Isles MP pushes UK Government to act on domestic fuel prices

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil today pressed the UK Government to take immediate action to help those who are facing spiralling fuel costs, particularly those with central heating oil and other off-grid fuels.

In the House of Commons this morning, Mr MacNeil raised the issue with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, and was offered a meeting on the specific difficulties facing island communities.

Mr MacNeil said: “I pointed out that this UK Government has borrowed and printed loads of cash that has been gathered by the already wealthy, millionaires and billionaires who have done best in the bank bailouts.

“It is about time the UK Government did something about those in fuel poverty, in particular who already find themselves nowhere near gas mains and have to use the most expensive types of fuel to heat their homes – central heating oil or stored gas or liquid gas.

“The inequality in the UK has meant that an energy spike means crisis for a lot of people.

“The Secretary of State offered to meet me on this issue and I will be taking him up on this meeting.”

SNP MP Angus MacNeil welcomes HIAL Benbecula Airport decision

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has spoken of his delight that HIAL have decided to delay any decision about reducing Air Traffic Control services at Benbecula Airport for at least 5 years.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“Two weeks ago I wrote to HIAL with a number of questions of concern about the plans for downgrading Benbecula Airport, about the jobs, salaries, the impact on aviation and also the impact on the community in Benbecula – and Uist more widely.

“I am delighted to hear that HIAL are not going to be implementing any changes at Benbecula Airport for at least 5 years. This will be a huge relief to not only users of the airport but also to the staff at Benbecula Airport who do an excellent and important job of controlling aircraft movements at the airport.

“We just have to make sure that in the end we have a HIAL that is truly an islands organisation and not a mainland organisation, I think we are heading in that direction, I hope this trend continues, especially given the announcement on Stornoway last month. This news is very welcome and almost exactly what we were looking for.

“I’d also like to commend the airport staff, those in the local community and Prospect Union for their campaigning to save these jobs.”

ENDS

Isles MP says now is the time to increase Rural Fuel Rebate in face of rocketing fuel prices

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is writing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for an increase to the Rural Fuel Rebate.

The Rural Fuel Rebate was introduced in 2012 after many years of heavy lobbying by Mr MacNeil and others to take 5p off a litre of fuel in island and other rural locations.

Mr MacNeil says, in light of current escalating prices, now is the time to increase the Rebate which has not changed in more than a decade.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said: “It is time to increase the Rural Fuel Rebate. It was set at 5p many years ago and the Chancellor should now be looking at raising this to 10p a litre.

“I am writing to the Chancellor on those terms to investigate the Rural Fuel Rebate Scheme. In the past the UK Government took a very long time to do this. At the time the UK Government blamed Europe for that but Europe had been doing this a long before the UK.

“I am writing to the UK Government calling on them to show that they can act quickly and will increase the Rebate from 5p a litre to 10p a litre.

“I hope that the Chancellor will listen and take into account the many difficulties in rural and island areas with rising fuel costs.”

“It is time to increase the Rural Fuel Rebate,” says Mr MacNeil.

MacNeil commends CalMac for fast action to recruit ex-P&O employees to fill crew vacancies

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has commended CalMac for its fast action to highlight vacancies on their network to those who have lost their jobs due to the sudden redundancies made by P&O Ferries.

Last week P&O Ferries sacked 800 staff with immediate effect and replaced them with agency staff who will be paid at rates well below the minimum wage.

Mr MacNeil echoed comments from the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that the practice of Fire and Rehire is an appalling practice and offends the basic principle of fair work.

Mr MacNeil said: “I am very pleased to hear that CalMac are highlighting vacancies to those affected by the action of P&O Ferries. CalMac tell me they have had a very positive response to their communications encouraging applications from former P&O crew.

“Some positions have already been offered to fill vacancies on the CalMac network and I am also glad to hear that they are participating along with other ferry operators and the Chamber of Shipping in a crew redeployment scheme which gives access to applications from ex-P&O crew as vacancies arise.

“Ultimately however, this is not the solution. The required solution is that P&O changes this terrible policy that throws people out of their jobs.”

