No-deal Brexit would stop farming exports for six months

Commenting on reports in the Guardian that the (English) National Farmers Union has warned of ‘catastrophic’ consequences for the farming export industry for 6 months after March 2019 if there is no Brexit deal, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil said:

“This is obviously worrying for many people in our islands, but it is no surprise in some circles as it is what the UK Government has been hearing from farmers and veterinary bodies for some time.  The alarm is compounded by the fact that only this week Prime Minister Theresa May was back with her silly, daft and wrong mantra that no deal was better than a bad deal – no deal is the worst possible scenario, it is definitely the worst for crofters and farmers.

“It is all the more sickening for us to watch from the side-lines and to realise because of the decisions made on Scottish Independence in 2014, we in Scotland do not have a voice in this.

“We are at the mercy of events and choices made in London which is really not where we want to be, I am certain Irish agriculture would not want to trade places with those in Scotland. Crofters will have rams going to the sheep in the next 4/5 weeks, who knows what problems we will have next autumn if there is no deal and the UK crashes out of the EU and also associated trade deals with another 67 countries in March 2019, something that will also probably impact the fish and shellfish exporting sector in the very same way as agriculture.

“This really is a sign of the misgovernance from Westminster in the hands of the Tories.  The hollowness of Better Together probably doesn’t ring clearer anywhere than it does for the crofting and farming situation at the moment when all we can do is cross our fingers and hope that whatever games are being played in London do not have a terrible impact on crofting and farming and more widely in seafood exports.”



Parents should do homework on childcare costs before deadline

top angle photo of child holding pencil while drawing female angel playing wind instrument

Photo by on

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is urging parents to do their homework on the best way to pay childcare costs as time is running out to sign up to Childcare Voucher Schemes.

Childcare Voucher Schemes offered by some employers are closing to new entrants on October 4th (some have closed already) and after that date only the UK Government’s Tax-free Childcare will be available to assist with childcare costs for new entrants.

The new Tax Free Childcare system is already working well for some, however Mr MacNeil urged parents to be aware that Childcare Voucher schemes could mean much bigger savings for some families.

Mr MacNeil said: “For many families Tax Free Childcare will work, however Childcare Voucher Schemes offer bigger savings for those with childcare costs of less than £9,336 a year and are an option for families where one parent isn’t in work.

“With the deadline for new entries to Childcare Vouchers looming, it is worth checking the UK Government’s online childcare calculator and ask your employer if they offer a Childcare voucher scheme.”

You can find the online calculator here

Childcare voucher schemes allow parents to purchase vouchers to pay for childcare from their salary before tax is deducted. Tax free Childcare is different in that it offers top-up payments instead.

There has been much opposition to the closure of Childcare Vouchers to new entrants and this was postponed in March for an additional 6 months following concerns.

The Treasury Committee of the House of Commons recommended that a full analysis of the winners and losers of removing Childcare Vouchers and replacing with Tax-Free Childcare be carried out, however this was never followed through.



UK Government deal or no deal Brexit will harm economy, says MP

AB in chamber

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has hit out at the UK Government’s handling of Brexit negotiations and says exiting the EU will impact the economy even if a deal is struck.

Mr MacNeil, who is also Chair of the House of Commons International Trade Committee, has repeatedly questioned the Tory Government including the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU on what lies ahead, but has not been given any satisfactory answers.

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has today written to all UK party leaders saying that if the UK does end up facing a choice between no-deal or a blind Brexit, then an extension to the Article 50 negotiation process “must be on the table” as the only way to avoid an economic cliff-edge and to allow all alternative options to be considered

Mr MacNeil said: “With every passing day, it is becoming clearer that Brexit – with a deal or without a deal – will have negative consequences for our economy.

“What the media are not reporting is that Brexit, even with a deal – is bad news for our economy.

“Leaving the EU with a deal, a Free Trade Agreement – will mean a loss of 6 per cent to UK GDP – GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the measurement of the value of economic activity within a country.

“Leaving the EU with no deal – a hard Brexit – will harm the UK’s GDP by 8 per cent.

“The USA makes up 28 per cent of global GDP and so a Free Trade Agreement with the US will boost UK GDP by 0.2 per cent.

“Therefore, to make up the difference, the UK needs a Free Trade Agreement with 8.4 times or 11.2 times global GDP! That leaves us with a gaping hole in our economy.”

Mr MacNeil says Scotland’s situation has changed radically since 2014 and that the time for a 2nd Independence Referendum is coming.

“We’re heading for unknown territory but we do have another option.  Voters were told in 2014 that the only way to remain in the EU was to vote NO, Scotland as part of the UK is now leaving the EU.

“We have that get out of jail card, that emergency exit that gives us another option and the time is coming to use it.”

MCA blocking lifeline service, says Isles MP

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is pressing the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to remove MV Fame from the Tarbert ferry berth as a matter of urgency and allow lifeline services to resume.

Mr MacNeil has contacted Sir Alan Massey, CEO of the MCA seeking an update on the situation which has left the Isle of Harris without a ferry service since Sunday.

