News - Naidheachdan

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan earlier today met with representatives of the workforce at the Arnish Construction Yard in Lewis.

The number of people employed at the yard, operated by manufacturing company BiFab, is being reduced as work from the Beatrice contract comes to an end.

Last year Scottish Government intervention saved BiFab from the brink of administration.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“This is a difficult time for the workforce at Arnish. When BiFab was threatened with administration towards the end of last year, a huge factor in keeping it going was the dignity and resilience of yard employees.

“The Scottish Government has been vigorously assisting with efforts to seek out new contracts for BiFab after intervening to save the company from administration. Arnish plays a huge role in the economy of Lewis and I don’t think it’s possible to imagine the future of the island without it.

“As local MSP, I continue to take up a number of issues concerning Arnish, and I always emphasise the unique attributes and quality of production in the yard. I will raise again with both the company and the Scottish Government the need for information which the workforce have at this time.

“I hope that BiFab will also work closely with Skills Development Scotland and the Comhairle to allow apprentices and the training of young people.

“The renewables sector in Scotland continues to expand and there will be plenty of opportunities for manufacturing in this area. Our collective focus has to be on putting Arnish in the best possible position to capitalise on this work.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan is calling on constituents in the Western Isles to contribute to the Scottish Government’s new consultation looking at the causes of social isolation and loneliness and how they can be addressed.

The consultation will run until 30 April and will thereafter feed into a new national strategy, one of the first in the world, to tackle loneliness and isolation. A national strategy to combat loneliness was a key ask of the Jo Cox Commission, which welcomed this announcement.

Views are also being sought on how communities can build on the work of the Scottish Government, and lead on ensuring those at risk of becoming lonely or isolated have access to the right support networks.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“It’s important that voices from across the islands get involved in the Scottish Government’s consultation to help shape the new loneliness and isolation strategy. Every one of us has a role to play in reducing loneliness in Scotland.

“Dealing with loneliness and isolation can be incredibly difficult, and by reaching out to our neighbours or anyone we think may be at risk of becoming isolated or lonely we can all have a hugely positive impact. We are lucky to have organisations like Befriending Lewis and Caraidean Uibhist, among others.

“Loneliness can affect all ages and it is linked to both poor physical and mental health. Research now suggests loneliness can be as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It can have wide-ranging consequences on so many aspects of our lives.

“The SNP Government will be the first country in the UK and one of the first in the world to develop a national strategy to address loneliness and isolation, but this strategy needs our communities and society to lead the way in ensuring those at risk of loneliness get the support they need. I would encourage as many people as possible in the islands to have a say on this very important issue by contributing to the consultation.”

The Scottish Government’s consultation will run until 30 April and can be found at https://consult.gov.scot/equality-unit/connected-scotland

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed today’s award of £750,000 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Community Assets fund to Urras Coimhearsnachd Bhradhagair agus Arnoil (Bragar and Arnol Community Trust).

This group plan to refurbish the former primary school in Bragar that closed in 2012 and was taken into community ownership in 2014. The refurbished centre will include a café, kitchen, community space, exhibition space and a 10 bed hostel. It will help to improve the sustainability of the local economy, tackle social isolation and loneliness particularly among older people, create employment opportunities, and encourage young people to stay in the area and reverse the trend of falling population.

The Isles MSP has previously written in support of the project and met with the Trust.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“I am very supportive of the bid by the community in Bragar and Arnol to transform the old school and I am delighted to hear about today’s announcement from the Big Lottery Fund.

“I know the benefit such an ambitious project will bring to the local community, and I know that there is a strong desire amongst the residents to ensure that the building, where many generations of the community were educated, should continue to be used as a community asset.

“This is really positive step forward for the project and I congratulate the group on getting this successful award.”

Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar has commended the success of the Scottish Government’s baby box scheme in the opening 6 months since its launch.

 

Latest figures from the Scottish Government have revealed that the transformative Baby Box policy has already benefitted 84 newborns across NHS Western Isles since it was introduced last year.

Commenting, Dr Allan said:

 

“It is excellent to see so many families in the Islands benefitting from the Baby Box.

 

“The Boxes are a really positive Scottish Government initiative providing parents with many of the essentials they need to care for their child. The Baby Box is a key part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to make Scotland the best place to grow up – and contains important items for parents and babies alike, such as baby clothes, a digital ear thermometer, a bath towel, a changing mat and books. The box itself also doubles as a bed for a newborn, containing a mattress, mattress protector and fitted sheet – providing a safe and warm place for babies to sleep.

 

“I’m delighted that 84 newborns in our islands have now benefited from this progressive initiative from the Scottish Government, and I look forward to seeing its continued success, and families in our islands continue to reap its benefits.”  

 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan is urging all eligible adults in the Western Isles to take up the offer of a free flu vaccination.

Everyone aged 65 and over, pregnant women and people at most risk of serious illness are offered the flu vaccination on the NHS.

Flu rates in Scotland doubled in December with the most recent figures from Health Protection Scotland showing around 46 Scots in every 100,000 were suffering from the virus, comparing to 22 in every 100,000 for the same week in 2016.

Earlier today NHS Western Isles announced a temporary reduction in visiting hours to Western Isles Hospital due to high levels of respiratory illness.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“It’s not too late to get the flu jab. I would encourage all constituents who are eligible for vaccination on the NHS to take up that offer.

“Cases of flu in December were at double the rate for the same time the previous year, and this can be a serious illness that can make even healthy people very unwell.

“We should be thankful for the tremendous work our NHS staff in the islands are doing at a tough time of year, and we should all do our bit to not add unnecessary pressure on the health service.

“I would encourage everyone who is eligible to make getting the vaccination a priority and book an appointment with their GP practice or the health board as soon as possible.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed today’s announcement that the Scottish Government is hopeful of being able to award future ferry contracts directly to public sector operators such as Calmac.

Earlier this afternoon, the Minister for Transport and the Islands Humza Yousaf MSP gave an update to the Scottish Parliament on the on-going procurement policy review for ferry contracts.

During this speech, the Minister announced that it was the Scottish Government’s preference, if legal questions can be resolved, to scrap the tendering process for the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services and award the contract to Calmac indefinitely.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“I am sure this will be widely welcomed across the islands.

“During the most recent tendering process it was clearly the wish of most islanders that these services should continue to be run by Calmac. While the Scottish Government has always been clear that its preference was not to have to tender ferry services for the west coast, the EU rules obligated this Government and the former Labour/ administration to initiate a tender exercise.

“I am glad that the Scottish Government is working to ensure a simpler situation for ferry services in the islands in future, and help us protect the huge increase in spending on ferry services that has occurred since the SNP took office.”

“Whatever happens, the views of communities should be at the heart of future decisions.”

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