More details of these vacancies, and how to apply, can be found at:

https://www.calmac.co.uk/article/8504/Ref-809-SG-Seaman-Purser

https://www.calmac.co.uk/article/8671/Ref-806-SG-Deck-Ratings

Isles MP presses for rethink on Uig Harbour plans to minimise disruption

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has contacted Donna Manson, Chief Executive of Highland Council and Transport Minister, Jenny Gilruth, following Highland Council’s announcement that Uig Harbour will be closed from 10 October 2022 – 27 March 2023.

Commenting Mr MacNeil stated: “There is a great deal of concern in my constituency about the lengthy closure of Uig Harbour and the impact this will have on our islands.

“I understand that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar requested that any closure should not start until after the October School Holidays, which is traditionally a time when many families travel and is also when the Royal National Mod takes place.

“I also understand that the initial closure period was 6 weeks and that an explanation has not been given as to why this has changed to 6 months.

“I have asked Highland Council and the Transport Minister if a solution could be found to minimise the disruption.”

Service continuity plans are currently being finalised by Calmac in response to Highland Council’s announcement and these will be presented to the community in a second round of consultations in Uist, Skye and Harris at the following dates/times and locations: 

•             Benbecula, Balivanich Hall: 5 April 2022 at 5.30-8pm  

•             Uig Village Hall: 6 April 2022 at 5.30-8pm 

•             Tarbert Community Centre: 7 April 2022 5.30-8pm

Cut fuel duty and introduce Fuel Duty Stabiliser, says Isles MP to the Chancellor

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is writing to Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, after many constituents contacted him to raise strong concerns about the rising cost of fuel.

Island residents and businesses are concerned about the impact of rising fuel prices on families, local businesses and the agricultural and fishing sectors.

Commenting on the situation, Mr MacNeil said:

“Obviously people are very worried about the price of fuel and what rising costs will mean to their standard of living when prices are going up generally, particularly household energy costs.

“Therefore, I am writing to the Chancellor to suggest that he has a Fuel Duty Stabiliser in place so that when there are spikes in fuel prices, such as this, there is an automatic duty cut. We know that the Government are getting plenty of revenue at the moment. The Chancellor should also investigate whether we need to increase taxes on oil companies generally, who are making a fortune at the moment.

“The concern from constituents is great and I think that this needs to be addressed by the Chancellor.”

Isles MP exasperated by Home Office’s heartless attitude to refugees

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has expressed his exasperation at the attitude of the UK Home Office as regards to refugees coming from war-torn Ukraine.

Mr MacNeil has been contacted by a high number of constituents across the islands throughout this week who are disgusted by the UK Home Office’s heartless attitude to refugees.

He said: “I am dismayed at the fanatical attitude towards refugees displayed by the Home Office. It seems to hold very extremist views. The UK is alone in Europe and no other country is doing what the UK is doing.

“Personally, I have been working with a family in Lewis trying to get relations back and despite the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, telling me that there was a task-force coming in a week last Tuesday and that she was dealing with the matter personally, nothing has changed materially for these people.

“In fact, in the Chamber I had cross words with the Home Secretary because of the weakness of her response to what is an extremely serious situation.

“It angers me daily that there is still no progress for people and indeed, some are becoming so dismayed and disheartened with the UK’s approach that they have decided not to come.

“At one stage we had the situation that if people had begun the Visa process with their appointment in Warsaw, if they wanted to change their appointment to Dublin, they would have to restart the entire Visa process.

“This may have ameliorated somewhat in the last few days, but it is still far below what every other decent European country is doing.

“The situation is doubly worse in the UK in that the principal opposition party – the Labour Party – are also in the extreme fanatical wing and want to get people who are fleeing for their lives to get down to the pen-pushing bureaucracy of acquiring a visa.  Both need a check with reality and a check with decency.

“People who have to get out of a war-torn country should be welcomed with open arms. They should not be kept out in the cold, as was literally seen in -5C in some British institutions in Poland on their way to an appointment at UK application centres which were ill-prepared to deal with the amount of people.

