News - Naidheachdan

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan earlier today questioned the Scottish Government on the use of the Arnish fabrication yard in the Isle of Lewis.

The islands MSP asked Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, whether Arnish could be utilised by other companies other than BiFab who could bring work the yard.

BiFab, who own the Arnish fabrication yard, have been put into difficulty in recent months after missing out on a contract to manufacture jackets for the Seagreen offshore wind farm in September, and having an existing bid to manufacture jackets for the Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm project thrown into doubt.

Speaking after a Ministerial Statement on BiFab, Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“One of the key asks for the Action for Arnish campaign is that the yard be available to any company that can bring work into it. We need to keep an open mind about what the future holds for Arnish, and the widest possible range of uses there could be for the yard. It is right that the Scottish Government is open to exploring all options on this.

“While the Scottish Government has hit a legal threshold in terms of how much more it can invest as minority shareholder in the company, I am frustrated at the lack of investment from JV Driver – the majority shareholder.

“Arnish deserves a future, and if work cannot be brought in under BiFab then, as I asked the Scottish Government earlier today, we need other companies to be able to use it.”

LOCAL MSP BACKS ‘GIVE A GIFT, LIGHT UP A LIFE’ CAMPAIGN

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan is encouraging groups in the Western Isles to reach out to those in their communities who may need an extra smile this Christmas.

Volunteer Centre Western Isles have produced a step by step guide for community groups, third sector organisations and churches to run their own ‘Give a Gift, Light up a Life’ project, and spread a little kindness this Christmas.

This follows an a highly successful ‘Give a Gift, Light up a Life’ campaign the Volunteer Centre ran last year in partnership with NHS Western Isles Community Navigators which saw older, socially isolated people receiving a handwritten Christmas card and small gift.

It is hoped that this can be expanded, and that lots of groups and organisations across the Western Isles can get involved planning their own small acts of kindness projects this Christmas to help improve links between people within communities.

Suzanne Macaulay, Manager at Volunteer Centre Western Isles, commented:

“This year, the amazing COVID response across the Western Isles has shown the huge difference that volunteering and carrying out small acts of kindness in our communities can make.

“We know a lot of people are feeling isolated at the moment, so we would like to help local groups to reach out to people in our community to provide a hand written Christmas card and a small gift to those who may need an extra smile this Christmas.”

Alasdair Allan commented:

“Christmas can be a hard time of year for a lot of people, and the extra strain that people have had to bear because of the coronavirus pandemic will likely exacerbate this.

“Whether it’s a gift or handwritten card, small acts of kindness like this can have an enormously positive emotional impact on their recipients who may be feeling low or isolated.

“This is a really excellent initiative from Volunteer Centre Western Isles which I hope lots of organisations in the Western Isles feel they can get involved with.”

If you are not part of a community group, but would like to donate a gift or card through the NHS Community Navigators, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., phone 01851700366 or check www.volunteercentrewi.org for more information.

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT PROVIDING £10 MILLION FOR SCHOOL MEALS OVER HOLIDAYS

More than 470 children across the Western Isles will benefit from extra funding to extend free school meals over the Christmas and Easter holidays.

£10 million has been made available by the Scottish Government so that councils can continue providing free school meals through the winter breaks with future funding confirmed to extend support over Easter.

On Wednesday, Tory MPs voted rejected a plan to extend free school meals into the school holidays, arguing that it was not the job of schools to “regularly provide food during the school holidays”.

No Scottish Tory MP voted to support the plan, despite recent indications from Douglas Ross that he wishes to end the Tories’ opposition free school meals provision.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“Many families are under considerable financial pressure at this time, and with less than two weeks until the UK government prematurely shuts down the furlough scheme, that’s unfortunately only set to get worse.

“The Scottish Government’s decision to extend the free school meals scheme will be a great relief for many hard-pressed parents. This important investment will support around 470 children and young people in the islands, helping families meet the cost of meals over Christmas, February and Easter holidays.

“The Tories at Westminster had an opportunity to support thousands of families worrying about how they will put food on the table in the weeks ahead, but they refused to do so. It’s clear that Westminster has a lot to learn from the SNP’s approach to tackling food insecurity and building a social security system based on fairness, dignity and respect.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan will today meet with Scottish Government Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP to discuss the situation at BiFab.

This follows the news that the bid prepared by BiFab, who own the Arnish fabrication yard in the Isle of Lewis, to manufacture jackets for the Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm project has been thrown into doubt.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“The news over the jackets for Neart na Gaoithe is yet more bitter disappointment following BiFab missing out on work for SSE's Seagreen offshore wind farm project last month.

“While it is little surprise to learn today that the Scottish Government, as minority shareholders in BiFab, have now invested as much money in the company as the law will allow, it brings into even sharper focus the predicament which Arnish faces.

“I will be meeting with Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop later on today and will ask her to set out what the options now are for the yard and its workforce, as they deserve to have a future at a time when there is work to be done in Scotland’s growing renewables sector.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has urged islanders who face financial hardship due to being asked to self-isolate to apply for a £500 self-isolation grant offered by the Scottish Government.

The new Self-Isolation Support Grant will help people who would lose income if they needed to self-isolate, such as those unable to work from home.

This grant is for those who will face financial hardship due to being asked to self-isolate and will be targeted at people who are in receipt of Universal Credit or legacy benefits, with some discretion to make awards to others in financial hardship.

Applications for the Self-Isolation Support Grant opened on 12th October and will be delivered through the existing Scottish Welfare Fund, which is administered by local authorities.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan said:

“We know that self-isolation can be tough, but it is essential to protect people and reduce the spread of coronavirus.

"To ensure people do not experience financial hardship as a result of doing the right thing, the Scottish Government has introduced this new £500 grant for people on low incomes who have been asked to self-isolate.

"These payments will help ensure islanders do not have to make a choice between self-isolating and supporting themselves financially.

"Applications for this new benefit are now open, and I'd urge anyone in the Western Isles who is facing a loss of income due to self-isolating to apply for it.”

To apply for the grant in the Western Isles, visit:
www.cne-siar.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/coronavirus/self-isolation-support-grant/

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan earlier today raised in Parliament the outbreak of COVID-19 that has occurred in Uist over the course of the past week. 

24 positive cases associated with the outbreak have been confirmed by NHS Western Isles as of 30 September, with one islander having to be airlifted to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

The islands MSP expressed concern at the situation and asked the First Minister for an update.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan said:

“This situation continues to be of great concern, and my thoughts are with all the families affected.

“Schools in Daliburgh and Liniclate have been closed until after the October holidays, Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh (Uist and Barra Hospital) in Balivanich has restricted visiting and the local hospitality sector has undertaken a self-imposed shutdown.

“As I impressed on the First Minister today, the impact of this outbreak in an island community with limited health services is significant and will need to be monitored on an ongoing basis.

“This underlines the fact that every household and community has to be on their guard and comply with the public health guidance. If you develop symptoms, you can book a test by phoning 01851 601 151. Please limit your contact with other households and avoid car-sharing. Ensure physical distancing and good hand hygiene. People should work from home if they can and avoid non-essential travel.”

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