Iolaire to be remembered in debates at Westminster and Holyrood

The Centenary of the loss of HMY Iolaire will be marked by debates in both the UK and Scottish Parliaments.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has secured a debate on ‘Remembering the Iolaire’ in Westminster Hall on Wednesday December 12th at 4:30pm and Alasdair Allan, MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, will lead a bilingual members’ business debate in the Scottish Parliament on December 19th.

Mr MacNeil will host the Westminster debate which will include attendance by a Minister from the Ministry of Defence (MoD). This follows Mr MacNeil’s laying of an EDM on the Iolaire before Parliament last month which was signed by more than 50 MPs from across the political spectrum.

Mr MacNeil said: “The Centenary of the Iolaire disaster is being marked in many fitting ways in the islands and it is also fitting that MPs have the opportunity to commemorate it during a short debate.”

Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“Even 100 years on this disaster is still raw in the minds of the people of Lewis and Harris. As we approach the centenary of the Iolaire’s loss, I hope we will be able to come together as a Parliament to commemorate the immeasurable sacrifice of those who were lost so tragically close to home.”

Iolaire poppy pin

MP stands up for Isles fishermen and warns Tories ‘all eyes are on them’

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Isles SNP MP Angus B MacNeil is standing up for Na h-Eileanan an Iar’s fishermen in Parliament and warns the Tories all eyes are on them as they negotiate the future of the fishing industry.


In a speech during the Fisheries Bill debate yesterday (Wednesday), he outlined the many issues facing west coast fishermen as highlighted to him by the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association.


These included fishing quotas; seal management; potential for a blue fin tuna fishery and spurdog by catch. He also stressed that the UK Government could take action to assist the industry with crew shortages right now but were choosing not to do so.


He is also calling on the House of Commons’ Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) to consider holding an inquiry into fishing quotas and has written to Chair Neil Parish MP on this matter.


He said:  “The Tories are trying to portray themselves as the saviours of fishing but the truth is it is not a priority for them and never has been. There is a real responsibility for this Government who are now treading this path.”


He added: “I think it would be worthwhile to have an EFRA committee inquiry into who holds quota, where they got quota from, where quota might be better distributed, ideas of community quotas, and geographical share of quotas.


“As recently highlighted in media reports from research by NGO’s, quota ownership is an issue of interest. I have suggested that the Committee could investigate loss of rights that were once historically held for example in the west coast of Scotland and is now in the hands of a few big fishing concerns out with the area.”


He said consideration should be given to the full reorganisation of fishing quota particularly in pelagic sectors, perhaps adopting the principle which has been introduced in the Faroes, that all fish in Faroese waters are the property of the people of the Faroes.

HMY Iolaire remembered in House of Commons

An Early Day Motion (EDM) on the Centenary of the Iolaire tragedy has been laid before Parliament by Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus B MacNeil.

More than 50 MPs from across six political parties and one independent have signed the EDM making it one of the most supported motions in this Parliamentary session.

Mr MacNeil called on the House to remember those who had been lost when HMY Iolaire sank on 1st January 1919 and to commend all those in Na h-Eileanan an Iar who have been involved in events and projects to commemorate the tragedy.

He said: “As we approach the 100 years since the loss of the Iolaire, it is so important that we remember the men who lost their lives just yards from home shores and the impact this had on our islands, especially after the already terrible losses of the war.

“The events and projects organised to mark the centenary have documented this tragedy in our history in the most moving and fitting way and have ensured that this dark day in our history is relayed to a new generation.”

Mr MacNeil has worn the PoppyScotland Iolaire Pin in the House of Commons.

Remembering HMY Iolaire – link to EDM:

Iolaire poppy pin

The full text of the EDM is below:

“This house remembers that more than 200 sailors lost their lives when HMY Iolaire sank on 1st January 1919 as it approached Stornoway Harbour bringing sailors home from the war, just yards from shore and within sight of home; and commends all those in Na h- Eileanan an Iar involved in events to commemorate this tragedy. These include the publication of a book ‘The Darkest Dawn’ by local historian Malcolm MacDonald and the late Donald John Macleod , commissioning of music, exhibitions involving local historical societies, improving access to the existing memorial and the erection in Stornoway town centre of a plaque and a cairn containing a stone from the home area of each of those lost; particular note is made of the involvement of Young People in the Dileab project which culminates in an event in the Nicolson Institute involving more than 200 performers from throughout the islands, Comhairle nan Eilean and the Iolaire Working Group are commended for their work in raising awareness of this tragedy which remains one of the worst maritime disasters in UK waters in the 20th century.”


