News - Naidheachdan

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has outlined concerns on proposals from Highlands and Islands Airport Ltd (HIAL) to discuss their plans to move to a system of Remote Air Traffic Control Towers.

In a recent letter to HIAL’s Managing Director, Alasdair Allan has questioned HIAL over the justifications for this proposal, and raised concerns about the economic impact this could have in Benbecula and Stornoway.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“When I met with HIAL’s Managing Director and Chair about this proposal earlier this month, I was keen to stress that there are concerns about the potential for the islands to lose high-quality well-paid jobs. My Westminster colleague Angus MacNeil MP and I have met with members of the workforces who are concerned not only about future employment, but also about how feasible or desirable such a system would be in the long run. HIAL have cited recruitment challenges as one of the motivations for this proposal, but this is an issue the industry as a whole faces and it is hard to accept this is something unique to the islands.

“It is also troubling that Benbecula is earmarked as the first airport to transition to remote operation. It would appear to be one of the airports with the best level of staff retention, minimal maintenance costs and it has the additional complication of significant military activity at both the airport and in the surrounding area.

“While I welcome the fact HIAL have agreed to undertake a social impact assessment, there are still a great number of question marks around this proposal, and I hope that they will engage further with key stakeholders and the affected communities on these points.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the passing of the Scottish Government’s budget in Holyrood today.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“I’m delighted that the Scottish Government’s Budget has now passed in Parliament. This is a budget which not only stimulates our economy, but works to progress a fairer society in Scotland, with increased funding for the NHS and protection for low and middle income earners. This budget is an investment in our islands.

“The Scottish Government’s budget will deliver lower income tax for 70% of Scots - with every worker earning less than £33,000 paying less in tax next year – while protecting our public services with a modest increase for higher earners.

“This budget brings an additional £400 million to NHS Scotland, delivers a pay rise for public sector workers, £756 million for affordable homes, a £4 billion investment in infrastructure, including in superfast broadband, as well as significant investments in research, education and childcare.

“In the face of massive Westminster cuts, ongoing Tory austerity and a damaging hard Brexit – this budget provides investment to seize the opportunities of tomorrow.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has written to the Chief Executives of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles, urging them to respect the “overwhelming and seemingly unanimous view” of people in Uist that plans for a single dental hub should be abandoned.

The redesign of Dental services was discussed at last week’s [Thursday’s] meeting of the Western Isles Integrated Joint Board. Board members were evenly split on an amendment put forward by Cllr Paul Steele not to proceed with the hub model and to instead explore the development of a three site model. It is now for the Chief Executives of the Comhairle and NHS Western Isles to come to a joint decision on that amendment.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“Since these proposals were first put forward I have made numerous representations on behalf of the communities in Uist.

“The unanimity of representations received by my office against this proposal has been unprecedented. The overwhelming and seemingly unanimous view of my constituents is that the single hub model would be a backwards step in terms of the delivery of dental care in the Uists. The public meetings held on this issue made that abundantly clear.

“I am concerned that further attempts to impose this solution on the communities in Uist could severely damage the reputation and credibility of the Western Isles Integrated Joint Board. I have therefore written to both Chief Executives urging them to listen to the communities and abandon the single dental hub model.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has warmly welcomed the news that the Castlebay branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland in the Isle of Barra is to stay open until at least the end of 2018.

The branch was originally one of 62 across Scotland that was due to close in the summer. However, RBS have today committed to keeping 10 branches open until at least the end of 2018 and will reconsider the closure of each branch as part of a full independent review.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“RBS got it badly wrong when they moved to close their branch in Barra.  The local response has been, rightly, furious, as this closure would have left people in Barra with their nearest bank some 27 miles away, across the Sound of Barra on the Isle of South Uist.

“RBS have had to go back in their tracks, first by accepting the need for an ATM on the island, and now by guaranteeing the branch will stay open at least until the end of the year. This latest move does not take away the question mark about the long-term future of the branch, and I will continue to engage with RBS to make sure it has one.

“This has been a successful campaign by the community and its SNP elected representatives to keep the branch open. Today’s U-turn by RBS is an indication of the pressure that has been put on the bank, following their ill-thought out move. We must continue to work to ensure it stays open.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has expressed his disappointment at Flybe and Eastern Airways’ decision to end their Stornoway to Glasgow service.

Flybe and Eastern Airways have announced that, effective from 4th March 2018, they will be ceasing their flights between Stornoway and Glasgow, due to lower than expected demand. The flights were introduced in September 2017.

The flight operators have also announced an additional 12 flights per week between Stornoway and Aberdeen.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“Earlier this morning I spoke to Flybe’s Chief Commercial Officer about this decision.

“It is disappointing that competition on the Stornoway to Glasgow route did not become a long-term fixture. However, this was not unexpected news, as both companies seemed to be focused on pushing each other off this route, rather than on providing islanders with a wider choice of times of the day to fly at. This has caused more than a few issues in terms of timetabling and airport arrangements. I very much hope that Flybe’s competitor, Loganair, will now ensure there is the capacity that their island customers need, and stay away from the option of increasing fares. I will be writing to Loganair to seek assurances on this very point.

“The news about Flybe’s services between Stornoway and Aberedeen appears to be more welcome, and I have asked the company to check that the revised timetable works better for islanders working offshore in the oil industry than the old one did, as this has long been a major problem in the past.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the unveiling of revised budget proposals by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay which will see Comhairle nan Eilean Siar receive an extra £1.2 million.

The budget boost comes as the Scottish Government confirmed that local government will receive an above inflation increase in resource funding.

Alasdair Allan said that the SNP budget would give Scots the best deal in the UK, with investment in public services and a tax cut for lower earners. Under the progressive tax reforms those earning up to £33,000 will pay less than last year, while higher earners will face a modest increase.

These tax changes will allow the Scottish Government to increase health spending by £400 million to £13.6 billion, lift the public sector pay cap and provide a package of investment in the economy.

Speaking after the budget was passed at its first Parliamentary vote, Alasdair Allan commented:

“The draft budget shows that, where Scotland has the power, the SNP will take a different, fairer approach – and give Scots the best deal in the UK.

“Thanks to the decisions made by the Scottish Government, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will see an above-inflation rise in their revenue funding – with an extra £1.2 million to spend on local services.

“That’s a good deal for taxpayers and for public services across the islands and will go towards extra funding for the NHS, an expansion in childcare, £600 million for the continued rollout of superfast broadband across the country and a pay rise for hard-working public sector employees. This is only possible because of the SNP’s progressive tax reforms which are backed by a majority of the Scottish public.

“In the face of massive Westminster cuts, the Scottish Government is using its powers progressively to invest in our schools, hospitals and across our communities.” 

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