Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has called on his political opponents across the Highlands and Islands to get behind the Scottish Government’s draft budget proposals that commits an extra £729 million for health and care services.
Last month, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP announced plans to increase spending on NHS frontline boards by £430 million – including a £2.7 million funding boost for NHS Western Isles.
MSPs will vote on draft budget proposals next month, that include an extra £90 million to improve waiting times and a further £8 million to support trauma networks.
Analysis from HM Treasury, shows health spending per head in Scotland is almost 9% higher than in England, amounting to over £1 billion more spending on health services for Scotland compared to England.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“The SNP in government is investing record amounts in the NHS to build a health service fit for the future. These plans would take spending levels to £754 million over and above inflation since 2016/17.
“As a cherished public service for the past seventy years, MSPs must do all we can to ensure our health service is properly funded and fit for the future.
“That’s why I’m calling on Highlands and Islands MSPs to get behind the Finance Secretary’s plans. These will protect the health service, ensuring it remains safe in public hands and not put at risk of privatisation by the Tories. If Highland and Island MSPs want to see investment in the NHS they should not vote against it when the Budget comes before Parliament.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed today’s announcement from the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland that it has begun a review into the electoral arrangements for six councils areas, including Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
This has arisen because of the Islands (Scotland) Act, unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament last year, which allows for electoral wards of one or two councillors to cover populated islands.
The review will lead to recommendations on the number of councillors for each council area and the number and boundaries of wards for the election of those councillors. Consultation with the island councils and the public is planned for spring and summer 2019.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“Since 2007, council wards in Scotland have been represented by either 3 or 4 councillors. In some areas, this has led to wards that cover huge areas and take in a variety of communities. One of the most obvious examples of a need for reviewed boundaries is in Barra, Vatersay, Eriskay and South Uist, which is the only ward in the Western Isles separated by a ferry journey.
“There will be a range of views on how we can ensure that council wards in the Western Isles are more representative of the communities they encompass and I hope as many islanders as possible engage with the consultation.”
FEARS RAISED OVER SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS ON ISLANDS
MSPs from across Scotland have teamed up to highlight their concerns over the impact that ending Freedom of Movement through Brexit may have on the local areas they represent.
The Parliamentarians from Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Dundee City East, Kirkcaldy, and South Scotland are hoping to raise awareness of the unique local impacts that Brexit could have across Scotland: whether that be in cities, towns, islands or rural communities.
Representing the Western Isles, Alasdair Allan MSP has highlighted the impact that ending freedom of movement would have on Scotland’s island populations. The islands MSP said:
“The biggest issue facing communities across the Western Isles is depopulation, with our working age population set to decrease by 17% over the next decade.
“The current system of free movement has allowed people from across the EU to do much needed jobs in the Western Isles. Whether it’s the doctors who work in our NHS, those working in the fishing industry or those who have come here and started businesses; EU nationals are an integral part of our communities and have contributed enormously.
“Ending freedom of movement has dire implications for our population projections. It would damage certain industries of vital importance to the islands while exacerbating labour issues across our health and social care sector.”
MSPs from across Scotland have also expressed their concerns. Dundee City East MSP Shona Robison commented:
“Dundee’s higher education sector attracts significant talent from Europe for work, study and research. Sectors such as nursing and biological science depend heavily on European talent to provide the necessary skills. Ending freedom of movement and making it harder for European citizens to work and study in Scotland could have significant impacts not only on Dundee’s universities and colleges, but also have far-reaching consequences throughout Scotland.”
MSP for Kirkcaldy Constituency, David Torrance, has also highlighted concerns relating to the social care sector in towns with an aging population:
“Kirkcaldy has an aging population and relies heavily on care homes. Over 60% of these are now having problems with recruitment and finding people to work in them. Brexit is having an effect right now, with EU citizens leaving my constituency and the care homes that heavily depend on them. When Brexit comes into effect, recruitment for care homes in my constituency will be extremely difficult.”
MSP for South Scotland, Emma Harper, said:
"Rural communities like Dumfries & Galloway in my South Scotland region rely heavily on doctors, nurses, carers, and agricultural workers from the EU coming to the South West and supporting our communities. Despite being one of the most beautiful parts of the country, it can be challenging to attract workers already living in Scotland away from the attractions of the larger cities in the Central Belt to live and work here. The ending of the Freedom of Movement through the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement will mean less workers from EEA countries choosing to come live and work in the South West, which could lead to businesses downsizing or even closing."
On Wednesday 5th December, the Scottish Parliament overwhelmingly rejected the Brexit deal proposal offered by the UK Government, with concerns expressed about the impact upon constituencies across Scotland. The motion backed on a cross-party basis stated that a better alternative must be found.
Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar has welcomed the First Minister’s confirmation today, that the Scottish Government is supportive of the calls to have the site of the Iolaire wreck to be designated by the MOD as a military maritime grave.
The Isles MSP posed the question to Nicola Sturgeon in the first FMQs since the Parliament returned from the winter recess. The First Minister also confirmed that members of the Scottish Commemorations Panel have already raised the issue with the Ministry of Defence, who have powers over the decision.
