£10 MILLION PACKAGE TO SEAFOOD PROCESSORS DURING CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the Scottish Government’s decision to establish a further scheme worth £10 million to support seafood processing businesses during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The sudden closure of international markets for seafood such as langoustine, prawns, crabs and lobsters threatens the future of seafood processing plants, which are key employers in the Western Isles.
The Scottish Seafood Business Resilience Fund provides a combination of grants and loans to businesses and follows the announcement last week of a support package of £5 million to support the sector. Grants up to £105,000 will be available to businesses who meet the Government criteria and detail will be published in the coming days.
Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:
“This support is crucial to ensuring that seafood processing businesses remain solvent through this crisis.
“I have been in continual contact with factories in the Western Isles who describe the extreme difficulties they are facing due to the almost complete loss in sales. The fishing sector is a mainstay of the islands economy and processing plants are a key link in the supply chain.
“This fund will address acute problems with cashflow and ensure that businesses have the capital to keep people on the payroll. I would also urge Western Isles residents to consider purchasing local seafood to create alternative markets and bring an amount of cash through the tills.”
FISHING INDUSTRY FACING CRISIS AS SALES COLLAPSE
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has raised the case for financial assistance to be extended to vessels over 12m and seafood processing plants with Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing MSP.
The islands MSP has contacted seafood processing plants in the Western Isles to better understand the immediate crisis which the industry is facing following the collapse of UK and European markets in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis. Businesses have reported that vessels may have to stop landing by the end of next week. In light of the acute cash-flow challenges created by a drop in sales of upwards of 80%, the industry risks large-scale redundancies if government support is not forthcoming.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“It is critical that the range of support for the fishing industry covers everyone affected.
“I have been in close contact with seafood plants and the Western Isles Fisherman’s Association who have made it abundantly clear that without intervention, there will not be an industry within weeks. The support package offered to vessels under 12 metres should in my view be extended to vessels over 12 metres, such as scallop trawlers, and similar financial support be offered to seafood processing plants.
“Direct support to vessels should directly reflect the number of crew each vessel employs and there must be an assurance that any support given is passed on to crew members fairly.”
GOVERNMENT ISSUES UPDATED ADVICE TO PUBLIC
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has commented on today’s updated official advice on Coronavirus, and reacted to today’s announcement by Loganair that there will be a reduction in scheduled flights from the islands. The news comes as CalMac has also confirmed they have developed contingency plans to deal with any disruption caused by the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
As of 2pm today, there have been 60 confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) across Scotland.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“While we have not yet had any confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the Western Isles, we do need to prepare ourselves for that eventuality. It is clear that, for a period of time, people may need to change the way that they normally live their lives.
“The outbreak has the potential to cause significant disruption for islanders in particular because of any possible impact on ferries and planes. It is clear that a great deal of contingency planning is being done by all agencies around these questions and I continue to discuss with ministers the importance of having contingency plans in place which enable the continuity of supplies to the islands. This is something I have also discussed with the companies concerned.
“This is a very serious issue and it is important that, in times like these, we all follow the advice of health care professionals. It is important to note that the advice has been today updated to include such matters as advice about school trips abroad, mass gatherings of people, and also what steps people should take if they have symptoms.
“The Scottish Government is providing regular updates at www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19. Public health advice from the NHS can be found at: www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus. People who do not have symptoms but are looking for general advice can phone the free helpline 0800 028 2816.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed an increase of £4.3 million to NHS Western Isles following passage of the Scottish Government’s budget for 2020/21 through the Scottish Parliament last week.
The amended budget delivers on key issues raised by all parties in the Scottish Parliament, and will also see the SNP Government take the radical step of introducing free bus travel for those aged 18 and under - benefitting nearly 4,000 young people in the Western Isles.
The agreement builds on key Scottish Government commitments to invest £15bn in health and care services, with NHS Western Isles’ budget rising from £75.7 million in 2019/20 to £80 million for 2020/21 – an increase of 5.7%.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“In the face of massive Westminster cuts, the SNP has always taken a different, fairer approach to give people living in Scotland the best deal in the UK.
“I’m proud to have voted for a progressive budget which protects our cherished health service, supports our schools and allows us to play our part in tackling the climate emergency.
“I know from my conversations on the doorsteps that our the NHS is people’s number one priority, so I am delighted to see this significant funding increase for health services in the islands.
“Despite being set a backdrop of heightened uncertainty and risk, created by the UK government’s decision to delay their own budget – the SNP government’s budget delivers certainty and stability for our economy, industry and businesses in the Western Isles.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed news that island crofters have begun to receive convergence payments.
Across Scotland, more than 17,400 individual farmers and crofters have now received their individual allocation of the initial £86.2 million of convergence funding.
These initial convergence payments are the first tranche of a £160 million-pound package the UK government has agreed to pay to rectify a ‘historic wrong’ relating to EU Common Agricultural funding that it failed to pass on to Scotland between 2014-2018.
Further payment will be made in the coming weeks to ensure every eligible farmer and crofter, including new claimants in 2019, receives a payment by the end of March.
Alasdair Allan MSP said:
“The Scottish Government should be credited for ensuring that this initial funding goes toward those crofts and farms which currently receive the lowest level of support.
“Since the Scottish Government successfully persuaded the UK Government of the need to repatriate this funding, I have worked to make sure that the money goes toward those it was originally intended to help.
“Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has confirmed that the Scottish Government’s approach will ensure that this vital funding gets to where it needs to be. I believe this is in keeping with the original spirit and premise of convergence.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan is urging island residents to follow the advice of health professionals following the first case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) found in Scotland (in the Tayside area over the weekend).
Scottish officials have conducted over 700 screenings for the virus since the year began. The NHS is also contacting people who have spent 15 minutes or more within two meters of someone infected.
Currently, the exact way in which the Coronavirus spreads has not been determined, but similar viruses have been transmitted through the inhalation of sneezes and coughing.
A helpline has been set up for people who do not have symptoms but are looking for general information at 0800 028 2816. Those who think they may have the virus or have recently travelled to an affected area are encouraged to contact their GP or call NHS 24 on 111.
The islands MSP has also written to the Scottish Government to ask for information on the resilience plans for island communities in the event of a viral outbreak.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“It is critical not to panic, but rather to follow the advice and guidance of health officials.
“Although only one case of the virus has been detected thus far, it is likely that more people in Scotland will test positive. However, people can take several basic hygiene measures—such as washing hands frequently—to significantly reduce the chances of getting the illness.
“I would like to thank and commend our health professionals for their tireless efforts to reduce the spread of Coronavirus spread in the country. I would also recommend that people visit nhsinform.scot for updates and more information from the NHS.”
Current advice from NHS Scotland on reducing the risk of infection is:
• Avoid direct hand contact with eyes, mouth or nose.
• Maintain good hand hygiene, washing with soap and water or hand sanitiser: after coughing/sneezing; using the toilet; or before eating/drinking.
• Avoid direct contact with people who have a respiratory illness and avoid using their personal items, such as a mobile phone.
• Covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with a disposable tissue and disposing of it in the nearest waste bin after use.