News - Naidheachdan

TORIES’ “HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT” THREAT TO PROSPERITY OF WESTERN ISLES

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP has backed calls for a devolved migration policy for Scotland, warning that the UK Government’s “hostile environment” for migrants could cause damage to the economy and public services.

A report on Scotland’s Population Needs and Migration Policy warns that all of Scotland’s population growth over the next 25 years is projected to come from migration – with more deaths projected than births in every year.

Analysis by the Scottish Government also found that Westminster proposals to cut migration by tens of thousands would cost the Scottish economy up to £10 billion per year by 2040.

National Records of Scotland population projections show a decrease for the Western Isles of 4.8% by 2026, with the figures being even more stark for the working-age population.

Certain sectors of the economy and public services like the NHS in the Western Isles are reliant on labour from outside the UK. Without migration, these demographic issues would be exacerbated as an ageing population leaves Scotland with fewer working-age taxpayers.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“The islands need migrants and it’s vital that we continue to attract people to live and work here.

“The Western Isles host people from all over the world who have chosen to make this place their home. Whether we are talking about chefs from Nepal, health professionals from Poland or fishing crews from outside the EEA – which my colleague Angus Brendan MacNeil MP has been such a relentless champion on at Westminster. These people make valuable contributions to our economy, public services and communities.

“However, the Tory government’s anti-immigrant obsession and narrow-minded Brexit rhetoric is currently driving people away from Scotland, and putting vital public services in the islands at risk. This is harmful to industries such as the food and drink sector, and damaging public services such as our NHS – and this is all before we have even felt the full impact of Brexit.

“The best solution to all these issues is for the Tories to devolve powers over migration to the Scottish Parliament – and give us the ability to create a migration system that works for Scotland and the islands.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has hailed the establishment of the first independent dental practice in Lewis for over 30 years as the practice is set to officially open this week.

The Castleview Practice, on Cromwell Street, Stornoway, has been established by Dr Sridhar Kalvakuntla and is set to be opened by the Scottish Government Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing Joe FitzPatrick MSP on Thursday [29 August].

The Isle of Lewis has been without an independent dental practice since the closure of Bayhead Dental Practice in 2014. The closure left around 3,500 Lewis residents without a registered dentist.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“The opening of Castleview and the effect this has had in eliminating the dental waiting list for Lewis represents a huge step forward in terms of the island’s oral health.

“In the years since the closure of the Bayhead Dental Practice I was regularly contacted by constituents frustrated at the wait they were having to endure to get registered with a dentist. I am absolutely delighted that, largely thanks to Dr Kalvakuntla’s decision to establish a practice in Stornoway, that is now at an end. NHS Western Isles are also to be congratulated for the help and support they have given to help get Castleview up and running.

“The Western Isles historically had a poor reputation for dental health but I believe this is being turned around. Huge improvements have been made over the course of the last decade. In March 2007 32.5% of children and 42.3% of adults were registered with a dentist; in September 2018 those figures were 84.4% and 75.9% respectively. In that same time period the percentage of P1 island children with no obvious decay has gone from 57.7% to 79.1% - the third best rate in Scotland. We have also had the construction of the £4.7 million Dental Centre in Stornoway.

“I hope as many islanders as possible take advantage of the elimination of the waiting list for registration and ensure they are able to access a local NHS dentist.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed confirmation from the Ministry of Defence that the HMY Iolaire is to receive protected status.

Baroness Goldie, Minister for State at the Ministry of Defence, recently wrote to the MSP advising that the site of HMY Iolaire will be designated as a protected place under The Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 effective as of 2 September 2019.

The islands MSP has been campaigning over the course of the last year for the Ministry of Defence to give the site protected status.

HMY Iolaire sank on 1 January 1919 after striking rocks two miles from Stornoway where families were waiting to welcome home World War I naval personnel. 79 servicemen survived and 201 servicemen died in this tragic incident. Around a third of those known to be lost were never recovered from the sea and the wreck remains their final resting place.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“The story of the Iolaire is one of the saddest ever told in the islands. There was barely a family on the island that didn’t lose a relative in the disaster. This was a subject that was essentially too painful to be talked about in the islands for at least sixty years, and even now it is still very raw in people’s minds.

“I am delighted that the Ministry to Defence has acceded to calls from myself and others in the community to recognise the Iolaire as a military maritime grave. As well as protecting the site, the designation also commemorates the sacrifice of those who served their country in a time of war and lost their lives so tragically close to home.

