News - Naidheachdan

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has again raised in the Scottish Parliament the opportunities for home-working to bring more public-sector jobs to rural and island areas.

During a portfolio question time session in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, the islands MSP highlighted the potential benefits this would bring, and asked what more the Scottish Government can do to ensure more posts in the public sector are open to home-working or hot-desking in rural offices.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“The rapid shift to home-working brought about by the pandemic has the potential to be beneficial for the islands if we can encourage employers and public sector organisations to make sure that more and more of their jobs can be done by home-working or hot-desking.

“We know that a key reason for people moving away is that they can only pursue their chosen career path on the mainland, and so if we can enable people to do that while remaining in the islands it would help to tackle depopulation.

“I was pleased to see the Scottish Government acknowledge the need for them to show leadership in this area and commit to further discussions with representatives of the rural economy.”

ALLAN URGES VIGILANCE OVER TEST AND PROTECT PHONE SCAMS

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan is reminding islanders what to expect if they are contacted by an NHS contact tracer, following reports in the national media of scammers pretending to work for the Test and Protect contact tracing service.

When contacting individuals who have tested positive, contact tracers will ask people to identify others who they’ve been in close contact with and places they’ve been 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms up until the time they’ve self-isolated. This information will then be inputted into contact tracing software and used to identify and contact those identified.

The positive individual will not be named by the contact tracer in line with patient confidentiality, unless they agree to have their details disclosed to help the contact tracing process.

Importantly, contact tracers will not ask anyone for information about bank accounts or medical records, and they will not try to sell you anything. The data gathered will be stored securely by NHS Scotland and safely destroyed as soon as possible after the pandemic concludes.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“I am urging my constituents to be on guard about potential phone scams. Contact tracing is an important part of tackling coronavirus, but unfortunately it seems there are unscrupulous individuals seeking to take advantage of peoples’ fears over the virus.

“The NHS already has a number of protections in place to stop potential fraudsters and ensure all information is kept confidential.

“Contact tracers will introduce themselves, state the reason for their call, and will always identify who they are calling by name. They will not ask for information about bank accounts or medical records, and they will not try to sell you anything.

“The tracers are supported by software which builds on a tried and trusted platform, allowing teams to identify outbreaks and reduce transmission for high risk groups.

“Test and Protect is one way we will tackle this pandemic, but physical distancing and good hand hygiene continues to play a huge role as we hopefully continue to keep the islands free of coronavirus.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan is organising a series of community conversations on Gaelic’s future as a community language in the Outer Hebrides, Skye and Tiree. Consultations will establish an open forum to discuss and determine appropriate actions in securing the language within the islands.

The recent publication of a comprehensive sociolinguistic study into the use of Gaelic in the vernacular island communities, titled ‘The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Communities’, concluded that the language will fall into obsolescence unless significant changes are made in approach and strategy.

Alasdair Allan MSP is working with the authors of the study from the Soillse research team based at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and a cross-party group of MSPs.

Eight community meetings will take place in the late autumn across Na h-Eileanan Siar, Skye and Tiree to engage island residents and organisations. Residents will also have the option to submit written opinions as part of the process. As well as discussions about Gaelic usage in the home and community, the meetings will also gauge opinion on whether a Gaelic community cooperative – Urras na Gàidhlig – could be an appropriate structure to coordinate and drive forward local development actions under the direct control of the Gaelic-speaking community.

Commenting on the consultations, Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“The language’s visible decline in community and family usage is a serious concern to everyone working to foster a thriving, sustainable society in the Western Isles. The language forms a vital part of the cultural ecosystem which informs our shared identity, values and wellbeing.

“Against the continued loss of Gaelic, however, I am aware of extensive support and goodwill for the language amongst islands residents. We need to engage all parties in ensuring that future solutions are rooted within the community.

“Where do we want to see Gaelic in the next decade? We need to have a broad conversation about the language’s future and determine appropriate steps to get us where we want to be. Ultimately, this should start and end with the community, with the government playing a crucial role in supporting them to realise this.”

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament earlier today, Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan gave his backing to the Programme for Government unveiled this week by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The islands MSP also used his speech to call for more public sector jobs to come to areas like the Western Isles in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased focus on homeworking. 

The Programme for Government contains a number of commitments aimed at ensuring a strong economic recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic. Under the commitments, all young people in Scotland aged 16 to 24 will be guaranteed a job, education, apprenticeship or formal training through a new £60 million government scheme. By this Autumn, a £100 million Green Jobs fund will be launched to help up to 10,000 people of all ages retrain for jobs in growth sectors such as renewables. 

The SNP government has also announced a new £10 million Tenant Hardship Fund, which will open later this year and offer interest-free loans to those unable to access other forms of support for their housing costs. A comprehensive independent review of adult social care will also take place – setting out options for the creation of a National Care Service. 

Alasdair Allan MSP said: 

“We can’t simply go back to how things were before coronavirus. We have an opportunity to build back a fairer and better Scotland.

“I very much welcome the commitments announced in the Programme for Government this week. These protect people’s livelihoods, guarantee opportunities for all our young people and point the way to a future with better, greener jobs as Scotland looks to becoming a net-zero country.

“At the same time that we are considering the long-term cultural and economic changes brought by the pandemic, there is continuing anxiety about the shortage of working-age people in many rural communities. There needs to be more and more opportunities for people in the public sector to work either from home or from hot desks in rurally-based offices, or more likely, a combination of both. Just as importantly, it implies advertising people’s rights to do this, and planning for what this might mean in some of our most fragile communities.

“Unfortunately, the Scottish Government continues to fight coronavirus with one hand tied behind its back. Westminster’s plans to end to the furlough scheme prematurely and crash out of the EU without a deal later this year, will be deeply damaging.

“As an independent European nation, we could do so much more. That is why more and more people are seeing that the time has come for independence.”

 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed a trial by Argos to expand its delivery service to the Western Isles, Shetland, Orkney, and the Inner Hebrides.

From this week, over 98% of residents living on what Argos term the main Scottish islands can order large items, from furniture to fridges, and have them delivered on a day of their choice. Delivery and collection prices will match those available in the rest of the UK and customers can to choose and book a specific delivery date for the first time.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: 

“It’s very welcome to see Argos trial this expansion of their delivery service. Excessive delivery charges and couriers not delivering to the islands are a constant source of frustration to my constituents, who are unfairly penalised for their postcodes. 

“It is particularly good to see that Argos will offer islanders the same choice of products, the same delivery and collection prices, and the same delivery options as they would to mainland households. Parity and fairness are all that islanders have ever asked when it comes to delivery charges. I hope that this trial is successful and that other retailers consider following suit.

SNP GOVERNMENT’S ‘JOB START PAYMENT’ NOW OPEN TO APPLICATIONS

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed a new Scottish benefit that will help 16 to 24-year olds into work if they have been unemployed for over six months.

The SNP Scottish Government’s Job Start Payment is a one-off grant of £250 to help with the costs of starting a new job. The upper age limit rises to 25 for care leavers and the payment rises to £400 if the person has a child.

It is estimated around 5,000 young people across Scotland will benefit from this new financial support in its first year.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:

The job prospects of young people have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and so this announcement of extra support to help our young people into work really couldn’t come at a better time.

“This payment will help local people with the extra expenses that are often attached to a starting a new job, such as travel costs, new work clothes or even childcare.

“In Government, the SNP is working hard to create new opportunities for work as we rebuild our economy. I’d encourage anyone in the Western Isles who thinks they may be eligible to apply online.”

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