News - Naidheachdan

ALLAN WELCOMES NEW ACTION PLAN

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed a new Scottish Government action plan to kick-start developments in rural areas.

The need for planning permission could be removed for certain types of rural developments to help tackle depopulation and support the economy of the islands.

The changes are being considered as part of a new action plan to implement a radical shake-up of planning laws.

Under this review, small scale developments, such as the conversion of agricultural buildings to deliver more homes in the Western Isles, could automatically be given the go-ahead.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“Tackling depopulation and supporting the sustainability of our rural communities are critical issues and the planning system has an important role to play in that.

“This planning review is one of a number of actions the Scottish Government is undertaking to grow Scotland’s rural areas.

“I am encouraged by what these changes could do for the islands and I hope they can aid in the fight against depopulation.”

ADDITIONAL £10 MILLION CONVERGENCE UPLIFT TO CROFTERS AND FARMERS IN MARGINAL LAND

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed today’s announcement from the Scottish Government that an additional £10 million will now be targeted at crofters and farmers on Scotland’s most challenging land.

Following last week’s announcement from the Scottish Government regarding plans for the distribution of convergence funding, concerns had been raised over the proportion of that funding which would be going to crofters.

However, after receiving representations from Angus Brendan MacNeil MP, Alasdair Allan MSP and other SNP parliamentarians across the Highlands and Islands, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing has unveiled plans to increase the amount of money going to crofters and those farming in marginal areas.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“This is a step in the right direction and I thank the Cabinet Secretary for listening to the arguments made by Angus MacNeil, myself, and others representing crofting interests.

“Today’s announcement means that a majority of the area-based payments from this tranche of funding will be going towards those crofts and farms which currently receive the lowest level of support. I believe this is much closer to the spirit of convergence than the original proposals, and is fairer towards crofters.

“This was the first of two tranches of money arising from convergence funding, and I will be making further representations to the Scottish Government to ensure that the second tranche is distributed in a way which is fair to crofters and those farming in marginal areas.”

ISLANDS MSP CALLS FOR COMMUNITY TO BE “FULLY INVOLVED” IN BARRA HOSPITAL REPLACEMENT

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan raised the issue of the replacement of St Brendan’s hospital and care home on the Isle of Barra with Health Secretary Jeane Freeman MSP during yesterday’s session of the Scottish Parliament.

It has been recognised since 2011 that there is a need for the facility to be replaced.

NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are currently considering proposals which would integrate the current hospital, health and social care development with that of replacing Castlebay community school and other Comhairle services in Barra.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented: 

“This was a useful opportunity to again raise the replacement of St Brendan’s and the need for the community to be properly informed and involved as the project develops. 

“Next week marks an important milestone, as the Comhairle is due to meet to consider the options outlined by the feasibility study. This represents significant potential for the development of public services in Barra and Vatersay, and there is increasing evidence of collaboration and partnership between the Council, Health Board and Scottish Government in the development of this project.

“I am grateful for the Cabinet Secretary’s continued assurances that St Brendan’s will be replaced at the earliest opportunity. The community in Barra and Vatersay have already waited long enough.”

CAP FUNDING RETURNED AFTER YEARS OF UK GOVERNMENT DELAY

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the announcement from the Scottish Government that island crofters and farmers will benefit from the first instalment of convergence funding – addressing an “historic injustice” which the SNP has long campaigned to put right.

The funding is the first tranche of an £160 million package the UK government has finally returned to Scottish farmers after pocketing EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding intended for Scotland since 2014.

The initial £80 million will be distributed to support active farming, with a focus on those who farm in marginal uplands, hill farms and island areas.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“This is money that was hard fought for over many years, and I am delighted that the £160 million of convergence money that the UK government tried to appropriate from Scotland has been returned.

“Scottish crofters and farmers have been short-changed by the UK government for years, and the SNP has argued long and hard for that injustice to be addressed.

“Given that this funding was awarded because of Scotland's low CAP support payment rate per hectare, it is absolutely right that it is now being directed towards those in greatest need: crofters and farmers in island areas, marginal uplands and hill farmers.

“With future arrangements for agriculture still unclear amidst the turmoil around Brexit, it is vital that the agriculture sector in the Western Isles benefits from the EU support to which it is entitled, while it still can.

“We now need real commitments over future funding, and an end to the attempted power grab over farming powers that should rightfully be at the Scottish Parliament.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has urged parents to “trust the facts” and make sure their child is vaccinated for flu this winter. 

Last week, the Scottish Government has launched its annual national flu vaccination programme – with a focus on people with health conditions and children aged 2-5. 

Every year thousands of children are hospitalised with flu. Even healthy children can become seriously ill from it. Protecting children can also stop the virus from spreading to family, friends and others. 

To date, more than 1.6 million doses of the nasal vaccine have been given to 2-11 year olds as part of the Scottish childhood immunisation programme. But more parents and carers are being urged to take up the offer.

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

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“Getting your kids vaccinated is free and only takes a few minutes but it helps to protect against the flu bug for around a year.

“The flu is no joke. There’s plenty of misinformation about vaccines online but it’s important that parents in the Western Isles trust the facts.

“Staff at NHS Western Isles are doing a tremendous job with a tough time of year ahead and we should all do our bit to not add unnecessary pressure on the health service.

“If you or your children are eligible, make sure that getting the vaccination is a priority and book an appointment with your GP practice or health board as soon as possible.”

 

LOCAL MSP CONTINUES OPPOSITION TO DENTAL CLINIC CLOSURES

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan recently met with Scottish Government Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Joe Fitzpatrick MSP, to discuss controversial proposals that would see dental services in Uist centralised to a single hub operating out of Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh in Balivanich.

The Western Isles Integrated Joint Board recently announced that after a year and a half of consideration it would be proceeding with the hub model after the Chief Executives of the Comhairle and NHS Western Isles came to a joint decision on the issue.

The change in service would mean the closure of the dental clinics in Lochmaddy and Liniclate, with the clinic in Lochboisdale already having been closed in April 2017, necessitating round trips of up to 70 miles for some Uist residents.

The proposal has been met with strong local opposition since its inception and the local MSP has continued to raise this matter on behalf of people in Uist.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“This was a useful and productive meeting where I was able to outline the various concerns of communities in Uist when it comes to these proposals. I am grateful for the Minister taking the time to listen to my concerns and for his commitments to press the IJB and Health Board for significantly more detail on the plans being put forward.

“I cannot ignore the concerns of health professionals, and the warnings from dental professionals that will this move will adversely affect oral health outcomes for people in Uist, particularly the most vulnerable groups.

“Ultimately, I do not believe this kind of service change can go ahead with the present level of local opposition, which is all but unanimous in Uist. I have asked whether the Scottish Government is in a position to call these proposals in or, failing that, establish an Independent Scrutiny Panel to independently examine what is being put forward.”

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