Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar has commented on the Trussell Trust report which today published its findings on foodbank use in the Western Isles.
In the islands, between April 2017 and March 2018, the report found that there were 616 three-day emergency food supplies given to people facing crisis by the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network, with 227 going to children.
Across Scotland, the report found 170,625 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis, with 55,038 of these were provided for children.
Commenting, Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan said:
“These findings are a concern to everyone, and reflect the sad and devastating legacy of the UK Government’s austerity agenda, which has now continued for the best part of a decade. One referral here in the islands is one too many, never mind 616, as the report indicates.
“Foodbanks are run by passionate individuals who seek provide a safety net, and act as a last-resort for those living in poverty. I commend the hard-work of those involved, particularly with the foodbank in Stornoway and the newly established foodbank in Uist. The UK Government’s austerity agenda, sanctions system and flawed universal credit rollout are making foodbank use far too every-day and common in our communities.
“I fully support the Trussell Trust’s call for an urgent review into the Universal Credit Rollout, and re-iterate my call for the rollout to be halted immediately, before it reaches the Western Isles later this year.
“With our limited powers over welfare, the Scottish Government is building a Scottish social security agency with dignity and respect at its heart. Considerable support is being given to low-income families through the Scottish Welfare fund too.
“But the extent of Westminster cuts to the welfare state, brutal sanctions programme, and much maligned universal credit rollout are causing families to be left in complete destitution, and forced to use food-banks. The findings of this report clearly show why we need full powers over social security in Scotland – not in the hands of the Tories.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has called time on the “idle abuse” of Gaelic which he said is still heard in parts of the media and Scottish society, during a speech today in the Scottish Parliament. He said such remarks are out of step with the widespread and cross-party support that exists for the language.
Alasdair Allan was speaking for the Scottish Government in a debate welcoming the launch of the new National Gaelic Language Plan by Deputy First Minister John Swinney. The islands’ MSP spoke in Gaelic throughout the debate, as did a number of other members.
The National Gaelic Language Plan, which sets out the framework for the faster growth of the language across Scotland, was launched last month at the Scottish Parliament. The central purpose of the Plan is to encourage and enable more people to use Gaelic more often and in a wider range of situations.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament Chamber, Alasdair Allan said:
“Tha e a’ dèanamh diofair mhòr de tha daoine gun Ghàidhlig ag ràdh mun a Ghàidhlig. Ma bhios iad ga moladh, bidh daoine òga moiteal gu bheil a’ Ghàidhlig aca. Ma bhios daoine anns na meadhanan no ann am poleataigs a’ magadh na Gàidhlig, bidh na daoine òga sin a’ fas suas leis an smuain nach eil Alba a’ toirt spèis sam bidh dhan an dualchais Gàidhlig aca.”
“It makes a huge difference what people without Gaelic say about Gaelic. If they praise the language, young people will be proud that they have Gaelic. If anyone in the media or politics mocks Gaelic, young people will grow up with the idea that Scotland doesn’t care about their own Gaelic heritage.”
Speakling after the debate, Alasdair Allan added:
“We want to see Gaelic used more often, by more people and in a wider range of situations. The National Gaelic Language Plan will help achieve this by focusing on three areas: increasing the use of Gaelic, increasing the learning of Gaelic, and promoting a positive image of Gaelic. Gaelic is part of our history and heritage, but it is also an important part of modern life in Scotland. I was pleased to be have the chance to use it in Parliament again today.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan and Barraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eiriosgaigh agus Uibhist a Deas Councillor Donald Manford have welcomed the news that the Outline Business Case for the replacement of St Brendan's Hospital on Barra has been approved.
Commenting, Alasdair Allan said:
“Despite the excellent service provided by NHS staff, it has been recognised for the better part of a decade that the current facilities are simply unfit for purpose. A new Hospital is desperately needed and this is something that the community in Barra have been united in their support of.
“People in Barra have waited too long for this to happen and I have made no secret of my frustration about the delays to the project. However, I am delighted that after many years of waiting, an Outline Business Case for a new Hospital for Barra has now been submitted by the Health Board and approved. There was a positive and constructive visit to Barra in January by members of the Scottish Government’s Capital Investment Group which I think this helped create a clear understanding of the work that needed to be done to strengthen the project’s business case.
“NHS Western Isles will now be working on the development of the Full Business Case and I look forward to seeing this progress.”
