News - Naidheachdan

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan called today for an end to the unfair parcel delivery charges facing many online shoppers in the Western Isles, intervening in a debate in the Scottish Parliament about this issue.

New research from Citizens Advice Scotland has shown that online shoppers in the islands of Scotland can be expected to pay a ‘postcode penalty’ of around 50% more than the rest of the UK, purely because of where they live.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“In the years that I have been MSP for the Western Isles I have repeatedly raised cases of unfair and discriminatory surcharges from online retailers. Recent examples include someone being quoted a £61 additional charge to transport a roof rack to Harris, £34 to deliver a pair of boxers to Lewis and £10 to deliver a small battery, while it was free postage for any other part of the UK.

“Many surcharges seem completely arbitrary and OFCOM research has shown there’s very little explanation for how retailers calculate surcharges. Some even make extra charges for “anyone north of Glasgow”, despite the fact that most smaller items cost the same to post to Berneray as they do to Birmingham.

“I am glad that Richard Lochhead MSP has brought this issue to the Scottish Parliament so that we can highlight the problem and stop retailers getting away with charging wildly different delivery fees simply because they can.

“Hopefully the campaign will force retailers to stop this discrimination and adopt set standards for deliveries to each and every corner of the UK.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP is encouraging people in the Western Isles to shop locally tomorrow and support the local economy this Small Business Saturday (2nd December).

Small Business Saturday boosted takings for small shops by £717m last year in Scotland, and with research showing that money spent locally is more likely to stay in the local economy, a key aim of this campaign is to encourage lasting, year-round support for small businesses.

There are 1,175 small businesses in the Western Isles, employing 5,410 workers.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and account for more than two thirds of people in the Western Isles employed by businesses. They account for 99% of businesses across the country, supporting jobs and growth in our communities as well as providing an invaluable service to consumers.

“Since 2009, the SNP Government’s Small Business Bonus Scheme has provided a total of £1.5bn rates relief and last year a £500m growth fund was set up to cope with the new challenges posed by a Tory hard Brexit.

“Small Business Saturday is an excellent initiative and I am delighted to show my support for it. Each small business offers something unique and special, and it’s important that we support them in a market that’s increasingly dominated by the big players.

“I would encourage all constituents to consider visiting small local businesses tomorrow in support of Small Business Saturday.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the decision by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to retain their branch’s ATM on the Isle of Barra, but re-iterated his calls for the bank to reconsider the decision to close the branch.

RBS informed the MSP earlier this afternoon that they were “committed to ensuring that there is 24 hour access to cash on Barra” and that they “will therefore be retaining the ATM when the branch closes.”

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“This is a step in the right direction and I am thankful to RBS for taking onboard my concerns about the devastating impact that leaving Barra without an ATM would have.”

“However, they are still pressing ahead with plans to close the only bank on the island. This is very disappointing news for both customers and particularly for staff who will now be worried about their future so close to Christmas.

“Many people are still dependent on face-to-face services and I cannot emphasis enough the serious difficulties this is going to cause people in Barra & Vatersay.”

“I again call on RBS to reconsider their decision to close this branch.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan and local SNP Councillor Donald Manford have hit out at the decision by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to close their branch in Castlebay, Isle of Barra.

The bank announced this morning that the branch would close on 14 June 2018. The RBS branch is Barra’s only bank and it hosts the only ATM on the island.

The local MSP has written to RBS to ask that they reconsider their decision.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“This decision is going to cause real problems for people in Barra, particularly the elderly and the more vulnerable.

“It is bad enough that people in Barra and Vatersay will be unable to have face-to-face contact with their bank, other than by possible occasional visits by a mobile van, but RBS also seem to be saying they will be withdrawing their cash machine, the only one on the island.

“It shows the depth of RBS’s lack of understanding of island circumstances that their email announcing the branch closure stated there are still ‘a number of free to use cash machines in your area’, before listing cash machines some 27 miles away in South Uist, which people in Barra would have to take a ferry to use.

“People have come to expect that it’s possible in the modern world to get cash after 5pm, so this move represents a significant diminution in the services available to the public in Barra.

“RBS is 73% owned by the UK taxpayer, yet they seem to have taken no account of the public or common good in reaching this decision. I have urged the Bank to take stock of the devastating impact this could have and commit to keeping the branch open.”

Barraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eiriosgaigh agus Uibhist a Deas Councillor Donald Manford commented:

“This shocking announcement will have considerable implications for the financial provision of the island.

“There has been no indication that this was under consideration and it is completely unacceptable that a bank largely owned by the UK taxpayer can behave in such a manner.

“I call on the Royal Bank of Scotland engage immediately with their island customers and businesses to find a way to ensure that the island isn’t deprived of essential financial services.”

 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has said the case for the Uist Dental Hub proposals is “unravelling” in his submission to the Western Isles Integrated Joint Board’s consultation on Dental Services in Uist.

The IJB has decided that its preferred model for the delivery of dental care in Uist is to have a single service operating from Uist and Barra Hospital. That would involve the closure of the dental clinics in Lochmaddy and Liniclate, with the clinic in Lochboisdale already having been closed earlier this year. 

The proposal has been met with strong local opposition since its inception and the local MSP has continued to raise this matter on behalf of people in Uist. The IJB launched a consultation on Uist Dental Services at the beginning of October and held a series of public meetings in Uist last week. The consultation will run until 8 December. 

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“The unanimity of representations I have received against this proposal has been unprecedented. It is pretty clear that people in Uist simply do not want to move to the model of a single hub operating out of the hospital. 

“Last week’s public meetings were very well attended which I think helped show the depth of feeling against these changes. Attendees asked some very probing questions about the financial and operational cases presented, and exposed a range of shortcomings with the proposal in its current form. 

“It is clear that progressing with the single hub model would, in the view of most people in Uist, be a retrograde step for the delivery of dental care in the Uists and it is hard to conceive of a justification for the IJB to press on with this option in the face of such opposition. I hope they will now seriously reconsider these plans.”

The community of Barra is delighted to confirm that the Barra flag has been granted official recognition from the Lyon Court.

The distinctive green and white Scandinavian-style flag has been widely used by the community for decades – flying across the island and appearing on local produce. However, until now, it has had no legal recognition.

A community meeting was held in Barra by Alasdair Allan MSP and Philip Tibbetts, Communities Vexillologist of the Flag Institute, last December to explore the possibility of a petition being submitted to the Lyon Court.

This initiative was championed locally by Dolina Manford, Chair of Northbay Community Council, with the support of the island’s other Community Council. Funding was kindly provided by local community charity Barra and Vatersay Voluntary Action.

The Court of the Lord Lyon, the legal authority on heraldry in Scotland, has the power to authorise community flags and ensure that only one community can use any one design.

An official unveiling will be held in summer.

Northbay Community Councillor Dolina Manford commented:

“I am very happy to see that the Barra flag has now received official recognition from the Lord Lyon.

“It has been a long process but now the green and white Nordic cross that has been used in Barra for a number of years is officially registered at the Lord Lyon.”

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

"I am delighted that Barra’s flag now has legal recognition and protection.

“When I originally held an exploratory meeting on this subject it was felt that recognition of the flag would help to boost the island’s marketing efforts as well as celebrate its unique identity.

“I would like to thank Dolina for her efforts in driving this forward and I look forward to seeing some of the benefits this will bring.”

Philip Tibbetts of the Flag Institute commented:

"It is wonderful to see the Barra flag achieve official recognition with the Lyon Court, having been used so extensively over the years, joining the likes of Caithness and even the Saltire itself. In this past year Barra has shown the importance that a flag can have for its community - not only as a celebration but also as a symbol to rally around.

“As such it has been both an honour and humbling to have assisted Barra since I was first invited to the island last year. I am sure it will serve as a powerful example to the many other communities thinking of developing their own flag to promote their own identity and the patchwork of national heritage."

Angus MacNeil MP commented:

“I’m very pleased that the Barra Isles flag has been approved, with the Nordic cross showing not just the ancestry of the people but the places names of Barra, and the green representing the green of the Barra Isles. This is a fantastic achievement by all those involved.”

Eoin MacNeil of Voluntary Action Barra and Vatersay commented:

”We were very pleased to able to support the aspirations of our community and community councils.

“The flag also endorses our unique sense of identity, heritage and culture. We look forward to it flying high over the many events taking place in the coming years.”

 

 

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