Angus MacNeil MP welcomes progress on Bluefin Tuna tagging for the Hebrides

The European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) has approved money for Bluefin Tuna tagging in the Hebrides which should bring a welcome boost to the economy of the islands but especially to Harris.

Bluefin Tuna have been seen in increasing numbers around the Hebrides, but Scotland was not included in the previous tagging scheme. Angus B MacNeil MP has been working with fishermen in Harris, cajoling and arguing in all corners to have a catch and release scheme similar to that in operation in Donegal, Ireland which would allow development of this type of angling.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said

“I congratulate the dogged determination of people like Grant Fulton and Angus Campbell from the Isle of Harris, who have seen the opportunity with Bluefin Tuna and have worked with me to give the Outer Hebrides the opportunity to have a scheme similar to the one in Donegal.

“This funding from the EMFF is great progress and will hopefully encourage those in other parts of the islands to get involved and join the fishermen in Harris so that boats throughout the isles can help each other in spotting Bluefin Tuna.

“ This is hopefully the start of something exciting which will inspire more people to get involved.

“Again, congratulations to those in Harris particularly Grant Fulton and Angus Campbell whose enthusiasm and hard work have been instrumental in getting this money to the Outer Hebrides.”

Ends

Fish exports must continue unhindered post-Brexit, says Isles MP

Isles MP, Angus B MacNeil is in contact with The Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish) regarding the exporting of fish to the European Union after the UK leaves the European Union.

Figures contained in the Local Level Brexit Vulnerabilities report shows that rural and remote areas in Scotland could be among the hardest hit by any kind of Brexit. 

Mr MacNeil who has continually opposed Brexit said:

“I have been in discussions with Seafish about ensuring that the fishing industry can continue to get their catch to EU markets, unhindered in the event of a No-Deal Brexit. 

“Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 sets out the conditions for the approval of establishments.  Currently, to export to the EU these businesses do not require an Environmental Health Certificate but after exiting the European Union these businesses would require an Environmental Health Certificate which they would not be able to get because they do not have an approved establishment.

“These changes will not apply during the transition period or if we remain in the single market and customs union.

“Seafish is currently looking for a solution to the problem and they are seeking advice on the viability of other possible solutions which include products passing through suitably approved premises such as a fish market or that the business can undertake an approved activity such as wrapping and packing in polystyrene boxes in order to obtain the required approval. 

“It is likely that local fishermen will be selling their catch to an agent who will subsequently export the catch.  Seafish have concerns that to obtain an Environmental Health Certificate, the agent may need evidence of compliance with European Food Law from vessels to export into the European Union. 

“Seafish have flagged up a difficulty and it clearly shows that despite Brexit, EU Regulations are very much to the fore. 

“It is important that we can still sell our products to the European Union despite not presently knowing what will happen if we leave the EU without a deal and solutions need to be found. Leaving the EU was meant to reduce bureaucracy, but this is just one example where exporting to the European Union will require more bureaucracy if we leave the EU.”

ENDS

Clarity needed on crofting tenure

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus MacNeil is calling on the Scottish Government to step in to protect crofting tenure.

Mr MacNeil is concerned that local authorities consider crofts to be an asset which can be used to meet care home costs.  This arises from a number of cases where local authorities are attempting to use croft homes to pay for the care costs of family members.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“I am currently dealing with a case where a constituent is being pursued for the disposal of assets.  I just cannot understand how this case can be viewed in this way, particularly given the family circumstances.  Like many other people, the person in question does not actually own the croft – he is a tenant.

“I raised this matter with the Crofting Commission who are aware of this issue but say they are not clear whether this is for them to take a position on.  I would argue that the Crofting Commission should certainly take a stance on this and fight to secure crofting tenure, its purpose is to regulate and promote the interest and secure the future of crofting.

“I will be writing to Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy.  The Scottish Government need to clarify the legal position and do everything in their power to protect crofting and the security of tenure that crofters currently enjoy.”

ENDS

Western Isles Interconnector – Isles MP disappointed at further delay from Ofgem – but optimism remains

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP has expressed his disappointment at today’s publication by Ofgem which is delaying progress for the Interconnector.