“If Ireland, with a population of 5m, can let in far more people than the UK which has a far greater population, then the Tory UK Government and the principal opposition Labour Party, need to have a good, hard look at what they are doing.

“At least some compassion here in the islands, outside the Westminster political bubble of Tory and Labour, is that people are asking when refugees are coming and are looking to help. The Westminster situation is far different to the attitude of normal people.

“The reason they are coming to Ireland is because Ireland is independent. Scotland isn’t independent and that is why we are dealing with the extremists and the fanatics at the disorganised UK Government Home Office.”

MacNeil calls for booking windows on ferry network this Summer

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has written to Transport Scotland and Caledonian MacBrayne calling for the introduction of ‘booking-windows’ for the summer ferries to and from the islands.

Mr MacNeil is suggesting a staggered release of vehicle bookings which will improve access to ferries for all, including islands residents who have to travel at short notice.

Mr MacNeil said: “We have just come out of a winter period where many islanders have felt locked due to ferry breakdowns and inclement weather.

“As a result, we want to make sure that we plan now to avoid another difficult summer. We have seen disruption due to bad weather; we don’t want further difficulties due to the sheer volume of people.

“I am suggesting this year that, regardless of where people come from, there be a staggered release of space on car decks. 70% in the beginning, then 20% the month before and the last 10% in the week before the sailing. This gives different types of travellers, regardless of where people live, the ability to make these bookings. It gives businesses and people who need to travel at short notice or attend hospital, the hope of being able to travel.

“I would also suggest to Councillors and Community Councils to write to Calmac and the Transport Minister to ensure their voices are heard and that the strength of feeling is understood.

“We cannot have a situation where the winter weather is blocking island travel and the success of summer island tourism is also blocking island travel. Given the rising demand over the last couple of years, the only way to achieve this is to introduce ‘booking-windows’.”

MacNeil calls for booking windows on ferry network this Summer

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has written to Transport Scotland and Caledonian MacBrayne calling for the introduction of ‘booking-windows’ for the summer ferries to and from the islands.

Mr MacNeil is suggesting a staggered release of vehicle bookings which will improve access to ferries for all, including islands residents who have to travel at short notice.

Mr MacNeil said: “We have just come out of a winter period where many islanders have felt locked due to ferry breakdowns and inclement weather.

“As a result, we want to make sure that we plan now to avoid another difficult summer. We have seen disruption due to bad weather; we don’t want further difficulties due to the sheer volume of people.

“I am suggesting this year that, regardless of where people come from, there be a staggered release of space on car decks. 70% in the beginning, then 20% the month before and the last 10% in the week before the sailing. This gives different types of travellers, regardless of where people live, the ability to make these bookings. It gives businesses and people who need to travel at short notice or attend hospital, the hope of being able to travel.

“I would also suggest to Councillors and Community Councils to write to Calmac and the Transport Minister to ensure their voices are heard and that the strength of feeling is understood.

“We cannot have a situation where the winter weather is blocking island travel and the success of summer island tourism is also blocking island travel. Given the rising demand over the last couple of years, the only way to achieve this is to introduce ‘booking-windows’.”

Isles MP calls on Home Office to show empathy to those fleeing Ukraine

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil continues to press the Home Office to provide urgent assistance to Ukrainian refugees.

Mr MacNeil has been approached by constituents who are desperate to get family members out of the war-torn Ukraine. 

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine is very concerning and urgent action is needed to help people who are trying to flee the conflict.

“I have been dealing with the Home Office on behalf of constituents who have family trying to leave Ukraine.  Their leaving Ukraine is dependent on them being able to come and live with relatives on the Isle of Lewis.  However, as things stand, they are unable to get to our islands because of the grim attitude of the Home Office. 

“There is a war on, and the Home Office are showing no empathy or compassion.  The independent nations of the EU have waived visas entirely for Ukraine.

“Sadly, Scotland, unlike independent Ireland for example, does not have power over border control and therefore the ability to show more compassion to war refugees.”

ENDS