Cllr Donald Manford said:
“Securing Outline Business Case approval for Barra's hospital is the huge step forward we have been striving towards for so long. This breakthrough has been achieved following the recent meeting in Barra with officers of the Scottish Government's Capital Investment Group, and on behalf of our community my sincere thanks to them.
“I look forward to us now, moving rapidly to Full Business Case approval.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP, Alasdair Allan, has welcomed the news that in the Western Isles Government investment has led to more than 135 fibre cabinets being built, delivering superfast broadband access to more than 12,000 premises and covering around 71% of homes and businesses. He said there was still a lot of work to be done however to get to bring superfast broadband availability up to the levels seen in other parts of the country.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise are leading the £146m Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) project in the area, which has surpassed the target of reaching 86% of premises across the Highlands and Islands as a result of successful take-up and efficiencies in BT delivery. This represents massive progress since 2013, when only 4% had access to fibre broadband in the region. The Scottish Government has already exceeded its Programme for Government pledge to deliver fibre broadband to more than 95% of premises in Scotland.
Partners involved in the Digital Highlands and Islands Project include Digital Scotland, the Scottish Government, the European Regional Development Fund, Broadband Delivery UK, Citizens Online and Business Gateway.
Alasdair Allan said:
“It is a landmark achievement that the DSSB project - the most ambitious fibre infrastructure programme in the whole of Europe - is already exceeding the aims set out in the 2017-18 Programme for Government. More than 71% of homes in the Western Isles now have access to superfast broadband. This figure was zero before this project started.
“However, this is of course no comfort at all to the people who still don’t benefit. The Scottish Government will not rest until the £600 million ‘Reaching 100%’ programme delivers access speeds of at least 30Mbps to every single premise in Scotland, no matter the location, by 2021.
“Fast and reliable internet is fundamental for the future economic and social success of our islands. It won’t be easy, but the Scottish Government is focussed on ensuring that rural communities are among the first to benefit from our commitment to provide 100% access to superfast broadband and turn Scotland into a world-class digital nation.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP, Alasdair Allan, has warmly welcomed the news that new investment has been secured for BiFab – securing the future of the Arnish yard.
Canadian company JV Driver, through its subsidiary DF Barnes, has acquired BiFab as part of an agreement brokered by the Scottish Government to support new opportunities at these yards for fabrication and construction in the marine, renewables and energy sector.
As part of the agreement, announced today by the First Minister, the Scottish Government will take a minority shareholding in the new company to demonstrate continued commitment to supporting the future of the three yards.
The workforce at Arnish has been reduced to around 6 employees as the yard transitioned to care and maintenance.
Alasdair Allan said:
“These talks have been underway for some time now and I am really delighted to see today’s deal – which will see work return to all three yards – concluded. When BiFab got into difficulty last year, the Scottish Government made a commitment to stand by BiFab and work to secure a long term future for jobs and that is exactly what has happened.
“I would like to pay tribute to my Scottish Government colleagues Keith Brown MSP and Paul Wheelhouse MSP, who have done a tremendous amount of work to ensure these yards have a future. The workforce at Arnish have demonstrated great resolve and determination in the face of this ordeal, and the unions have worked hard to achieve a positive outcome. Were it not for the combined efforts of the community and the Scottish Government, it is questionable what the state of play would be today.
“These are good jobs which are important to the island economy. I am eager to hear what orders the yard will get and how many jobs are likely to come back. Economy Secretary Keith Brown will be providing Parliament with what information is available this afternoon.
“This episode has highlighted a number of issues which will have to be addressed, not least the need to retain skills here on the island through apprenticeships and training, and ensure that workers can have confidence their employment will not be short-term.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed news that the Committee of Advertising Practice is issuing an enforcement notice which will force firms to be more transparent about their delivery charges to rural areas, including the islands. The practice of advertising “free UK delivery”, but then adding charges for remote areas late in the ordering process may now be subject to enforcement action. This includes legal proceedings against any companies who persist with this practice beyond the 31st May deadline.
Alasdair Allan commented:
“It has long been a source of deep frustration to many islanders shopping online that sites appear to offer free UK delivery, whereas, often as late as the check-out stage, additional charges are added when an HS postcode is entered. Constituents have regularly brought examples to me of occasions when these delivery charges are either in excess of the price of the product they wished to purchase, or entirely out of proportion to the actual delivery costs.
“I am particularly heartened by the fact that this enforcement notice has been described by the Advertising Standards Authority as a ‘first step’, acknowledging that there is still more to be done to bring about an equitable situation for areas such as the Western Isles.”