The Contracts for Difference (CfD) Allocation Round 3 in September awarded just 240MWh to projects in the Western Isles, well below the 369-400MWh needed for the Interconnector to the mainland.

Yesterday at Westminster, Mr MacNeil pressed the Energy Minister, Kwasi Kwarteng MP about an interconnector and pointed out the ludicrous policy of the UK Government which on one hand gives 240MWh to the Western Isles in CfD Round 3 while also requiring 370-400MWh before the interconnector could be built.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“It is disappointing that Ofgem is delaying progress with the interconnector, however after speaking to SSEN this morning I am encouraged that the door is still open to make progress with the 600MW capacity cable.  SSEN remain hopeful that renewable projects will proceed, providing the 420MWh which will take them up to the 600MW cable capacity.  

“SSEN is optimistic that progress can be made and is committed to driving this project on to secure a 600MW capacity cable for the Western Isles.

“Our islands have the best wind resource in Europe and the interconnector is vital for island renewable energy projects, SSEN and renewable developers have the opportunity to provide Ofgem with further information to support the needs case for the interconnector.”

ENDS

Isles MP keeps pressure on UK Government to take action on Interconnector

Isles MP, Angus B MacNeil today pressed the Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng MP during Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy questions about an interconnector to the Outer Hebrides.

Mr MacNeil pointed out the ludicrous policy of the UK Government which on one hand gives 240MW to the Outer Hebrides in the Contracts for Difference Round 3 while also requiring 370-400MW before a cable could be built.

Responding Mr Kwarteng said that interconnectors are an important part of the energy mix.

Mr MacNeil pointed out that at this time of climate emergency the clean, green energy available from renewables in the Scottish Islands should be utilised.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“If Mr Kwarteng is serious about an interconnector being part of the energy mix then surely an announcement on the interconnector to the Outer Hebrides will happen soon, otherwise these are empty words from the UK Government.

“Orkney and Shetland have already been spurned. No other Government would spurn the Outer Hebrides where we have the best wind resource in Europe.”

ENDS

Young Carers Grant open for Applications from 21st October

Angus MacNeil MP urges all eligible Young Carers in Isles to apply

Social Security Scotland has announced that the Young Carers Grant will be open for applications from 21st October this year.  The Grant of £300 is available to young people in Scotland aged 16 -18 years who care for someone in receipt of certain disability benefits for an average of 16 hours a week.

Commenting Angus B MacNeil MP said:

“ There are many  young people throughout Scotland and in the Islands who willingly take on the care of a family member who  needs regular support. This new benefit from Social Security Scotland is designed to help these young people  and to show their care contribution is valued by society.

“I would urge any young person in this situation to look into this new benefit and see if they qualify for this welcome help. This is an age group who may not previously have engaged with Social Security Scotland but  they should consider applying for this small amount of money which could be of huge benefit to them.

“Information on applying for this Grant is available on the Young Scot website or at https://www.socialsecurity.gov.scot/what-we-do/stakeholder-resources/young-carer-grant  and I would encourage all young carers who are eligible to apply.”

UK Government must do more to defend Catalan Political Prisoners

Following the decision of the Supreme Spanish Court to jail 9 Catalan Prisoners, Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has tabled parliamentary questions to the Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth, Dominic Raab, to find out what discussions he has had with his counterparts in Spain and each country in the European Union.

The Spanish court sentenced the 9 pro-independence leaders to between 9-13 years in jail for sedition. Former vice president Oriol Junqueras, an elected member of the European and Spanish Parliaments, will serve 13 years behind bars, with former ministers Jordi Turull, Raül Romeva and Dolors Bassa getting 12 year sentences. They were all found guilty of sedition and misuse of funds for their role in the 2017 Catalan referendum.

The former Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, was sentenced to 11 and a half years while Former ministers Joaquim Forn and Josep Rull were convicted of the same time, getting 10 and a half years each, while civic activists Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart have been sentenced to 9 years each, also for sedition.

