News - Naidheachdan

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has called on the UK government to extend the Brexit transition period in light of the coronavirus pandemic – with new analysis showing billions of pounds could be wiped from the Scottish economy.

The transition arrangements currently keep the UK close to the EU and can be extended for two years – beyond 31 December - if the UK Government asks for an extension by the end of this month.
But a new study from the Scottish Government says if an extension is not agreed, Scottish GDP could be up to 1.1% lower after two years. The cumulative loss of economic activity from leaving the EU would be up to £3 billion over those two years – on top of the devastating effects of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The paper indicates there will be further major costs from Brexit for years to come, and also highlights that without an extension or having a free trade deal in place, Scotland’s agriculture, fisheries and manufacturing sectors will be especially badly hit.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented: 

“Coronavirus is causing enormous economic disruption and people rightly expect government to be putting all of its energy into protecting public health and the Scottish economy. 

“It would be reckless in the extreme for the UK government to allow us to crash out of the transition period at the end of this year.

“The SNP believe the best future for Scotland is as an independent member of the EU. But regardless of your opinion on Brexit or independence, it makes no sense to crash out of the European single market at the same time we are trying to get to grips with coronavirus. 

The islands’ economy was already going to be disproportionately hit by crashing out of the single market. But right now, island businesses are focused on securing their future – they simply don’t have the capacity to prepare for Brexit on top of a pandemic.

“The UK government must do the sensible thing, protect jobs in the islands and extend the transition period.”

SMALL B&BS SET TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT BUSINESS SUPPORT FUND

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the inclusion of small B&Bs into the Scottish Government Business Support Fund.

Small B&Bs, who were ineligible for other support due to not having a business bank account, will be able to apply for a share of £3 million of funding which has been re-purposed from the Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund.

This funding for small B&Bs will be administered by local authorities and applications are expected to open on 15 June.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“This is a very welcome and important expansion of the Scottish Government’s Business Support Fund.

“B&Bs are a major part of the tourism sector in the Western Isles and I have been raising with Scottish Ministers the fact that too many of them have been falling through the cracks.

“While this funding will obviously not replace income lost as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on this year’s tourist season, I hope it does go some way towards helping island B&Bs.”

ELIGIBLE FAMILIES WILL RECEIVE £250 AHEAD OF NEW SCHOOL TERM

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has encouraged parents of children aged four to five to apply for the Scottish Government’s Best Start Grant.

A one-off £250 payment is currently open to eligible families, with a child who was born between 1st March 2015 and 29th February 2016, who will be starting primary school later this year.

The School Age payment can be used for anything from a new pair of school shoes or arts and crafts materials for children.

The payment is part of the Scottish Government’s Best Start Grant, a package of three payments for families in receipt of eligible benefits – including Universal Credit and Housing Benefit – to help at key stages in a child’s life.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“Covering the costs of a child starting school can be tough on family finances, especially in the current climate.

“The Scottish Government’s school age payment offers low income families, or those who receive support like Universal Credit, a £250 payment around the time children start at primary school.

“We’re absolutely determined that every child, regardless of circumstances, gets the best start in life. In these unprecedented and difficult times, I’d encourage families across the Western Isles to check what other financial support they may be eligible for too – such as school clothing grants or free school meals.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has paid tribute to volunteers who have helped the NHS and local communities in the Western Isles as Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June) begins.

Volunteers’ Week is an annual celebration of the contribution and work of millions of volunteers who give up their time to help others.

During this pandemic, volunteers have signed up to help in record numbers through the Scotland Cares initiative – over 53,000 in one month – joining the thousands of people who were already helping, either with one of Scotland’s many voluntary and community sector groups or informally with neighbours.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“Volunteers’ Week gives us a chance to celebrate the contributions of volunteers who have made such a huge difference to life in the Western Isles.

“I have often said before that I think every week is volunteers week in the Western Isles, as we have an exceptional record of volunteering and voluntary work. Many people in the islands have now taken on Covid-19 related volunteering roles to help communities deal with the many consequences of the coronavirus, and it’s more important than ever to show our appreciation for their hard work.

“I want to say massive thank you to all of the volunteers who have helped, and continue to help, the NHS and their local communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Volunteers will be critical in our efforts to support and rebuild our communities, and I am sure I speak for everyone when I say we are all appreciative and grateful to those who are ensuring people get the help and support they need."

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan yesterday [26 May] raised in Holyrood the issue of travel restrictions to and from the Western Isles.

The islands MSP, attending remotely from his home in Lewis, asked how the travel restrictions to the Western Isles fit in with the publication of the Scottish Government’s route map for moving out of lockdown route last week.

Ferry operator CalMac has been operating a reduced essential lifeline timetable since 27 March which is set to continue until 14 June. Travel to the islands has been restricted to essential journeys only since 22 March with only residents or key workers being able to travel.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“The travel restrictions on ferries to and from the Western Isles have played, and continue to play, an important part in containing the spread of the virus in the islands.

“As we chart a route out of lockdown, it is important that any changes to the restrictions are handled with extreme care and done with the broad consent of communities here. I was pleased to receive an assurance that, before any changes are made, there will be engagement with the island authorities to look at these issues and to ensure that any changes are introduced appropriately.

“The need for physical distancing on ferries will reduce capacity on the network to around 18% of normal levels. This will have a serious impact on who is able to travel and means that access to the islands will have to be carefully managed for some time.”

MOUNTING PRESSURE ON TORIES TO STOP DODGING SCRUTINY

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has joined calls for Dominic Cummings to resign - after it emerged that police investigated the Tory Prime Minister's most senior advisor for breaking his own government's lockdown rules.

Over the weekend it emerged that Mr Cummings broke lockdown rules to drive his family 264 miles to his parents’ estate in Durham while his wife, who was in the car, was suffering coronavirus symptoms - with at least 19 Conservative MPs publicly calling on the adviser to face the consequences for his actions.

And in an extraordinary press conference in the Downing Street garden on Monday night, instead of resigning Cummings admitted to a series of further breaches of lockdown. Cummings refused to apologise or even accept that he had fatally undermined the essential public health message that people who have the virus should stay at home.

There is now mounting pressure on the Scottish Tories to condemn the Prime Minister for allowing his top advisor to risk seriously undermining the essential public health message that people who have the virus should stay at home.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“Every day I get calls or emails from people who can’t travel because of the lockdown guidance. There are heart-wrenching stories from those who can’t come to the aid of friends and family, or see loved ones for the last time. Islanders have made enormous emotional and economic sacrifices over the last few months to obey the rules and help save lives.

“The fact that Boris Johnson's most senior adviser was breaking these rules, possibly on multiple occasions, means he should have no place in government. He should have resigned but instead he showed no contrition and refused to say sorry for his behaviour which has left millions of people - who have been sticking to the rules - justifiably furious.

“People must have confidence that the Tory government is following its own rules - not being investigated by the police for breaking them. As Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said: 'There cannot be one rule for bosses and another for everyone else.’

“In Scotland, the clear public health advice has not changed. The Scottish Government will review the current rules on Thursday and hopefully this will lead to a gradual easing of some restrictions, evidence permitting. However, for now, people in the Western Isles should continue to stay at home - it really is helping to save lives.”

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