News - Naidheachdan

Alasdair Allan MSP has welcomed the latest figures which show a record number of young carers have received support from the Scottish Government in the last year, with over 3,700 young people receiving a Young Carer Grant.

Since the payment was launched in 2019, over 12,000 payments totalling £4 million have been made, and since March 2023 almost 1.4m has been paid - almost 60% more than the year before.

The £380 grant is only available in Scotland, and is for those aged 16 - 18 who spends at least 16 hours a week on average caring for someone who gets a qualifying disability benefit.

Commenting, SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, said:

“This SNP Scottish Government is transforming more lives than ever before across the Western Isles, and will continue to do all it can as we work towards the First Minister’s goal of eradicating child poverty.

“With a social security system built on the principles of dignity, fairness and respect, we can make a real difference – alleviating hardship and supporting those who sacrifice so much to care for their loved ones.

“I am glad this support – which is unique to Scotland – is available to young carers across our islands, and I would encourage anyone who is not receiving this payment to check if they’re eligible.”

 

 

SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to review the current Heat in Buildings regulations for newbuilds to ensure they are appropriate for island areas. The new standards came into effect in April, and only allowed for solid fuel heating sources to be installed in new homes as an “emergency” option.

The islands’ MSP again raised constituents’ concerns in the chamber yesterday, expressing the need for clarity on the regulations and their workability in rural and island areas. In April, Allan wrote to then Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings to highlight his concern about the changes, particularly for new homes in areas not connected to gas and where power cuts can occur more frequently.

Commenting after the Minister’s announcement, Allan said:

“I am pleased to hear the clarification from the Scottish Government, which I and others sought, regarding the new regulations on the installation of solid fuel heat systems in newbuild homes.

“Stoves remain essential to the sustainable and affordable heating of many houses, not least in the islands, with their very significant levels of fuel poverty. While there was never any proposals to ban stoves in existing properties or to “effectively ban peat cutting”, despite some wilfully misrepresenting matters, it is helpful to have this commitment from the Minister to make sure that the regulations for newbuild properties are reflective of local contexts.

“I welcome the Minister’s confirmation that, while the Scottish Government wants to ensure that climate-friendly alternatives are promoted across Scotland, it also recognises there must be no unintended consequences in terms of fuel poverty and sustainability, particularly in rural communities.”

The Western Isles MSP spoke in a parliamentary debate on the subject yesterday, during which he outlined the importance of solid fuel heating systems, like wood and peat burning, for island communities. He emphasised the need for policies to fully consider the specific needs and challenges of rural communities, and to afford flexibility accordingly. 

The new Minister for Energy, Gillian Martin, responded to Alasdair Allan by letter ahead of confirming in the chamber this week that the Government had “been listening to the concerns raised by communities and will be reviewing the regulations […] with the intention to adapt them to address the issues of inflexibility that have been raised. The outcome of the review will ensure resilience to interruptions of electricity and heating supply and respect for rural communities’ culture, traditions and sustainable systems.”

Alasdair’s speech from yesterday can be viewed in full here.

 

 

SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has said that empowering local authorities to introduce a ‘visitor levy’ (otherwise known as a ‘tourist tax’) will make a big difference for areas where tourism plays an important role.

The Visitor Levy (Scotland) Bill will enable local authorities who chose this option to apply a small charge to tourists on overnight stays. All money raised would be reinvested in services and facilities largely used by tourists and business visitors. Similar levies already apply in many tourist destinations around the world, including Amsterdam, Prague, Barcelona and Berlin and Canada.

Councils that want to introduce a visitor levy will be able to do so after they have consulted with local communities, businesses and tourism organisations.

In the Scottish Parliament yesterday, MSPs voted on the Bill, which seeks to fiscally empower local government and strengthen local democracy, with the New Deal for Business and the New Deal for Local Government at its heart. The Scottish Government has been engaging with communities, the tourism industry, and other stakeholders on the proposed levy for a number of years.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“It is vital that local authorities are able to take the decision on whether a visitor levy is appropriate in their area, and I hope councils take advantage of the powers within the bill passed by the Scottish Parliament yesterday.