They are all also barred from office for the same length of time. Mr MacNeil has met on many occasions with Catalan politicians during his time in Parliament.

Commenting Angus Brendan MacNeil MP said:

“This is a shocking and unjust decision by the Spanish courts. The fact that political leaders in Europe are being jailed for their beliefs is sickening, but worse again is the silence from leaders across Europe on the Catalan situation.

The UK Government should be doing everything in their power to defend these Catalan politicians and frankly address Spain for their abhorrent behaviour. The Spanish government have allowed police violence, censorship of the Catalans and now jailed Catalan leaders for holding a democratic referendum in 2017. This is not a precedent which should be allowed.

The 9 political leaders were simply expressing their democratic rights, with the court’s decision the 9 politicians jail time adds up to some 99.5 years in prison.

My thoughts are with the prisoners, their families and supporters at what must be an incredibly distressing time.”

Clarity required on Islands Deal

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus B MacNeil has tabled another parliamentary question to the Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack requesting an update on the Islands Deal.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Orkney Islands Council and Shetland Islands Council have been working together to develop ambitious proposals to include within a Deal for the Islands.

In a previous parliamentary question in reference to the Prime Minister’s announcement of 28 July 2019 on City Region and Growth deals, Mr MacNeil asked Alister Jack MP, the Secretary of State for Scotland what information had been made available to(a) Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, (b) Orkney Islands Council and (c) Shetland Islands Council on a deal for the Islands.

In his response, Mr Alister Jack said, “My officials continue to engage with the Islands partners and most recently met with the Islands Deal Programme Director on 2 August and 4 September to discuss next steps.  Officials also spoke with the Leader of Orkney Islands Council on 27 August. We expect to receive the latest suite of proposals from the Islands partners later this month.”

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“The Prime Minister confirmed on 28th July that there would be Growth Deals for the Islands, however since this announcement the Government has fallen silent in providing further details on the Islands Deal.

“The three Island Councils have invested a great deal of time in taking forward a Deal for the Islands and it really is important that the UK Government make an announcement soon.”

ENDS

Na h-Eileanan an Iar most exposed to damage from Brexit

Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil is very concerned at figures contained in the Local Level Brexit Vulnerabilities report which shows that rural and remote areas in Scotland could be among the hardest hit by any kind of Brexit.  The report has been produced by RESAS (Rural and Environmental Science and Analytical Services).

Mr MacNeil who has continually opposed Brexit said:

“It is very concerning to see that Na h-Eileanan an Iar tops the list of areas in Scotland that are vulnerable to the damage that Brexit will bring.

“We must remember that there is no good Brexit.  There is no better deal than the current deal of free trade and unhindered access to the market of 500million in the trade block that is the European Union.

“Every week we see lorries going to France and Spain with produce from the sea, together with crofting this leaves us vulnerable to Brexit and the lack of diversification of the economy, compared to other areas, adds to that.

“I will be asking the Westminster Government for money directly to Na h-Eileanan an Iar – Brexit is their project, we cannot be taking the damage without compensation from them to offset the chaos that their political project, harking back to the 19th century, is and will cause.”

ENDS

ENDS

‘Pot-luck’ 4G mobile service in islands – MP contacts UK Government departments

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus B MacNeil is writing to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Home Office regarding the Emergency Services Network (ESN), about the lack of progress in bringing about improvements to mobile phone coverage.

The Home Office is leading the programme to deliver the Emergency Services Network which aims to deliver improved voice and data service in the UK. In May, the National Audit Office criticised the Home Office’s management of this programme which has been delayed and is over budget.

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“Improvements to mobile connectivity is an issue which I have been repeatedly pushing for and it was expected that the ESN would bring about positive change and increase 4G coverage in remote areas.  However, while improvements have been made, progress is slow.

“This is an Emergency Service Network but at times it feels like a ‘pot-luck/patch-up’ network.  It is also concerning that when outages occur on these sites, it can take days or weeks to get the fault repaired.  This is not good enough and mobile provider EE, who has the contract to deliver ESN must improve the service they are providing.”

ENDS