21 July 2017
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has voiced concerns over the future of agriculture subsidies, after UK Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove, appeared to threaten future funding levels in a speech earlier today.
While the UK Government has stated its intention to continue current levels of farm subsidies until 2022, there is a huge question mark over what financial support system will be in place after that.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“Agriculture subsidies help to support crofters across the Western Isles, as well as boosting the local economies as a whole by helping to create and sustain jobs here.
“Today’s remarks from Michael Gove that farmers and crofters will have to earn their payments are an unambiguous threat to cut levels of support post-2022.
“With the Conservative party’s consistently dismissive attitude towards crofting and farming in less favoured areas, there are real concerns over what a UK Government replacement for CAP would look like.
“All of this underlines the need for powers over agriculture, fisheries and the rural economy to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament so that we can protect vital funding to our rural communities.”
13 July 2017
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed confirmation that securing a second vessel on the Stornoway – Ullapool remains a “priority” for the Scottish Government.
The Stornoway-Ullapool route has been served by the £42 million MV Loch Seaforth since 2015 when she replaced the MV Isle of Lewis, which now serves as the dedicated vessel between Barra and Oban.
Alasdair Allan commented:
“The MV Loch Seaforth has represented an improvement in capacity and reliability – which would not have been the case with two smaller ferries – but it is clear to see she is now at capacity in the busy summer months. In many ways we have become victims of our own success, with record numbers of tourists enjoying our island hospitality in the summer thanks to RET.
“With Calmac now advising foot passengers to book online we clearly need to be looking at securing an additional vessel to the Loch Seaforth. There are ongoing problems with people finding the ferry is full if they look online but informed there are still spaces if they phone. This is clearly an issue and I have written to Calmac to take up these concerns.
“The Transport Minister has been attempting to find a vessel but has so far been unsuccessful in finding a suitable one in the open market. This underlines the importance of investment in new vessels and the record levels of funding going in to ferry services. The Scottish Government has demonstrated its commitment in this regard with the construction of the new £97 million dual-fuel ferries currently underway at Ferguson’s shipyard in Port Glasgow, with one designed specifically for the Uig Triangle.”
11 July 2017
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the opening of the new Mackenzie Lane housing development near Stornoway as “an example of the SNP in Government delivering for the Western Isles.”
Mackenzie Lane is the third stage of the Mackenzie Park housing complex on Melbost Farm, and comprises 24 new homes. This brings the total number of completed houses at Mackenzie Park to 81, of which 51 are for affordable rent.
The final phase is underway and is expected to be complete by September 2019. When the development is complete there will be a total of 131 homes and Scottish Government grant funding totalling £9.4 million.
Alasdair Allan commented:
“The opening of Mackenzie Lane represents real progress in tackling local housing needs.
“Here in the Western Isles we face problems with a lack of affordable housing, ageing stock and houses poorly equipped to retain heat. Increasing the supply of affordable homes is a key SNP commitment and plays a vital role in helping to tackle poverty and inequality in the Isles.
“I am delighted with the progress that has been made at MacKenzie Park and that the latest phase has been completed. This represents a significant increase in the housing stock for Stornoway – the area where demand for affordable housing is highest.
“This follows last month’s announcement that the Western Isles will receive £25 million worth of investment for affordable housing over the next three years – easily the highest per capita funding for any council area in Scotland – which will help contribute to the Scottish Government’s national target of 50,000 new affordable homes by 2021."
04 July 2017
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has expressed his concern at physiotherapy provision in the Western Isles, following representations made to him from concerned parents.
A large number of frustrated parents and carers attended a Paediatric Physiotherapy Event at the Caberfeidh Hotel in Stornoway last Tuesday to discuss the issue with NHS Western Isles and the Integrated Joint Board.
Alasdair Allan commented:
“I have been contacted by a number of parents whose children have been unable to get an appointment since the retirement of the Paediatric Physiotherapist in June.
“I understand that the post has been advertised twice and that efforts continue to fill the post.
“I appreciate that the IJB and Western Isles have recognised these concerns and have confirmed they will work with both parents and carers closely on this issue. However, in the immediate short term, there are clearly concerns among this group of parents which need to be addressed, and I have raised these in correspondence with both boards."
29 June 2017
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed Calmac’s commitment to commissioning an independent assessment of the WiFi availability onboard Hebridean crossings.
Alasdair Allan, who has in the past called on Calmac to improve their on-vessel WiFi for passengers, wrote to Calmac to outline concerns around the WiFi availability and quality onboard Hebridean services both at sea and in ports, following recent complaints.
In response, Calmac have said an independent assessment of the service has been commissioned to allow them to understand why there may be issues and how best to address them.
Commenting, Dr Allan said:
“I am pleased that Calmac have commissioned an independent assessment of their WiFi service. In the 21st century, where WiFi is a common feature on trains and mainland buses, ferry passengers have every right to expect a similar basic service and I am glad that Calmac have admitted that they initially underestimated the scale of the challenge.
“I welcome CalMac’s commitment to have a full and proper analysis of what needs done, not only to manage public expectations, but to establish what is required to improve the onboard service.
“I first remember being lobbied on this issue by pupils at Castlebay School, when I joined Keith Brown MSP, then the Transport Minister, to hear the case for WiFi on the Oban ferry. Years after the commitment from Calmac, the service is still often unusable to most.
“I look forward to hearing of the outcome of the independent assessment and hope that it will lead to an improved service.”
29 June 2017
The most recent data for NHS Scotland reveals that 100% of patients in NHS Western Isles’ emergency departments were seen, admitted or discharged within four hours – beating the 95% target.
Scottish hospitals have now had the best performing emergency departments in the UK for more than two years.
Commenting, SNP MSP Alasdair Allan for Na h-Eileanan an Iar said:
“These very positive figures for the Western Isles are a testament to the hard work of our NHS and social care workers.
“It is extremely encouraging that Emergency Departments in NHS Western Isles are frequently meeting the four hour waiting times target, with the latest figures published showing that 100% of patients are being seen within four hours.
“We will always value the vital work done by our NHS staff – and we should always celebrate their success and continue to support their efforts.”