“Tourism plays a vital role in the local economy here in the Western Isles, and it is right that the Comhairle will now have the option to raise some additional revenue to ensure local facilities and services can cope well with the number of visitors enjoying our islands throughout the busier months.”

 

 

SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has welcomed the announcement from the First Minister that Scotland’s islands will receive an additional £5m to tackle rising costs and invest in local infrastructure.

On a visit to Shetland last week, John Swinney outlined the funding package, which will support island communities in tackling local issues, such as fuel poverty, as well as investing in new opportunities to help boost economic growth.

Within the package there is further support for the carbon neutral islands project (which includes Barra and Vatersay), as well as a further £1 million for the Island Cost Crisis Emergency Fund to continue addressing poverty and the cost-of-living crisis. The rest of the funding will support locally designed critical island infrastructure projects.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan said:

“This additional funding will make a big difference locally, supporting the First Minister’s priorities of eradicating child poverty, growing Scotland’s economy, investing in green energy and infrastructure, and improving public services.

“Those of us fortunate enough to call the islands our home are well aware of the additional challenges island living brings. Tailored funding for island communities demonstrates the Scottish Government’s recognition that our islands need the right resources and investment to reverse depopulation and secure our islands’ long-term sustainability.”

 

 

SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has welcomed the announcement from the Scottish Government that the Outer Hebrides Climate Hub will receive £123,900 in funding for 2024/25.

This funding is part of a £5.5 million investment in 20 climate hubs across Scotland to help communities reduce their emissions and improve their resilience in the face of climate change.

Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Energy Màiri McAllan announced the funding and highlighted that “tackling climate change is our collective responsibility and will require collaborative action at all levels.”

Climate hubs support communities in a number of ways, such as by delivering climate assemblies to schools, supporting local businesses to reuse and recycle and providing advice for tackling fuel poverty.

SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said:

“It is very welcome news that the Outer Hebrides Climate Hub will be supported by £123,900 in funding for the coming financial year.

“It is our collective responsibility to tackle the climate emergency and the network of climate hubs across Scotland empowers communities to engage and get involved in local initiatives. The Outer Hebrides Climate Hub, for example, plays a key role locally in providing resources, seed funding, training and collaborative opportunities, with a focus on mitigating and adapting to the potential effects of climate change across our islands.

“The Western Isles have some of the highest levels of fuel poverty in Western Europe. This should never be the case in a region so rich in renewable resources. Furthermore, many of our communities are in real danger due to the impact of climate change long-term, particularly with regards to rising sea levels.

“That is why I am pleased to see the Scottish Government continuing to resource communities in the fight against climate change, allowing decisions to be taken at a local level on how best to prioritise this funding.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Community action to reach net zero - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has acknowledged that the 2022 census is a “mixed picture” for the Gaelic language.

The number of people in Scotland able to speak Gaelic increased over 12,000 to 69,701 since the previous census in 2011.

While warmly welcoming the overall increase in Gaelic ability in Scotland, Dr Allan has pointed to the continued erosion of the language within traditional communities such as Na h-Eileanan an Iar.

The number within Na h-Eileanan an Iar declined by 2,600 to 11,426, or 45% of the population, meaning that, for the first time, Gaelic is no longer a majority language in any local authority area in Scotland. The Western Isles’ figure reflected demographic decline in the region, with the islands’ population contracting by 1,300.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“Nationally, the 2022 census data gives a positive picture for Gaelic, with 2.5% of the Scottish population now possessing some skills in Gaelic.

“There is cause for concern for the vernacular language in our rural and island communities, however. The percentages within the strongest Gaelic communities, such as Barvas and South Uist, have fallen from 64% to 55%. 

“This is not solely a language issue, and clearly reflects the islands’ challenging demographic situation, along with housing, transport, and the economy. The overall situation is a mixed picture.

“Today’s census release will focus the ongoing discussions surrounding the Scottish Languages Bill, introduced by the Scottish Government, to ensure that it supports the maintenance of the languages in communities like Na h-Eileanan an Iar.”

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