“Over the course of the last year we have seen a wonderful series of commemorative events to mark the centenary of the disaster. These events have, for many people, brought a very belated sense of peace, and the feeling that something inexpressible has at last been expressed, and with honour. It is fitting that as these events have drawn to a close, the Iolaire will finally receive official recognition as a military maritime grave.”

ALLAN WARNS AGAINST "CALLOUS" THREAT TO PENSIONS IN WESTERN ISLES

REPORT FINDS ELDERLY IN UK SUFFER THE WORST POVERTY RATE IN WESTERN EUROPE

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has warned the Tory government against increasing the state pension age, which would have dire and disproportionate consequences in the islands and across Scotland.

The Tories’ threat comes following a report published by the Centre for Social Justice - chaired by close Boris Johnson ally, Iain Duncan Smith - which concludes that the state pension age should rise to 75 over the next 16 years.

The islands MSP has said that any further increases in the state pension age could have a hugely disproportionate impact on Scotland due to its unique demographic needs. The MSP also called on the UK government to heed warnings raised in a new report that found the proportion of elderly people living in severe poverty in the UK is five times what it was in 1986 - the largest increase among western European countries.

The Western Isles currently has one of the highest proportions of over-65s in Scotland.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“The Tory’s government’s approach to the UK’s elderly population and state pension policy has been cruel and callous.

“From the burning injustices facing the WASPI women who have been denied the right to their state pension, to the stripping away of free TV licences for the over 75s, this government’s attitude towards its older people is shameful.

“Instead of taking on board policies written up by one of the architects of Tory austerity, the new Prime Minister must take action to address the dire levels of pensioner poverty in the UK.

"The Tory government must take a step back and tackle these injustices - rather than ramping up the threats."

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed today’s announcement by the Scottish Government that it has taken the Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow under public ownership.

Today’s agreement will enable completion of the two dual-fuel ferries under construction for CalMac. It will also ensure work continues towards delivery of the other vessels currently under construction and secure a future for the yard through continuity of employment for the workforce.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“I welcome today’s announcement from the Scottish Government that is has stepped in and taken Ferguson Marine under public ownership. This was the only way forward that would have ensured completion of the new ferries and secured jobs at the yard.

“It’s vitally important that these vessels are completed as soon as possible. CalMac’s fleet is in urgent need of new vessels and the delays to the Glen Sannox and Vessel Number 802 have exacerbated the strain on the network.

“I look forward to hearing new estimated completion dates from the incoming management team.”

An award-winning new Water Treatment Works (WTW) in Lochmaddy has been officially opened by Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Dr Alasdair Allan, with Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band.

The WTW is part of a £15 million investment by Scottish Water to provide a single improved water supply for communities across North Uist and Berneray.

The project, which was delivered in partnership with Ross-shire Engineering, recently gained national recognition at the Water Industry Awards 2019 for its use of an innovative construction technique.

The whole plant was built and tested under factory conditions in Muir of Ord before being broken down into 16 modules. These were delivered and re-assembled last year on a site which had been carefully prepared for their arrival by locally-based civil engineering contractor MacInnes Brothers. Lochmaddy is the largest Water Treatment Works that has been built in this way anywhere in the UK to date.

Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band kicked off the celebration of the project’s completion by piping guests from a new intake that has been built on the shore of Loch Fada to the new WTW above Blathaisbhal.

Dr Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“It’s great to mark the completion of this important investment for the future water supply that will serve communities across North Uist and Berneray for years to come.

“The project is a great success story for Scottish Water’s supply chain here in the Highlands and Islands. From MacInnes Brothers’ work on site to Ross-shire Engineering’s factory and the specialised transport firms who helped the water treatment works make its 128 mile journey by road and ferry last summer, each part of the delivery process has been critical to the success of the others.

“With the national recognition that has been achieved, it’s clear that this approach which was developed for North Uist has potential application much more widely across Scotland and beyond.”

Scottish Water Chief Executive Douglas Millican said:

“Scottish Water is committed to providing the same high standard of service to our customers for the same low price, no matter where they live in Scotland.

“Achieving that goal for our customers in the islands involves distinctive challenges – and some of those challenges apply just as much to the delivery of complex capital projects. The whole Lochmaddy project team has more than risen to the challenges and the result is plain to see.

“We have a first class new Water Treatment Works which is regarded as an example by others from across the UK and beyond. The construction of the new works has been undertaken well, and with minimal impact on the local community.”

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