MP welcomes Medal award for TA veterans

More than 50 years after he was seriously injured in a battle overseas while on a Territorial Army mission, Captain Eoghann Maclachlainn of South Uist will finally receive a General Service Medal with Clasp South Arabia from the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus B MacNeil received confirmation this week that medals for service will be awarded to members of the 300 Parachute Field Squadron Royal Engineers, 131 Parachute Engineer Regiment TA who were injured or killed in a battle in Yemen (formerly South Arabia) in 1965 – despite previous refusals by the MoD.

The TA Squadron were the first to see action after WW2 when they were attacked by enemy fire during a training exercise. The ensuing battle led to the loss of two lives including the Squadron’s Sergeant Major John Lonergan and five others including Captain Maclachlainn, were wounded.

This week Mr MacNeil received a letter from Earl Howe, Minister of State in the House of Lords, which detailed that instruction had been given to the Medal Office to issue the Medal to Captain Maclachlainn, and the families of the Sergeant George Gibson Earl who died on 10 February 2004 and Sergeant Lonergan.

The MoD have previously stated that members of the squadron were not eligible for a General Service Medal because they were in South Arabia on training and not operational duties.

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Mr MacNeil, who has known Captain Maclachlainn for many years said: “I am very pleased that the MoD has finally recognised the service of some members of this squadron and has confirmed that Medals will be given.

“I have been writing to the MoD about this injustice for more than 2 years.

“However all the brave men who served in 300 Parachute Field Squadron deserve recognition for their service.

“The battle which took place at 0015 hours on 12 April 1965, was not part of a training exercise but was active service.

“The award for Captain Maclachlainn and others is a very welcome step forward in what has been a long running campaign for the veterans.”

Staff Sgt John Donaldson, who served with the squadron and has been campaigning for five years for the MoD to award the General Service Medals said:

“I am delighted that the casualties of 300 Parachute Field Squadron Royal Engineers will now receive the medallic recognition they deserve.

“Special Army Orders of 25 July 1966, opened the door for the casualties of 300 Para Fld Sqn RE and others to receive the General Service Medal 1962 with Clasp South Arabia so why has it taken 52 years for them to receive the award.”

He said the Squadron were working in an operational area and followed orders as such in relation to this despite the MoD’s insistence that they were not on operational duties.

He added: “I am sure that had I not had the support from Angus MacNeil MP the casualties of 300 Para Fld Sqn RE would never have received the award. Mr MacNeil has agreed to carry on the fight for the rest of the squadron to receive the medallic recognition they deserve.”


Tories are no friend of fishing, says Isles MP as he warns not to fall for ‘Tory Pretences’

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The Tories are no fisherman’s friend, says Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil, as he warns not to fall for ‘Tory pretences’.


The latest pretence is an ‘assurance’ by Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, that the UK will leave the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) by 2020 even if the Brexit transition period is extended.


Mr MacNeil said Mr Mundell is in no position to give any commitment on this given that the UK Government has no plan whatsoever for future fisheries management post Brexit.


The Tory Government are also continuing to fail the industry by refusing to assist with the ongoing crew shortage issue.


Mr MacNeil said: “David Mundell cannot given any guarantee on leaving CFP as there is as yet no plans for anything post Brexit.


“He and his colleagues seem oblivious to the fact that:


–              it was the Tories who took the UK into the CFP;


–              it was the Tories who enabled the concentration of fishing quotas in the hands of the few;


–              it was the Tories who were adamant just a few months ago that we would have to leave CFP pre March 2019 before taking a u-turn to accept the principle of fishing in any transition.


–              it is the Tories who cannot give any guarantee that there will be no shellfish waiting at borders, that no shellfish will be wasted either in March 2019 or after December 2021, or that lorries will not be delayed on their weekly rotations.


“There are too many Tory pretences on fishing despite ‘assurances’ being welcomed by Tory MSP Donald Cameron.


“The chickens will be coming home to roost for the Tories very soon and Mr Cameron, despite his bluster, knows it well.”

Island Leave voters changing their minds

More than 10 per cent of Na h-Eileanan an Iar voters who supported Brexit have now changed their minds, according to a new poll.


Isles SNP MP Angus B MacNeil said the poll, conducted by Channel 4 and Survation, showed that many who originally thought Leaving the EU would be a positive move are now concluding that Brexit will be bad news for the local economy.


He said: “When the facts change people change their minds, this is a well known phrase and I congratulate those who are not afraid to review changing circumstances and change their minds, more will follow I am sure.


“This major new poll shows that support for Remain in the islands is up 11 per cent from 56 per cent to 67 per cent. The majority of my constituents voted to Remain in 2016 as did constituencies across all of Scotland, there is a growing support to remain in the EU yet Scotland is to be taken out against our will.


“Membership of the Single Market and Customs Union is crucial for industry in Scotland and the SNP Group at Westminster will not support any measure by the UK Government which threatens Scottish jobs and standards.”


