SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has spoken out against the UK Government’s cut to Universal Credit payments which came into effect at the beginning of October.
An uplift of £20 per week was introduced at the beginning of the pandemic, but despite widespread outcry, the Tories proceeded in reducing Universal Credit payments down to pre-pandemic rates. This means a reduction of around £85 per month, or £1,040 a year.
Universal Credit is now worth less in real terms than it was when the benefit was first introduced in 2013, despite costs of living having risen.
1311 households in the Western Isles currently claim Universal Credit and will be detrimentally impacted by this cut.
Allan, who met with Western Isles Citizens Advice last month to discuss the local impact of these cuts, commented:
“This decision to abruptly reduce Universal Credit payments lacks any sense of compassion or understanding of the difficulties faced daily by families. It will push thousands of households across Scotland, including people both in and out of work here in the Western Isles, into poverty, and completely undermines the benefits of the Scottish Government’s Scottish Child Payment. This highlights the difficulty in trying to tackle poverty when decisions taken elsewhere can undermine Scotland’s own efforts.”
SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, welcomed yesterday’s announcement that the fabrication yard in Arnish has secured a new external contract.
This is the yard’s first external contract since it was taken over in February of this year by Harland and Wolff Group Holdings plc. The work involves building four steel section piles for a subsea template of an energy project in the Black Sea.
Allan commented: “The Arnish yard is a hugely important economic asset for the Western Isles, and has always been renowned for the quality of its workforce as well as what it produces. After a turbulent few years it is especially reassuring to see that the yard has now been awarded a new external contract, with the view of more work being secured for the yard over the coming months to ensure its continued sustainability.”
Harland and Wolff said that “this key win validates the company’s strategy of getting its Arnish facility into a state of operational preparedness for the wider renewables sector in the UK” and that their management believes that additional deals “will flow through Arnish in the coming weeks and months”.
It is expected that the manufacturing process for the new contract will begin immediately and last around four and a half months.
SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, welcomed the announcement of the successful applicants for the Scottish Government’s £2 million Island Communities Fund.
There are 29 community groups and business across 23 islands who have each been awarded up to £150,000 for projects focussing on developing sustainable economic activities on islands. Eight of the successful applicants are from the Western Isles, receiving a combined total of £475,853.32 in funding.
Commenting, Allan said: “The Western Isles have a wealth of fantastic local businesses and organisations, and I am very pleased to see that a significant proportion of the Island Communities Fund has been awarded to innovative projects all across our islands.
“Our island communities have a hugely important role to play in helping us achieve Scotland’s ambitious climate change targets, and I would like to congratulate those who have been awarded this funding, which will enable them to develop and deliver their proposals over the next 6 months. Each of these projects has the potential to have an enormously positive effect locally, supporting employment and community resilience through green economic initiatives.”
The Hebridean organisations who have been awarded funding through the scheme are the Clan Macquarrie Community Centre, Leverhulme Community Hub, Point and Sandwick Coastal Community Path SCIO, Gàradh a’ Bhàgh a’ Tuath, Keose Glebe Estate, MacLeans Bakery (Benbecula) Ltd., North Uist Distillery, and Comunn Eachdraidh Nis.
SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, today raised in Parliament local concerns over new UK-wide energy efficiency requirements. Alasdair Allan was speaking in response to the Ministerial Statement on the Scottish Government’s Heat in Buildings Strategy.
New UK-wide industry standards for retrofitting energy efficiency measures now require fixed mechanical ventilation and window vents.
This has reportedly resulted in a decline in the number of people in the Western Isles who are willing to have insulation installed by providers such as Tighean Innse Gall, due to the accompanying mandatory ventilation requirements, which can cause significant draughts in many types of Hebridean properties.
