News - Naidheachdan

TRADE DEAL WITH TRUMP RISKS PROTECTED STATUS

The SNP has warned that the Tories are preparing to sell out over protections for top Scottish produce, risking our global reputation for quality food and drink to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with Donald Trump.

The EU Protected Food Name scheme safeguards produce on the basis of geographical status or traditional recipe or method. It gives legal protection against imitation and ensure that premium products are not undermined. There are 14 Protected Food Names in Scotland including Scottish Salmon, Scotch Beef, Arbroath Smokies and Stornoway Black Pudding.

Scotch Whisky, one of the UK’s most valuable products for export, is also protected by a geographical indication under separate regulations.

The European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has today penned an article warning of the risks of not finding agreement over maintaining protected status for valuable Scottish products.

Failure to reach a deal could mean serious damage to Scotland’s food and drink exports which are worth £6 billion to the economy and support thousands of jobs. A rushed trade deal with the USA could water down protections for Scottish food and drink and leave the market vulnerable to cheap imitations undercutting produce on quality and price.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“Scotland has built a world renowned reputation for the quality of our food and drink – and it’s now worth £6 billion in export value each year.

“From top quality Scotch whisky, Scotch beef and Scottish salmon which is the benchmark of good quality across the world to the Stornoway black pudding and Arbroath smokies – the Scottish larder is something we cannot take for granted.

“The top Tory priority, however, is striking a quick trade deal with Donald Trump. This could put our reputation for world-beating food and drink in serious peril.

“A trade deal with the USA could flood the market with cheap quality products hijacking the Scottish brand.

“We cannot afford to put such a valuable sector in the hands of the hard-line Brexiteer Tories, who think they can do what they want to Scotland and get away with it.

“Maintaining our place in Europe’s Single Market is the best solution to keeping our market share, building Scotland the brand on the world stage and nurturing our food and drink sector so that it continues to go from strength to strength.”

ISLANDS MSP INVITES HEALTH BOARD CHIEF EXEC TO ROUNDTABLE MEETING

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has invited the Chief Executive of NHS Western Isles to a roundtable event to discuss the Health Board’s system of approving NHS-funded patient escorts.

Patients travelling off-island for treatment to mainland hospitals will, in many cases, require an escort to accompany them. In March NHS Western Isles announced a new system for approving requests for NHS-funded escorts, with the Health Board’s Medical Director now making the decision where this had previously been the responsibility of the patient’s GP.

While there were no changes made to the criteria for approving escorts or to the Patient Travel Policy, it appears the criteria are now being much more strictly enforced. This has resulted in the local MSP taking up a number of cases of constituents who had requests for escorts refused.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“I have seen a marked increase in the number of people contacting me to say the Health Board has refused their request for an escort. In many cases people were very distressed, and any compassionate person viewing their situation would understand the need for someone to be with them.

"This is especially true of cancer patients who will be travelling to the mainland to receive a diagnosis or begin their treatment. Receiving a cancer diagnosis is an incredibly traumatic experience. People who have gone through this describe the experience as just washing over them and that they were not in the right state of mind to process what was going on.

“There are a range of organisations throughout the islands who have written to the Health Board expressing similar concerns. Overall, it does feel as though the current policy is far too restrictive and that much greater flexibility can and should be shown to patients.

“A number of suggestions have been made about how the system could be improved, and I have written to the Chief Executive of NHS Western Isles, Gordon Jamieson, asking him to meet with interested organisations and myself to discuss these at a roundtable event. I hope he will respond positively to this request.”

ISLANDS MSP SEES FRUITS OF RECOVERY PROJECT FIRSTHAND

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan recently visited the Shiant Isles to see for himself the work that has been done to improve conditions for nesting seabirds. The Shiant Isles are one of the most important breeding colonies for seabirds in Europe and play host to one of Britain’s largest puffin colonies.

The visit was organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Scotland. During the trip the islands MSP was shown the effects of the Shiant Isles Recovery Project, which had aimed to make the islands a safe place for nesting seabirds by eliminating the invasive, non-native black rats found on the islands. The Shiants were officially declared rat-free earlier this year.

Alasdair Allan is the Species Champion for the Manx Shearwater, one of the species of seabirds which is being encouraged to nest on the Shiant Isles.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:

"The Shiants are a spectacular place, and an important part of both the natural and cultural heritage of the Western Isles.

“The work which the RSPB, volunteers, Scottish and European agencies have done together to enhance the three islands is to be applauded. As I got a chance to see for myself when I visited the Shiants, work has been successfully completed to remove black rats from the islands, which has allowed the population of a number of species of seabirds to recover.

“The Shiants are of increasing importance to the visitor economy in Harris too, and so the work that has been done will also have an economic impact."

TRACK RECORD OF BROKEN PROMISES & DISTRUST FOLLOWS MR GOVE, SAYS ISLANDS MSP

The planned power grab on Holyrood could leave Scottish fishing exposed and at the mercy of Westminster for years unless the Tories provide concrete details of their plans, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has said.

While the Scottish Parliament has withheld its consent for the UK government’s EU withdrawal bill, the legislation allows Westminster to legislate over the heads of MSPs over fisheries – despite these powers being expressly devolved under the Scotland Act.

This risks Westminster being able to further barter away any of Scotland’s fishing interests over a seven-year period as the Tories scrabble to cut post-Brexit trade deals.

The SNP has warned that Michael Gove cannot be trusted to represent Scotland’s fishing interests, having stated just a year ago that “powers over agriculture and fisheries that are currently held by the EU will be devolved to Holyrood” – a promise they are now desperately seeking to backtrack on.

Farmers have already seen that Mr Gove's word cannot be trusted, with outrage at the Royal Highland Show in recent weeks when he failed to give assurances that the long-promised review into the allocation of £160m of convergence funding would go ahead.

Furthermore, the fact that it was a Tory government that took Scotland into the Common Fisheries Policy, despite being told by advisers it meant Scottish fishermen would be “expendable”, will live long in the memories of Scotland’s fishing communities.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“The Tories think they can do what they want to Scotland’s fishing sector and get away with it.

“They made a firm commitment just last year that fishing powers would return to Holyrood after Brexit – a promise they’ve now reneged on.

“That’s because Michael Gove and the Tories will never put the interests of Scottish fishing first.

“They want to retain the right to sell our fishermen down the river, bartering off rights and quota to cut deals with Europe on trade.

“Despite Michael Gove’s ‘great reveal’ yesterday, he still couldn’t put a figure on how much the Scottish fleet will be able to catch after Brexit. What we got were weasel words.

"That should set alarm bells ringing in the industry – that the Tories still consider Scotland’s fishermen ‘expendable’ as they were in the negotiations when we first went into the EU; and that they remain so on our way out.”

SNP MSP for the Western Isles Alasdair Allan is calling on the Ministry of Defence to designate the wreck of HMY IOLAIRE as a protected place under The Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

HMY Iolaire sank on 1 January 1919 after striking rocks two miles from Stornoway and only yards from the shore where families were watching to welcome hundreds of World War I servicemen home.

Eighty-two servicemen survived and over 201 servicemen died in this tragic incident. Around a third of those known to be lost were never recovered from the sea and the wreck remains their final resting place.

Within weeks of the disaster, the Board of Admiralty sold the wreck to salvage contractors, however, following representations from victims’ families and friends and in Parliament, the Admiralty and the contractors agreed that operations for the salvage of the wreck should not proceed so long as any bodies remained unrecovered. 

This New Year’s Day marks the centenary of the disaster and there are a range of events taking place in the islands to commemorate those who were lost.

Alasdair Allan MSP for the Western Isles said:

“The sinking of HMY Iolaire off Lewis on the Beasts of Holm has left an indelible impression on the islands of Lewis and Harris.

“There was barely a family on the island that didn’t lose a blood relative in the Iolaire disaster and even now it is still very raw in people’s minds. As we approach the centenary of the sinking, it is important that the site is designated as a military maritime grave to both protect the site and commemorate the immeasurable sacrifice of those who served their country in a time of war and lost their lives so tragically close to home.

“I hope the Ministry of Defence will consider this request.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has today stepped down from his role as Minister for International Development and Europe in the Scottish Government.

The islands MSP has served as a Government Minister since 2011, first as Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages in the Government under former First Minister Alex Salmond before being appointed his latest role in Nicola Sturgeon’s Government after the 2016 Holyrood elections.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“I would like to thank both the First Minister and the former First Minister Alex Salmond for allowing me the opportunity to serve in two successive Scottish Governments. It has truly been an honour.

“Representing the people of the Western Isles in Scotland’s Parliament is the greatest privilege I have ever had, and my first and foremost duty. My constituency spans 130 miles and encompasses 13 inhabited islands. Balancing both my roles as the Member of the Scottish Parliament for Na h-Eileanan an Iar and a Government Minister has proved more than a little logistically challenging at times. I am greatly looking forward to be able to spend even more time in the islands that have been so welcoming to me since I first moved here more than a decade ago, and that I am now proud to call my home.

“I would also like to thank all those who I have worked with over the past seven years for their help and support, and I pass on my best wishes to the new Ministerial team.”

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