Mr MacNeil said: “Today (Tuesday) I’ve heard that the MCA are arriving on site to carry out assessments of a boat which has been there for a least 2 days and there could be further delays if they require to use divers as part of the investigation. We also know that there is bad weather coming in so this could be delayed further.

“The salient point is that the MCA should have been here first thing on Monday morning to look at that boat and should be looking to move it off a commercially sensitive berth perhaps to Scalpay or elsewhere so that normal services can resume.”

He added: “The port of Tarbert is blocked off with people having to go to Stornoway and this has been going on far too long. The MCA have to realise that they are dealing with a lifeline service. The boat needs to be shifted as soon as possible. And certainly the MCA should have had all relevant personnel here a lot sooner. If the situation is acute enough to be on the Cal Mac berth it is acute enough for the MCA to have been there sooner.”

Angus pic

MP calls on Scottish Ambulance Service to use First Responders

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has contacted the Scottish Ambulance Service seeking details of why First Responder teams are not being called to assist at as many local incidents as in the past.

First Responders are trained volunteers who are available to be dispatched by an ambulance control centre to attend calls in their local area and assist until the arrival of the Ambulance.

Mr MacNeil has been made aware that Carloway First Responders have received only one call to assist from the Scottish Ambulance Service in the last year. The team, who have been operating in the area for the last 10 years, had previously assisted with 40-50 incidents a year.

_2024084_15103770_9666, 9666

Pauline Howie, CEO of Scottish Ambulance Service has responded to Mr MacNeil and acknowledged that changes made by the Scottish Ambulance Service has led to a decline in the number of incidents attended by First Responders but she stressed that they were actively developing a new model for the future.

Mr MacNeil said: “First Responders provide valuable medical assistance and reassurance to those in their local area who are waiting for the arrival of an ambulance.

“The teams are highly trained to respond to medical emergencies and are ready and waiting to assist. Their presence is expected by the local community and the teams have a very good relationship with local ambulance crews.

The problem is that the teams are not receiving calls from the Scottish Ambulance Service to attend incidents. I wrote to Pauline Howie, Chief Executive of Scottish Ambulance Service for an explanation as to why this situation has arisen.”

In response, Ms Howie said that the Scottish Ambulance Service recognises the dedication, motivation and value of First Responders as an asset to communities and that they wanted to work with schemes to maximise their contribution to the services provided.

A new Community First Responder model is being developed for the future which potentially includes an increased scope of practice.


Pressure maintained on RBS as Economic Secretary to HM Treasury visits Isle of Barra

Commenting following the visit of the Economic Secretary to HM Treasury, John Glen MP, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil said:

“I was very glad that John Glen MP took the time to come and visit the Hebrides today in his role as Economic Secretary to the Treasury, particularly in regard to the Royal Bank of Scotland branch in Castlebay.

“Mr Glen will have left with a very strong impression that the case to keep the RBS branch in Castlebay open is overwhelming.  It was pointed out to Mr Glen and he could see that it was faster for people to reach branches in Glasgow than it would be to reach other branches in the islands, given the length of time ferries take versus the length of time an aircraft can take.

“Mr Glen heard from a variety of local businesses, visited Castlebay Post Office and spoke to Postmaster Chris Dillerstone who pointed out the various difficulties Post Offices would have in trying to slot into the crucial role the RBS branch currently has in the economic life of the Island.

“Mr Glen will also have left with the clear impression that whatever savings one hand of the RBS is doing, the other hand of the RBS must be losing.  Over and above all this, he heard disappointment from the community about the customer service from the RBS, given the amount of business the community both on the island and from people who have moved off the island must be giving to the RBS over the decades.

“Finally, I would like to thank John Glen MP for coming, his visit was appreciated, he showed his interest and he was genuine in his concern and questioning for what is going on in Castlebay and for that, we are of course thankful.


John Glen visit to Barra 28 Aug 18Notes –

Photograph attached.  From left to right: Angus MacNeil MP, John Glen MP, Economic Secretary to HM Treasury and Castlebay Postmaster, Chris Dillerstone.


MP welcomes submission of Needs Case for interconnector

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed confirmation that Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has today submitted the Needs Case to Ofgem for the Western Isles transmission link.


The link is vital to allow new renewable projects to progress in the islands.


Mr MacNeil said: “I am very pleased that the Needs Case has now been submitted for the transmission link and I am particularly pleased that the proposal is for a 600MW link allowing for maximum benefit for island communities.


“The construction of the link is still dependent on the success of island projects in the CfD auction and regulatory approval, however this is a very welcome significant step.”

MP says ferry power outage makes case for ETV once again

The need for an Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV) was highlighted again today (Wednesday) when the largest ferry in the CalMac network lost power in the Minch, said Isles MP Angus MacNeil.

Mr MacNeil is calling on the UK Government to once again look at the situation which has left the West Coast without an ETV based in Stornoway and is serviced by a vessel which also covers the Northern Isles.