Following a meeting this week with Tighean Innse Gall, Allan commented:
“In order to continue to reduce emissions and meet Scotland’s ambitious climate change targets, we must all be working towards making our homes and workplaces more energy efficient. This should in turn help alleviate fuel poverty in the long-term. Current figures suggest that 56% of island residents are in fuel poverty, which is the second highest rate in Scotland. We must be doing everything we can to make home insulation attractive.
“However, the mandatory ventilation measures that Trustmark insulation providers are now having to adhere to seem to be somewhat counter-productive, and unsuitable for the local environment here in the Western Isles. The idea of cutting holes in walls in the name of ventilation in order to comply with these new regulations is understandably leading to people rejecting insulation schemes from providers such as Tighean Innse Gall.
“I look forward to meeting with the Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings and Tighean Innse Gall in order to discuss these issues in more detail.”
Stewart Wilson, CEO of Tighean Innse Gall, commented:
"Over the last twenty years we have successfully delivered industry-recognised high quality insulation installations with customer care at the heart of what we do. It is therefore very concerning that we will have to apply the UK PAS standard for ventilation without considering the mean wind speeds we experience on the islands. This inevitably will mean the very people we are seeking to lift out of fuel poverty would be left with a much draughtier house risking even higher heating costs to maintain a level of comfort".
SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Allan Allan, has welcomed the news that a ferry has been bought from Norwegian shipping firm Norled, and is expected to be in operation on CalMac’s Oban – Mull route from the summer of 2022.
MV Utne will be transferred to CMAL at the end of this month and will undergo modifications and staff training over the winter period. She will accommodate 195 passengers and 34 cars. The additional tonnage, at a cost of £9m, will have a knock-on benefit for the Western Isles as this will allow vessels to be moved elsewhere on the network.
Commenting on the news, Alasdair Allan said:
“The addition of MV Utne to CalMac’s fleet will help ease some of the pressure on our ferry services that has been so evident over recent months. As everyone in the islands knows, people have been badly affected by service disruptions this year.
"MV Utne is of course only one part of solving that, but she is a welcome one. In the meantime, CalMac needs to keep working to ensure that the needs of islanders are prioritised and that these lifeline services operate as they should.”
SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has nominated local nurse Catherine Maciver as the constituency’s ‘Local Hero’, and invited her to the opening of Parliament to recognise her work as COVID Vaccination Clinic Lead Nurse for the impressive vaccination rollout in the Western Isles.
Every Member of the Scottish Parliament was asked to name one of their constituents who had made an extraordinary contribution to the lives of other people during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Those selected by their MSP, including Mrs Maciver, have been invited to contribute to the Scottish Parliament’s Opening Ceremony, an event which will take place on Saturday 2nd October to formally mark the new session of the Parliament.
Catherine Maciver was put forward by the Western Isles Health Board as someone who has been instrumental to the success of the local Covid-19 vaccination programme. A retired senior charge nurse, Mrs Maciver returned to work to head up the mass vaccination clinic in Stornoway.
After his meeting with Mrs Maciver earlier this week, Alasdair Allan said:
“I would like thank Catherine for her incredible efforts, along with those of her NHS colleagues throughout the islands, which have ensured such a rapid and successful vaccine rollout here in the Western Isles. These past 18 months have been challenging for everyone, but particularly for our healthcare workers, and I would like to express my gratitude to everyone at NHS Western Isles for all they have done and continue to do despite the ongoing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am delighted that Catherine has accepted my invitation to represent the Western Isles at the Scottish Parliament’s Opening Ceremony as our ‘Local Hero’. I know that Catherine is keen to make clear that this recognition extends to everyone involved in the vaccination programme locally who ensured that the Western Isles was able to vaccinate its population probably more rapidly than virtually any community in the world.”
Catherine commented: “It is a huge honour to have been selected for the Local Hero nomination and I would like to thank all those who supported the nomination.
“I would like to say a huge thank you to the team of vaccinators who participate in clinics every day and to those who support and plan behind the scenes, to ensure our clinics run like well-oiled machines. Everyone has been amazing and I’m proud to be part of it.”