News - Naidheachdan

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the launch of an online map which shows pricing by postcode.

The new services will help residents of rural communities identify unfair delivery charges and find the best deals.

After entering a postcode, the website compares charges for a range of parcel sizes from six major companies. Users from around Scotland can also find which online UK retailers deliver to their area.

The free service launched today at www.fairdeliveries.scot is part of the Scottish Government’s ongoing action to make delivery charges more transparent.

Welcoming the new service, Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“The issue of unfair delivery charges is one that I have highlighted for years now. Residents of Na h-Eileanan an Iar face average surcharges of at least 25% compared to Glasgow and there is virtually no access to home delivery.

“I am regularly contacted by constituents who are frustrated by the disporportionate and irrational costs, sometimes concealed by vendors claiming free UK delivery. most smaller items cost the same to post to Beàrnaraigh as they do to Birmingham.

“This new tool by the Scottish Government will help people indentify unfair delivery charges and help to reduce the cost of living in rural areas.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the publication of the allocation figures for the Coronavirus hardship and resilience funds.

The Scottish Government provided over £2.65m in emergency support to businesses in Na h-Eileanan an Iar through four targeted funds since April 2020.

The Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund, the Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund, Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund and the Bed & Breakfast Hardship Fund represented a total fund allocation of £185m during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Welcoming the figures, Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“The publication of this data demonstrates the Scottish Government’s rapid response to support business and protect jobs during the unprecedented hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These funds injected vital finance into sectors of the island economy most severely affected by the lockdown, such as tourism, hospitality and construction.

“Support was responsive, and additional funds were designed and delivered to businesses and individuals who had fallen through the cracks of other support, getting as much money out to as many businesses and individuals as quickly as possible.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the announcement today (30 July) that COVID-19 shielding is ending.

The First Minister also confirmed that schools will reopen on the week of 11 August, and that there will be a significant boost in funding to recruit up to 1,400 teachers.

Welcoming the news, Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“The pause in shielding advice from 1 August for members in high risks categories marks an important step in the route-map out of lockdown and represents a huge relief to us all.

“From 11 August, schools will reopen. Along with this announcement, a further £30m was announced to support councils with cleaning, facilities management, school transport and other practical issues that are vital in ensuring a safe return to school.

“The Scottish Government has also provided £75m towards teacher recruitment to ensure increased resilience during the reopening.

“I echo the First Minister’s calls for caution – we have seen how quickly outbreaks have occurred in other parts of the world. In the transition to the ‘new normal’, we must adhere closely to public health guidance to ensure that this virus continues to be supressed.”

£100M INVESTMENT FOR WESTERN ISLES, ORKNEY AND SHETLAND ISLANDS

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan MSP has welcomed to announcement of the long-awaited Growth Deal for the Islands.

The £50m sum allocated by the UK Government will be match-funded by the Scottish Government. The Islands Deal is the latest in a series of growth deals awarded to cities and regions across Scotland and will benefit Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Orkney and Shetland.

Growth Deals are agreements between the Scottish Government, the UK Government and local government designed to bring about long-term strategic approaches to improving regional economies.

The cross-sectoral investment will go towards earmarked projects including agriculture, destination development, renewable energy and Spaceport 1, likely incorporating broader themes such as connectivity, housing and healthy ageing. Joint-island projects in the creative industries and wellbeing sectors will also benefit.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“The Islands Deal is an exceptional and long-awaited chance to invest in transformational projects in Scotland’s islands. The Scottish Government has always indicated it would match fund the sum made available by the UK Government. Now that the UK has identified a figure, the Scottish Government has been able to do the same. With each side contributing £50m, we now have a chance to start investing this in the kind of projects that the Islands need more than ever at this difficult time as we come out of lockdown. The money will go to projects in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.

“The Comhairle has put together a list of potential projects with which it made its funding bid, and the Scottish Government will now work closely with the Comhairle and the community to make sure that as many of these as possible now become a reality.

“Now that the UK Government have given the go ahead from their side of the bargain, the Scottish Government has matched them pound for pound, and is determined to see the infrastructure and economy of the islands given a boost, at a time when that is needed.”

Alasdair Allan MSP has commented on new research on the state of the Gaelic language in the Western Isles.

‘The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Communities’, published last week, assesses language usage within the last remaining areas where Gaelic is spoken as a community language. The research reports that the use of Gaelic in the home and among young people in their social lives has almost halted, and calls for a review of public planning and policy to support the language.

Alasdair Allan MSP has written to John Swinney, the Minister for Gaelic, expressing his concerns about the language’s future in island communities.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“This new research presents a stark picture of Gaelic’s future in our communities and it is important that we take the time and energy to fully consider its analysis. The message of the report is challenging, and at times painful, for anyone who loves Gaelic.

“In the first instance I have written to John Swinney, the Minister with responsibility for Gaelic, highlighting some of the principal findings of the research. I have also asked the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee to consider taking evidence on the subject.

“Good progress has been made in supporting the language within society, not least with the growth of Gaelic-medium education. But the research is clear, education alone will not sustain Gaelic as a community language. There need to be accompanying initiatives to promote the language at a family and community level too. 

“Going forward, we must make every effort to engage all sides of the debate to move to solve this crisis collectively. The Gaelic language, and the culture and identity which it underpins are of irreplaceable importance to the Western Isles and Scotland more widely. We cannot afford to fail our last remaining Gaelic-speaking communities.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan earlier today met virtually with Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP to discuss ferry services to the Western Isles.

Ferry travel to the Western Isles has been restricted since 22 March. Last week it was announced that CalMac will be moving from a winter-style timetable from 1 July to a ‘shoulder’ timetable over subsequent weeks, with an aim to match the expected return of tourism by July 15. Physical distancing measures will mean reduced capacity across the network and concerns have been raised over how that reduced capacity will be managed.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“Many jobs in the islands depend on tourism, so we all need to see the industry operating again here as soon as it is safe.

“At the same time however, people in the islands who have been in lockdown for four months have a legitimate concern to be sure that they can get a ferry ticket to see family members again, now that this is an accepted reason to use the ferry. This is an issue I have been raising this week with ministers.

“Today’s meeting with ferries minister Paul Wheelhouse was very useful and it became much clearer what the plans are for booking tickets going forward.

“While exact details are to be confirmed, at the end of this month, ferry tickets will only be booked out for either one or two weeks at a time. Which of these it is will be confirmed in the next couple of days. This will, I hope, prevent the ferry becoming booked out for weeks into the future, and will allow the situation to be reviewed regularly to ensure islanders are getting fair access to ferry services.

“20% of places on the ferry will be kept back so that they can be accessed on a “show and go” basis, which is most likely to of use to local residents.

“This is a changing picture, but with restrictions on ferry capacity being eased in coming weeks, I hope that we are now seeing a clearer picture of how the ferries will operate, and how a balance will be struck to ensure safety, maintain a lifeline service, and restart our local economy as soon as that is safe.”

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