News - Naidheachdan

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan on Friday 9 November chaired a Ferries Summit in Benbecula. The islands MSP organised the summit to discuss the significant disruption and timetable changes ferry services for Uist have experienced over the course of the last year.

The Scottish Government Minister with portfolio responsibility for ferries and islands, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, and the Managing Directors of Calmac and CMAL were in attendance along with agencies such as HITRANs, HIE and Transport Scotland, community and business representatives, and local councillors.

The summit discussed issues such as vessel deployment, booking systems, economic growth in Uist and the impact of disruption on local businesses, transport connectivity, tourism’s role in the local economy and updates on current and future investment in services and infrastructure.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“This was a very useful and productive meeting. By getting all the key players in the same room we were able to have a comprehensive look at Uist’s ferry services. I would like to thank all those who took the time to attend, especially the Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP, and Uist Councillors for their help in organising the summit.

“There was an assurance that the Government would investigate any potential vessels for leasing that were viable and fulfilled the objective of providing resilience across the network. The Minister agreed, amongst other things, to see what could be done to improve Calmac’s booking system, with Calmac also to review how passengers are kept up to date in the event of cancelled or delayed sailings.

“With the financial constraints the Scottish Government faces as a result of a budget cut of nearly £2 billion since 2010 by the UK Government, it is important that we make the best possible case that we can for further funding and investment in ferries services. I think the summit has certainly strengthened that case.”

ISLANDS MSP LODGES MOTION CELEBRATING THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF VOLUNTARY ORGANISATION

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan recently lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating voluntary organisation Befriending Lewis on celebrating its 3rd anniversary.

Befriending Lewis was launched by Volunteering Hebrides in November 2015 with the aim of tackling isolation and loneliness in the lives of people living in Lewis.

Befriending services offer supportive, reliable relationships through volunteer befrienders to people who would otherwise be socially isolated.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“Befriending Lewis is a fantastic organisation which has a very real and meaningful impact in our community.

“The island comes with its own set of challenges when it comes to tackling loneliness and there has historically been a lack of willingness to talk about such issues. That is why it is very encouraging to see Befriending Lewis celebrate its third year.

“I was really pleased to be able to table this motion and I hope the organisation goes from strength to strength in the years to come.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan today spoke in a Scottish Parliament debate on Scotland’s ferry services, highlighting local concerns about capacity.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“Today’s debate was a useful opportunity to highlight the importance of ferry services to every aspect of island life and economy, and outline some of the issues that have caused concern to my constituents.

“Ferries in the Western Isles now have to cope with an astonishing 184,000 additional passengers a year, compared to a decade ago. Many routes now operate at capacity for half the year round. While this growth in traffic has undoubtedly been a good thing for the island economy, it’s appropriate for us to ask ourselves how the people of Paisley or Motherwell might react if they were told they had to book a fortnight in advance every time they wanted to get a bus to Glasgow.

“The Scottish Government has shown its commitment in funding ferry services far beyond what previous Governments have provided. But clearly we need to do something soon to address real problems with capacity. Now it is the time for all agencies to work together to reassure island communities about what shape this most vital of services will take in the future.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan joined Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd MSP on a visit to Pairc Playgroup in South Lochs, Isle of Lewis.

Pairc Playgroup have been successfully operating an extended hours project in partnership with HIE and Muaitheabhal Trust offering wrap around childcare. The Playgroup have also been awarded an ‘Excellent’ grading by the Care Inspectorate for their care of the children and awarded a ‘Green Flag’ from Keep Scotland Beautiful for their Eco work with children.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“Thanks to the staff at Pairc Playgroup for facilitating this visit and to the children for letting us interrupt their play time!

“It was really useful to hear about the impact extending childcare hours in South Lochs has had, and learning about how this has enabled parents to go either to work or into further education as well as creating employment in the area.

“It really underlines the transformative potential of the Scottish Government’s pledge to double the number of hours of free early years education and childcare to 30 hours a week for vulnerable 2 year olds and all 3 and 4 year olds by 2021.”

Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar raised Eastern Airways decision to withdraw their service between Stornoway and Aberdeen with Nicola Sturgeon, at First Minister’s Questions today. The service ends tomorrow, and islanders were only notified three weeks ago, without consultation.

This decision is very much at odds with previous statements from the company, which have historically outlined a commitment to this service, and to island connectivity. The company also announced an expansion to this particular service, with increased flights just 7 months ago, back in March. In light of this, the announcement has come as a significant surprise.

Commenting, Dr Allan said:

“Given Eastern Airways’ very disappointing decision to end this service, at such short notice, I felt compelled to raise this very important issue with the First Minister.

“I am pleased that the First Minister offered her assurances that her government is committed to ensuring connectivity between Scotland’s islands and the mainland, and has now asked the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure, and Connectivity to engage with the airline.

“Eastern Airways’ decision to withdraw this service was done without consultation, and with totally inadequate notice. Residents in our islands who work in the oil and gas sector will be disadvantaged by this decision, and it has come as a major shock, given the previous statements by the company asserting a commitment to this route, and serving our islands.”

 

FOR INFO

FMQs Official Report Extract below

  • Dr Alasdair Allan (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): 
  • The First Minister will be aware that Eastern Airways recently cancelled its Stornoway to Aberdeen service, with effect from tomorrow. What more can the Scottish Government and its agencies do to ensure the economic viability of air services to and from the Western Isles, particularly for those of my constituents who work in the oil and gas sectors?
  • The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon): 
  • I can understand Alasdair Allan’s concerns about that. We have to ensure that connectivity between all our islands—including those in Alasdair Allan’s constituency—and the mainland encourages sustainability, both economically and in a range of other ways. I am happy to ask the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity to engage with him and with the airline to see whether there is more that the Scottish Government can and should do to address his concerns.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has hit out at the decision of Eastern Airways to cancel its Aberdeen to Stornoway service.

No formal announcement has been made, but customers enquiring with Eastern Airways have been told by customer service agents that the service is being discontinued and that 26 October would be the last day of the Aberdeen service.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“This is yet more disappointing news for users of the Aberdeen to Stornoway service.

“The decision to end this service with less than three weeks notice and no consultation contrasts sharply with past statements the company has made about being dedicated to the route and serving the islands. It was only in March that they announced an increase to the number of Aberdeen flights before reversing this decision within the space of a few months. There have also been serious complaints about reliability.

“The Aberdeen service is an important one, especially to those islanders who work in the oil and gas sector. I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson MSP, to express my concern about this state of affairs and I have also written to Loganair to ask if they would consider an Aberdeen – Stornoway service.”

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