Alasdair Allan said:
“I’m pleased that the First Minister today confirmed that the calls to designate the site of Iolaire as a military maritime grave have the Scottish Government’s full backing.
“The Iolaire tragedy is one of the saddest tales ever told in the Islands. So many were never recovered from the wreck – around one third of those who lost their lives. A fitting way to recognise their sacrifice would be to designate the Iolaire as a military maritime grave – protecting the site in their memory, in perpetuity.
“It was very welcome to have the First Minister, alongside Prince Charles present at the commemoratory ceremony on New Year’s Day in Stornoway. The commemorations for the Iolaire have been incredibly moving, and it is clear that the tragedy of New Year’s Day 1919, will never be forgotten.
“The First Minister’s backing for the Iolaire site becoming a military grave is a very positive step, and I hope that the MOD will make the decision, which would be welcomed across the Western Isles, and across Scotland.”
Transcript of FMQs exchange (10/01/2019) below:
HMY Iolaire (Military Maritime Grave)
The communities of Lewis and Harris recently commemorated the centenary of the loss of HMY Iolaire, which on new year’s day in 1919 claimed the lives of 201 servicemen. The First Minister will, from her recent very welcome visit to Lewis, be aware of the deep feelings that the tragedy still invokes. Will the Scottish Government give its support to the communities’ calls for the Ministry of Defence to designate the site as a military maritime grave?
I thank Alasdair Allan for raising the issue. On 1 January, I attended the very moving commemoration of the loss of HMY Iolaire. Clearly, the event is still keenly felt by the local community. The bodies of about one third of those who were lost in the tragedy were never recovered, so I support the call to have the wreck of the Iolaire recognised as a war grave. The Scottish commemorations panel, whose members are appointed by the Scottish Government, has already raised the matter with the Ministry of Defence, with whom the decision rests. The Scottish Government will continue to support the call.
RESEARCH REVEALS WESTERN ISLES CONSUMERS PAY £2.66 MILLION PER ANNUM IN DELIVERY SURCHARGES
Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, has hit out at the unjustifiable delivery surcharges islanders have to face after research has shown consumers in the Western Isles continue to pay over the odds.
The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) has estimated that consumers in the Western Isles faced £2.66 million in delivery surcharges over the course of 2018. This is a near 5% increase from 2017 where SPICe estimated the cost of delivery surcharges as £2.54 million.
The power to regulate parcel delivery surcharging is reserved to the UK Government. However, the Scottish Government has launched an action plan on tackling unfair delivery charges which includes steps such as developing a fair delivery charges map where consumers will be able to compare and track delivery costs and providing a crowdsourcing website where customer experiences of unfair deliveries can be shared.
Commenting, Alasdair Allan said:
“Islanders rely on being able to purchase items online that we cannot easily pick up locally. However, the Western Isles continues to be one of the worst places affected by retailers setting arbitrary and unjustifiable delivery surcharges. Island consumers are now paying more an astonishing £2.66 million in delivery charges.
“More has to be done to stop islanders being ripped off. While the Scottish Government’s recent action plan was a welcome step forward in the campaign against unfair delivery charges, ultimately the powers in this area are reserved to the UK Government and they must step up.
LOCAL MSP CALLS ON CONSERVATIVES NOT TO BREAK MANIFESTO PLEDGE
Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar has called on the UK Government to abandon its plans to abolish free TV licences for over 75s. The Islands MSP called for the Conservatives to keep to their manifesto pledge, and fund the BBC to make sure that this benefit remains feasible.
The BBC have launched a consultation on this matter, which will run until February 2019.
There are over 447,900 individuals in Scotland over the age of 75. Over 3000 live in the Western Isles – each saving £150.50 a year under the present system.
Alasdair Allan said:
“After years of Tory austerity, and the deep financial uncertainty that Brexit is causing, the last thing that our elderly population need is to have an extra £150.50 added to their household bills.
“With the BBC consulting on the Over 75s free TV Licence, considering whether it should be watered down, or scrapped all together, the benefits that this policy brings to older people must be taken into consideration.
“On page 68 of Theresa May’s 2017 manifesto, there is a clear commitment to maintain the free TV licences for our elderly population. The Conservative Government must ensure that this pledge is not broken, and provide adequate funding to the BBC to allow this to continue.
“Our older generation must always be treated with dignity and respect. Over 3000 of my constituents are over the age of 75, and thus eligible for this benefit. Having access to television can provide an important window to the world, for those who suffer from loneliness, and live a long way away from their families.
“The UK Government need to explain why they are breaking their promises on this, and move now to ensure that our elderly population do not suffer from this ill-thought out proposal.”
Link to BBC Consultation https://www.bbc.com/yoursay
Link to Conservative and Unionist Party 2017 Manifesto: https://www.conservatives.com/manifesto p.68. The pledge reads:
“We will maintain all other pensioner benefits, including free bus passes, eye tests, prescriptions and TV Licences, for the duration of this parliament.”