signal is causing major disruption for residents of Uig, Isle of Lewis and local politicians are calling on the mobile phone operator to take urgent action to resolve the situation.

Angus MacNeil MP and Alasdair Allan MSP have been in regular contact with EE over recent days and weeks after many constituents contacted them to report repeated disruption to the network in the Uig area.

 

mobile-phone

 

The poor signal for EE customers is caused by ongoing works to upgrade the mast to a 4G service, however Mr MacNeil said customers have not been kept well informed and are becoming increasingly frustrated.

 

He said: “This situation with EE has been ongoing for several months now and my constituents are fed up by the lack of communication from the mobile phone operator.

 

“I understand that progress is expected to be made this week but I will be maintaining pressure on EE to sort this out and inform their customers.

 

“The mobile phone signal is so important to communities, particularly in the busy tourist season, and at the moment these communities are not getting the service they deserve and indeed the service which customers are paying for.”

 

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “To go a month without any mobile reception and to be given no clear idea of what the problem is or when it will be fixed is an intolerable situation to place Uig residents into, especially as we approach the height of the tourist season.

 

“EE need to update their customers in Uig and get this problem resolved as quickly as possible.”

 

John Maciver, Chair of Uig Community Council said: “The situation in Uig is nothing short of a shambles. We have had no mobile signal for almost a month without any information from EE to customers. At a peak time in the tourist season, we are very vulnerable should there be an emergency in such a remote community.”

 

 

Cutting island bank branches is false economy for RBS, says MP

Isles MP Angus B MacNeil says one department of RBS is ‘pulling the wool over the eyes’ of another in claiming closure of the Castlebay branch and cuts to the Lochboisdale branch will save them cash.

 

He says RBS could spend more than £2,000 a month on travel costs if they proceed with the closure of the Castlebay branch, Isle of Barra.

 

The mobile bank is due to visit the island three times a week at a cost of more than £200 a return ferry trip, together with staff costs and any unforeseen travel disruptions – the cost of cutting the branch may not be as cost effective as RBS have been insisting.

 

Mr MacNeil has reiterated his call for RBS to drop the closure plans:

 

He said: “Closing branches is supposed to be a money saving exercise but in the case of the island branches, the costs involved in a mobile banking service might prove otherwise.

 

“When RBS add up all the travel costs and the additional unexpected costs that can incur if there is travel disruption, they should think again.

 

“One department of RBS is pulling the wool over the eyes of another department if they’re selling the closure of the Castlebay branch as a saving.  I hope that the independent reviewer will also look at this issue, and the fact that the RBS van will put further pressure on an already busy ferry service.

 

“The local community are telling RBS to drop their plans; the Scottish Affairs Committee are telling RBS to drop their plans; and now their own bank balance might tell them to drop their plans for Castlebay and Lochboisdale too.”