Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the extension of an agreement between Citylink, HITRANS and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to underwrite additional buses on the Inverness - Ullapool route outside of the summer months.
Alasdair Allan commented:
"I wrote to Citylink and the Comhairle at the end of October in response to complaints I had received about buses on the Inverness- Ullapool route being fully booked days before departure. This seemed to be a particular issue on the Sunday service and one constituent was told very emphatically by staff at the bus station that there is only ever one bus on Sundays.
"On one Friday afternoon, my office were able to successfully request an additional coach for that Sunday's journey. While this was welcome news for the approximately 20 passengers who were able to book the second bus that day, it was clearly a worry that this wasn't being done automatically.
"So I am pleased that the Comhairle, Citylink and HiTrans have now come to an agreement for extra capacity outside of the summer months, and that all Sundays up until the New Year are now covered.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has expressed the sense of relief in the Isle of Lewis, after a Scottish Government brokered deal was reached today (Saturday) to prevent BiFaB Ltd from going into administration.
The deal will see BiFab and its contractors reach an agreement to ensure that work continues at the Arnish yard as well as the company’s bases in Fife.
The news comes after days of intense talks held by the Scottish Government, and after a direct appeal to the companies concerned from the First Minister.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“In recent days, many families in Lewis have had real cause to worry about their jobs and livelihoods. So today’s announcement that a deal has been reached represents the best possible news. BiFab is not going into administration, and the current contracts at Arnish will be completed.
“I want to pay tribute to the commitment of the highly skilled workforce at Arnish, and the constructive attitude they have taken throughout this difficult time. Reaching a deal between the various commercial interests involved has required days of negotiation. The intervention of the First Minister, who came back early from engagements in Germany to take part in the talks herself, was I believe a decisive factor, but I would also like to thank my ministerial colleagues Keith Brown and Paul Wheelhouse for the many hours they have devoted to this issue. I also want to recognise the contribution made by the unions, some of whom I had a chance to meet with outside Holyrood this week, and by the different companies involved in the initial dispute, who have moved a long way to reach this agreement.
“The emphasis now will be on ensuring that Arnish receives new orders in the future, something which I believe it is well placed to do, given the growing market in the renewables sector for the work that it does.
“Today’s news, meanwhile, will represent a great Christmas present for the Isle of Lewis.”
FIRST MINISTER RETURNS EARLY FROM BONN FOR TALKS
Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Na-h-Eileanan an Iar, today met with members of the BiFab workforce, as they rallied at the Scottish Parliament to defend jobs in both Fife and the Isle of Lewis.
Depute First Minister John Swinney also confirmed to Parliament today that the First Minister is returning early from her trip to Bonn, where she has been attending Climate Change talks, to be available this afternoon (16/11/2017) to convene face-to-face discussions in Edinburgh if those are required.
Commenting, Dr Allan said:
“I was pleased to meet with members of the BiFab workforce outside Holyrood today, and offer my support to the workers and families affected, as the Scottish Government works to assist in finding a sustainable future for these jobs.
“This week, I have been speaking to ministerial colleagues about the situation at Arnish, and written to the First Minister to emphasise the importance of the yard to the Isle of Lewis. Scotland needs firms like BiFab to thrive if we’re to make the most of our renewable potential.
“It was great to hear the Depute First Minister bang the drum of the BiFab workforce today in Parliament and mention the dignity and resilience they have shown, in what will be a very stressful time for them and their families.
“John Swinney made clear how seriously the Scottish Government is taking this situation. He highlighted that the Government’s fundamental focus just now is on resolving the contractual issues that have led to this situation, and that they will leave no stone unturned in securing the future of the firm. Nicola Sturgeon returning early from her trip to Bonn further demonstrates the Government’s commitment to the renewable energy sector, and to the jobs in the Western Isles, as well as in Fife.
“I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Scottish Government, and would be more than happy to hear from individual members of the workforce at Arnish if I can help them in any way.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP, Alasdair Allan, has welcomed today’s ruling from the UK Supreme Court that minimum unit pricing for alcohol can now proceed. Dr Allan said he hoped the law would “help prevent some personal tragedies in the islands and across Scotland.”
The measure was passed overwhelmingly by the Scottish Parliament in 2012, but implementation has been delayed due to successive court challenges from sections of the alcohol industry.
Prior to implementing the policy, Scottish Ministers will now conduct a consultation on the proposed 50 pence per unit price.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“It’s great news that Scotland is now set to be the first country in the world to introduce a minimum price for alcohol, ending the ridiculous situation where some forms of alcohol are presently being sold for less than the same quantity of bottled water.
“It has been unfortunate that elements of the drinks industry have tried to hold this measure up for the past 5 years. However, the courts have found no basis for this, and have ruled that the proposed policy is appropriately targeted, lawful and proportionate.
“Minimum pricing is unlikely to affect the cost of a pint in pubs and restaurants, or to have any real impact on the premium product that is Scotch whisky, but it will instead limit the availability of ultra-cheap forms alcohol over the counter.
“The human costs of alcohol abuse are immense and it’s important that Scotland faces up to the realities of this. We have been far from immune from this problem in the islands, and in many recent years we have had some of the highest rates of alcohol-related deaths anywhere in the UK.
“While legislation by itself will not stop all the problems caused by alcohol abuse, today has been an important step forward in challenging and changing Scotland’s relationship with alcohol."
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has spoken of the importance to the island economy of manufacturing jobs at the Arnish yard, Isle of Lewis.
This follows the news that Burntisland Fabrications, which operates the yard at Arnish, has confirmed it has filed its intention to go into administration as a result of “a challenging situation regarding its ongoing contracts.”
Commenting, Alasdair Allan said:
“This will be a distressing time for those employed at Arnish and their families.
“The Arnish yard is renowned for the quality of what it makes and the quality of the workforce. Last night, I spoke to Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, about this situation and impressed upon him the importance of these jobs to the island’s economy.
“The Scottish Government has engaged in discussions with the company and I have been given an assurance that they stand determined to fully explore all options to save the company and the jobs that depend on it.
“This will obviously be a very trying time for the workforce and I stand readily to offer them any assistance I can.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the recent publication of the Scottish Government’s discussion paper, which considers the role of income tax in Scotland.
Since the paper’s publication, the Isles MSP has received correspondence from dozens of individuals in the islands, keen to play their part in a national conversation on how best to support our public services.
Commenting, Dr Allan said:
“As the time to set Scotland’s budget approaches, the Tory Government in Westminster continues its relentless austerity agenda - so it’s important for us in Scotland to have a conversion on how we protect public services.
“The Scottish Government’s paper includes proposals from right across the political spectrum. It is to be noted that only the Tories think that it is appropriate to give the wealthiest a tax cut.
“I am pleased that so many constituents have been in touch to give their views on how changes to income tax can impact on the budgets of our public services here in the islands.
“The Scottish Government will not consider any changes to income tax lightly, and any changes will come after open and frank discussions, and not compromise the key principles Nicola Sturgeon has set, which seek to protect low earners, support public services, make the system more progressive and support our economy.
“I hope to hear from even more islanders on this issue, and I hope that everyone engages with the discussion paper.”