He added: “The Tories and Labour have the same non-policy on the Single Market and Customs Union with both parties totally divided on what should and should not be on the table as part of Brexit deal negotiations – giving no answers to industries who urgently need to know what lies ahead.


“Brexit is a concern for everyone and that is becoming more apparent by the number of representations I receive on this issue including people supporting The People’s Vote on a final deal.”


As a vocal critic of Brexit and the UK Government’s handling of the process, Mr MacNeil speaks regularly in the House of Commons taking part in debates on the EU; calling for answers from the UK Government; and to highlight that Brexit will be a no win situation for the economy.


As Chair of the House of Commons International Trade Committee, he is presented with evidence from industry and trade experts from across the globe on a weekly basis.



The Channel 4 poll found that if another EU referendum was held tomorrow, it would be likely that Remain would win right across the UK.

The results were revealed on Channel 4 on Monday night in a live debate show, ‘Brexit: What the Nation Really Thinks’.



Isles MP stands up for freedom of religion

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil attended the parliamentary launch of CSW’s toolkit on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) on October 23rd.

The event saw the launch of humans rights organisation CSW’s toolkit on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).

The newly-published toolkit on FoRB recognises the important role of MPs and Peers in advocating for FoRB in the global context where more than three-quarters of the world’s population live in countries with severe restrictions on their religious freedom.

In addition to an overview of different aspects of FoRB and the current situation in the countries CSW works in around the world, the toolkit also includes information on both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary mechanisms Parliamentarians can use to promote the right to FoRB.

For over 30 years CSW has worked to raise awareness of violations of FoRB around the world and to advocate for this right in various national and international platforms including the UK Parliament, US Congress, European Union and United Nations. In the UK, CSW’s work based on strong cross-party relationships continues to help many MPs and Peers to speak up to promote this universal human right in Parliament.

Mr MacNeil said: “I was pleased to attend CSW’s event and collect a copy of their toolkit on freedom of religion or belief, alongside receiving up to date briefings on the situation of FoRB around the world from CSW’s expert advocates.

 “I am committed to standing up for this fundamental human right, and urge the UK Government to do all it can to promote, protect and enable the enjoyment of FoRB for every religious community around the world without discrimination, and to prevent or sanction violations of FoRB if they occur.”


Mervyn Thomas, CSW’s Chief Executive said: “The right to FoRB is enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. FoRB matters, not only because it is a fundamental human right, but because promoting respect for all helps to build inclusive societies that are more stable, more prosperous, and better able to resist extremism. However, at CSW we remain deeply concerned by the human rights violations committed against religious communities around the world. I and my colleagues at CSW look forward to working with Angus MacNeil MP to defend and promote FoRB for all.”


Home Office double standards on non-EEA workers

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP is highlighting the double standards of the Home Office following press reports that non-EEA workers are employed in the offshore windfarm industry earning a fraction of the UK minimum wage.

Mr MacNeil is continually pressing the UK Government to help the West Coast fishing industry to allow non-EEA workers to fill the gap in crew shortages.  Despite having met with 6 Tory Immigration Ministers, the Home Office refuse to help and boats are tied up due to lack of crew.

angus home office

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said:

“The West Coast fishing industry is crying out for crew and desperate to see the introduction of a scheme to allow non-EEA workers to fill the labour gap – a scheme which pays proper wages.  However, this was rejected by the Home Office.

“It is shocking to read press reports that the Home Office has an immigration concession for the windfarm industry allowing non-EEA workers to enter the UK and paid a fraction of the minimum wage.

“The double standards at the Home Office is breath-taking.”


Good Cause in Na h-Eileanan an Iar Receives Funding Boost to the Delight of Local MP

Mr Angus MacNeil, MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, was thrilled to learn that a good cause in the constituency has received a welcome funding boost thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Befriending Lewis was recently awarded £19861 from Postcode Community Trust, a grant giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The funding will enable the organisation to continue its work in Na h-Eileanan an Iar.

Congratulating the organisation, Mr Angus MacNeil said:

“I’m delighted to hear that Befriending Lewis has been successful in securing funds for a special arts project – ‘Breakthrough for the Housebound.’ from Postcode Community Trust

“My thanks must go to the volunteers at Befriending Lewis who give their time and energy to help others and to the players of People’s Postcode Lottery as this award will make a real difference to the local community.”

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Since the beginning of the year, over £3.3milllion has been distributed to over 350 grassroots projects operating across Great Britain through People’s Postcode Lottery’s three community programmes trusts which are; Postcode Local Trust, Postcode Community Trust and People’s Postcode Trust.

The next opportunity for groups to apply for funding will be early in 2019. For more information, please visit the trusts’ websites: