News - Naidheachdan

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan and MP Angus MacNeil have written to UK Government Fisheries Minister George Eustice MP to ask that he meets with island fishermen to hear first-hand about the crisis facing the industry. 

The EU is an important export market for island produce, particularly seafood which is worth millions of pounds to the local economy. Since the UK left the EU single market and customs union on 1 January, exports have been disrupted by a range of regulatory issues and delays at the border. 

These issues have heaped more pressure on fishing businesses already trying to cope with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“The current crisis facing the fishing industry is really concerning. The last few weeks have seen prices collapse, produce left behind and vessels told not to go out to sea.

“The UK Government has labelled these issues as “teething problems.” The reality is that they are a direct consequence of the deal they struck with the EU – to the detriment of the fishing industry. While the announcement of a compensation scheme for seafood exporters is welcome, the level of funding will be a drop in the ocean compared to the damage done and it doesn’t remove the Brexit red tape exporters now have to face. 

“UK Government Ministers should face up to the consequences of their actions and hear directly from fishermen in the Western Isles about what has happened in the last few weeks.”

Angus MacNeil MP commented:

"This is a problem of Westminster and the Brexiteers' making and it is for Westminster and the Brexiteers to sort."

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the news that NHS Western Isles is now well underway with vaccinations for over 80s.

If you are in this category and have not yet attended an appointment, you should arrange a vaccination appointment by calling 0808 196 8383. Alternatively, a friend of relative can arrange an appointment on your behalf.

The vaccine roll-out comes amidst an increased community response to the viral outbreak in the Isle of Barra. At a meeting of the Barra & Vatersay COVID-19 Forum on Monday, 18 January, the collective efforts of the community and public sector workers were commended. Most members of the community are now voluntarily adhering to Level 4 restriction guidance.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“The COVID-19 vaccination programme is going well in the Western Isles. This is paired with the expansion of testing, including asymptomatic testing, for Barra residents.”

“In the Western Isles, the number of first doses given to health workers and those most vulnerable to the virus is now into the thousands. As the programme gathers pace, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all those who are working late and long hours, and going above and beyond, to achieve this response.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has voiced his concern at the growing COVID-19 outbreak in Barra and Vatersay.

10 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed over the course of this week, with 2 islanders requiring treatment in hospital and a significant number of people identified as close contacts having to self-isolate.

The islands MSP this morning attended a meeting about the outbreak with NHS Western Isles, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and community organisations and representatives in Barra.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“The outbreak in Barra is really concerning and highlights how quickly the virus can gain hold. With ten confirmed cases and many dozens more self-isolating, this represents a huge impact on the island.

“While it’s obviously a very worrying time, I hope that people can draw strength from the exceptional community response and the knowledge that dedicated people in the NHS and elsewhere are working hard to help deal with the cluster. It is particularly welcome that testing has been expanded to include asymptomatic close contacts. 

“Non-essential travel is prohibited and I understand from Police Scotland that they have been carrying out periodic checks on ferry queues on both sides of the Minch, and particularly for Barra.

“I would urge everyone to please be on your guard, comply with the public health guidance and stay at home. If you develop symptoms please book a test by phoning 01851 601 151 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan earlier today raised the need for additional support for businesses in the Western Isles in conversations with the First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance Kate Forbes MSP.

Mainland Scotland is currently at Covid Protection Level 4, the most restrictive level, while the Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland and island communities without a road link to the mainland are at Level 3.

Additional support has been made available to businesses on the mainland required to close in line with Level 4 lockdown restrictions. However, the islands MSP has been contacted by a number of businesses who have been seriously impacted by the lockdown on mainland Scotland and who also need access to additional support.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“Over the last week, I have been contacted by a variety of businesses who have seen their customer base disappear or their ability to trade curtailed due to the mainland lockdown restrictions. However, because we are at a different protection level, they do not have access to the same support as mainland businesses. It’s great that the islands have been able to avoid a return to lockdown, but businesses shouldn’t be in a position of being disadvantaged because of that.

“I have raised this issue with the Scottish Government. This is something that is being actively working on and I am hopeful that a solution will be forthcoming soon.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has joined calls for the UK government to provide compensation to the seafood industry after weeks of Brexit-related trade issues.

The seafood industry has been hit particularly hard by regulatory delays with seemingly no end in sight. In an interview with the BBC this week, Scotland Office Minister David Duguid was asked how long it will take to fix supply chain problems caused by Brexit. He responded “how long is a piece of string?”

In the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, the islands MSP highlighted issues with produce being left behind, vessels being told to stop fishing and exports having to set off up to a day early to cope with the delays.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“It is clear the seafood sector is approaching a state of crisis.

“The Tories have made lavish promises to fishermen over the last few years as well as promising “frictionless” trade with the EU. Not only have these not materialised, but the extra red tape and the gridlock at ports caused by Brexit is putting livelihoods in coastal communities at risk - especially as it comes in the middle of a pandemic where exporters have already been struggling.

“The total financial cost of all of this to coastal communities is yet to be known. However, as I pointed out in the Scottish Parliament earlier today, while fishermen have justified grievances with the Common Fisheries Policy with this Brexit red tape and gridlock the Tories have delivered a medicine worse than the disease.

“This crisis sits squarely with the UK Government. They must take responsibility for the financial disaster they have caused and compensate local businesses.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan today welcomed the announcement by the First Minister that island businesses affected by Covid 19 restrictions would receive additional support.

The First Minister today announced that the Scottish Government is to make some one-off additional support available in level 3 areas, including the Western Isles to help those businesses that are being severely impacted by the restrictions despite not having to close as those in level 4 would.

The Scottish Government will now be allocating approximately £3 million to local authorities so that they are better able to support affected businesses.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“I previously raised this issue with the First Minister and Finance Secretary, as I had been contacted by a number of businesses across the Islands who were reporting a large impact due to the restrictions despite the Western Isles being in Level 3.

“I am grateful that the Government has listened to the call for extra support and responded in such a timely manner. I look forward to the work being done by the Government and the Comhairle to get the systems in place to deploy this money to the businesses that need it as soon as possible.”

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