ALLAN PRESSES HIAL OVER AIRPORT CAFÉ FACILITIES
Stornoway Airport catering facilities to re-open in August
MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar Alasdair Allan asked HIAL why it has taken so long to get any catering facilities back up and running in Stornoway airport since the previous café closed in March. It is understood that the service will now be up and running at some point in August.
Commenting, Alasdair Allan said:
“Travelling back and forth between home and Holyrood each week, I have received many comments about the lack of any catering facilities in Stornoway airport. These have been closed for over three months now.
“HIAL have told me that it has been challenging trying to attract a suitable candidate to operate the catering facility, but that they have now secured a suitable vendor. They hope to be up and running again by mid-August if not before.
“I can appreciate the difficulties involved, and welcome the progress now made, but it is disappointing that we have gone virtually a whole tourist season now in this regrettable situation.”
20th ANNIVERSARY OF A SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT DELIVERING FOR SCOTLAND
Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar has welcomed the SNP’s announcement last week of a new social benefit designed to help lift children across Scotland out of poverty.
By the end of 2022, eligible families in the Western Isles will receive an extra £10 a week for every child under 16 – low income families with children under the age of six will be fast tracked and start to receive the benefit in early 2021.
This announcement means that eligible families with two children under 16 will receive an additional £1,000 a year to spend on day to day essentials from clothing to school equipment.
Once fully rolled out, the payment will benefit up to 410,000 children across Scotland - not only supporting those in poverty and but also preventing those on the breadline from sliding under. There is no cap on the number of children in eligible families.
The announcement has been celebrated by anti-poverty campaigners who have branded the new benefit a “gamechanger”.
Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:
“As we mark 20 years of the Scottish Parliament, we have seen multiple examples of the Scottish Parliament doing things differently from Westminster. For too long, we saw the islands overlooked by out of touch UK Governments. The Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell’s announcement last week of the Scottish Child Payment is another example of the Scottish Parliament delivering for the islands, where previous UK Government’s have failed.
“This is a radical and very welcome announcement – and it’s exactly what we need if we are to reduce child poverty levels here in Islands, in the face of ongoing welfare cuts from the UK Tory government.
“The ambition of this SNP Government to tackle poverty and give our young people from low income backgrounds the very best start in life is clear.
“I know the new Scottish Child Payment will be a welcome boost to many young families in the islands when it’s fully rolled out over the coming years.
“But the sad reality is, this SNP Government is fighting poverty with one hand tied behind its back – without Westminster imposed austerity, this benefit could do go further and reach more families.
“We’ve seen the progressive policies implemented through devolution since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament. This makes the case for further devolution, and independence in order to deliver for the people of Scotland.
“This move is the mark of a serious Government – willing to take bold action to address the needs of Scotland’s people.”
John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said:
"This new payment is an absolute game changer in the fight to end child poverty - £10 a week for each child will make a real difference to families struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes and pay for the ordinary school trips, sport and other activities that are fundamental to a decent childhood. Today's announcement is a landmark recognition of the role the Scottish social security system can play in ending child poverty.”
SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT MINISTERIAL GROUP TO EXAMINE POPULATION CHALLENGES
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the establishment of a Scottish Ministerial Task Force to consider Scotland’s future population changes.
The Task Group on Population will explore different dimensions to the challenge and develop new solutions to address demographic and population change. There will be a focus on the dispersal of population across Scotland and how the economic benefits of future population growth are spread across all communities.
Population projections from the National Records of Scotland show that the Western Isles are expected to lose 15% of their population by 2040 – the highest expected loss of population of any area in Scotland.
Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:
“Depopulation is something that has been affecting the Western Isles for a long time; you only need to take a glance at figures from a few generations ago to see our population is barely half what is used to be. However, the projections for the next 20 years are stark and – if realised – would threaten the very existence of many communities across the length of the islands.
“I hope the Task Group will explore ways in which we can retain families in rural and island areas while encouraging others to consider living here. Encouraging more house building and making it easier for young families to get on the housing ladder, bringing in more employment to the islands and improving connectivity should all be a given.
“However, we also need to challenge the lazy stereotypes that all too often emanate from our media. The Faroes successfully managed to reverse depopulation trends in one of their island groups by, in part, putting a positive focus on media stories about fragile communities there. I hope the Task Force will consider this often-overlooked point.
“The Western Isles has one of the lowest crime rates in Scotland and one of the highest rates of happiness and fulfilment. We are consistently identified as one of the best places in Britain to raise children. There is no reason why we cannot stop these projections from becoming a reality.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan visited Openreach engineers working on an installation of ultrafast broadband technology for new homes near Sandwick on Friday (14 June 2019).