He said: “It is lucky that the ETV, the only boat that could have assisted the MV Loch Seaforth in the worst case scenario, was also on the West Coast relatively nearby.

“However this shows that for now we need to have an ETV based in Stornoway in case of a similar incident in future.

“We do not know at this stage what went wrong with MV Loch Seaforth but the point is that the Tug is for unforeseen circumstances.

“The one thing we know is that the unforeseen will happen and we need the insurance policy of a West Coast tug. The UK Department of Transport are dodging their responsibilities here and crossing their fingers which is not good enough.”

Mr MacNeil has also contacted CalMac for an update on the status of MV Loch Seaforth following the incident.

He has made the case for an ETV time and time again and in 2016 presented a petition launched by local SNP councillors Rae Mackenzie and Gordon Murray to Downing Street.

The ETV in Stornoway was removed in 2011 as a cost cutting exercise by the UK Government.

_2024084_15105764_9669, 9669


MP calls on MoD to acknowledge Veterans’ service

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil is supporting the campaign for a squadron of Scots Army Reservists – who were the first Territorial Army unit to see action after World War 2 – to receive General Service Medals from the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Al Milah 1

The Veterans of 300 Parachute Field Squadron Royal Engineers, 131 Parachute Engineer Regiment TA – who include Mr MacNeil’s constituent Eoghainn Maclachlainn of South Uist – were on a mission in Yemen (formerly known as South Arabia) in April 1965 to carry out various tasks on the Dhala Road, at Al Milah. On 12 April 1965, they were attacked by enemy fire.


The ensuing battle led to the loss of two lives including the Squadron’s Sergeant Major John F Lonergan and five others including Mr Maclachlainn, were seriously wounded.

Mr Maclachlainn suffered a bullet to his face during the battle.


Mr MacNeil has written to the MoD on several occasions regarding General Service Medals for the Squadron but the request has been repeatedly refused because the Squadron had not served 30 days in a war zone.


The latest response from the MoD regarding Mr Maclachlainn said he was not eligible for a service campaign medal because he was in the country for ‘training’ purposes and not for ‘operational duties’.


Mr MacNeil said: “I have been writing to the Ministry of Defence about this injustice for more than 2 years.


“The brave men who served in the 300 Parachute Field Squadron deserve recognition for their service. The battle which took place was not part of a training exercise but was active service.

“They are not looking for special awards, just the recognition all other soldiers get.


“I have written to the MoD once again to ask for this to be reconsidered.”


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


“During the 4 years I have been campaigning for the GSM62 with Clasp South Arabia I have had a number of excuses from the MoD for not awarding the GSM, including a quote that Sir Winston Churchill made in Parliament in 1944 that if all have them it would devalue the medal. According to letters received from Lord Howe we did not receive the medal because we did not serve 30 days in theatre.

“The word training has never been used in any correspondence with the MOD.


“On 16 September 2016 the MOD told me that the dead and wounded were entitled to the medal as set out in Special Army Orders of 25 July 1966.  In a letter dated 24 January 2017, Major General Robert M. B. Nitsch CBE informed me that the men of 300 Para Sqn RE who were killed and wounded had already received the medal and gave the following reasons: ‘It has always been the policy for campaign awards that qualifying service may be reduced for those who are killed or have their service in theatre terminated prematurely by wounding or other related injury, or having been captured or detained. It was for that reason that WO2 Lonergan and those who were injured received the GSM62 even though they had not completed the full qualifying period.’


“They never received the medal.”

Al Milah 2

MP urges community to make voice heard on future of island banking services  

RBS Castlebay

Isles MP Angus MacNeil has given his input to the Review which will determine the future of banking services on Barra and is urging local communities to also make their voices heard.

Johnston Carmichael has been appointed to carry out an independent review of the branch and will make a recommendation to RBS on whether the bank should remain open or not.

Mr MacNeil said input from the local community was crucial at this time to keep banking services on Barra.

Speaking after his own interview with the firm, he said: “I was very heartened after my phone call with Johnston Carmichael. They have the power, frankly, to keep the bank open, and this makes it important that everybody who has a case to keep it open makes sure that case is heard by Johnston Carmichael.

“They will be visiting Barra on Monday August 6th and I would encourage people to get in touch with them to make an appointment or to submit feedback by email or letter.

“The case to keep the Barra branch open is very strong indeed and we also need to resume normal hours at Lochsboisdale, but we need to spell it out for Johnston Carmichael. They have the power to keep the branch open or not and RBS say they will be bound by their decision.

“I would encourage everyone who has an interest, whether large or small – from the point of view of annual crofters cheques from lamb sales; to daily businesses; or any charities, please get involved.

“Your voice is very important at this stage to keep banking services on Barra.”

The review team will be at the RBS branch in Castlebay on Monday August 6th. To book an appointment please phone 01224 259 353.

To give your views to Johnston Carmichael, you can email; fill in an online questionnaire at; or by writing to: The RBS Review Team, Johnston Carmichael LLP, 29 Albyn Place, Aberdeen, AB10 1YL.

The deadline for submission of views is 5pm on Tuesday August 14th.