He saw a ‘full fibre’ network being built directly into the new properties at Mackenzie Avenue, Parkend, to deliver ultrafast internet connections. The future-proof, reliable services can carry speeds up to 1Gbps1 – around 18.5 times faster than the UK’s current average, which recently topped 54Mbps according to Ofcom.
Alasdair Allan also got an update on superfast services locally as he looked inside a Stornoway fibre street cabinet2. According to the independent website Think Broadband, 77 per cent of premises in the Western Isles are now able to connect to broadband at a speed of 24Mbps and above since the rollout of superfast broadband began in the islands in 2015. Most local services currently make use of street cabinets (known as Fibre-to-the-Cabinet or FTTC) while ultrafast full fibre (Fibre-to-the-Premises or FTTP) goes directly to peoples’ homes.
Alasdair Allan said:
“Everyone wants good broadband, so spending time with engineers to hear about how we’re doing locally and what’s coming next was useful.
“The Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise have been working with Openreach over the last few years to extend broadband, starting from scratch in Na h-Eileanan an Iar where there were no existing plans for any upgrades and no core fibre routes from the mainland.
“That has changed quite dramatically but, with around three in 10 households still not able to connect to a superfast speed, we need to make sure progress continues apace.”
He added: “The next evolution of the network will be to full fibre, with fast, reliable broadband piped directly to peoples’ homes. Scotland is just at the start of this journey, so it’s good to see the latest technology being built at an early stage in Parkend, future-proofing local, new homes.
“I welcome Openreach’s commitment to building more full fibre for Scotland in the months and years ahead, working with builders and others.”
Openreach has been working closely with the Scottish and UK Governments, HIE, local authorities and other partners to bring fibre-based broadband to communities which were not included in any upgrade plans by private companies. The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband partnership rollout has reached more than 13,700 Western Isles households and businesses, with most able to access FTTC broadband and small deployments of FTTP in areas where it’s the best technical solution.
Fraser Rowberry, Openreach service delivery director for Scotland, said: “We know good, reliable broadband is really important to local people. Factors like geography and population dispersal make the Western Isles one of the most challenging places in the whole of the UK to build fibre. While progress is significant, there’s plenty more to do.
“We welcomed the opportunity to show Alasdair Allan MSP our local network and see an example of the next generation of broadband already live in Parkend. Our engineers are working hard every day to keep local communities, businesses and vital public services connected.”
Openreach’s FTTC footprint, at speeds of up to 80Mbps*, currently passes around 2.6 million homes and business premises in Scotland. It’s also starting to roll out FTTP more widely, with plans to reach four million homes and businesses across the UK by March 2021, and, if the conditions are right, to go significantly beyond.
SNP SCHEME SAVES SCOTTISH HOUSEHOLDS £6.4 MILLION
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed new figures showing that 2160 households in the Western Isles benefitted from the SNP Government’s Council Tax Reduction scheme in March 2019.
The scheme helps provides financial support to low income households. Every week in March, £25,600 of savings were made to the total Western Isles Council tax bill.
Between 2013/14 and the end of 2018/19 the SNP Government invested over £1.4 billion into the Council Tax Reduction Scheme – recently extending the scheme to include higher band households who fall below average earnings up to a maximum of £25,000 net income.
The move has helped support an extra 54,000 households in Scotland – a third of them pensioner households.
Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:
“In the face of huge cuts from the UK Tory government, the SNP has managed to help almost half a million households every year with their council tax bill.
“Just under 80% of those households are totally exempt from council tax thanks to the scheme.
“In March alone, the Council Tax Reduction scheme has helped 2160 households in the Western Isles – saving local families an estimated £25,600 a week in March.
“I would encourage anyone who thinks they might be eligible for a reduction in their council tax to get in touch with their local Citizen’s Advice Bureau for advice.”
ISLAND MSPS LODGES MOTION CONGRATULATING SOLO MINCH SWIMMER
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has put down a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating the island endurance swimmer Colin MacLeod on becoming the first man to swim solo across the Big Minch between the Mainland and the Isle of Lewis.
Colin was able to complete the crossing in 21 hours, setting off from Gairloch just after 4am on 10 June 2019, and arriving in Lemreway, South Lochs, just after 1am on 11 June, having swum an impressive 33 miles. He has so far been able to raise over £7,500 for Cancer Research UK, smashing his original target of £5,000. The first woman to complete a similar solo swim was Colleen Blair in July 2018.
Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:
“This is a fantastic achievement for Colin, who had been preparing for this for quite some time.
“Along with many others, I was following the steady progress he was making throughout the day on Monday tackling his amazing 33-mile swim.
“In conquering the Minch Colin has put in an incredible feat of endurance in order to raise thousands of pounds for charity. I hope he is now enjoying some well-earned rest. Meanwhile, Colin’s JustGiving page can be found at