News - Naidheachdan

SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, today spoke in the Scottish Parliament during a debate about the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and Levelling Up agenda.

Allan highlighted the significant impact of EU funding on infrastructure in the Western Isles over the years:

“This support has helped to facilitate major infrastructure projects, transport links and new community facilities in the islands, as well as contributing to the establishment of the University of the Highlands and Islands and delivering wider community benefits through numerous training and social inclusion programmes.

“Throughout the entirety of the Western Isles, the loss of financial support from the EU will be sorely felt, unless the UK Government fully commits to allocating at least the same levels of investment needed to replace the loss of EU Structural funds, as well as the funding from schemes such as the LEADER programmes and the Common Agricultural Payments for crofters.”

Due to launch in 2022, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund is the replacement for EU Structural Funds. EU funding was previously distributed by the Scottish Government, but the new UK Internal Market Bill allows the UK Government to allocate funds in devolved areas.

The Scottish Government have said that spending decisions for Scotland being made based on a UK Government agenda simply adds to the complexity of the funding landscape, creating a confused and incoherent policy framework as well as financial inefficiencies.

In his speech today, Allan also raised concerns over the way in which the UK Government has approached the development of these new funding schemes and the constitutional implications of this:

“The UK Government’s Spending Review plans for Levelling Up and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund are, in their operation, an infringement on the sovereignty of the Scottish Parliament, and do not come close to matching, in real terms, the significant EU funding revenue from which Scotland has benefited for over 40 years. If the UK Government continues to attempt to impose its own agenda and undermine the devolution settlement, this raises unavoidable constitutional issues.”

 

SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, today asked a question in the Scottish Parliament voicing the concerns of local communities in Harris and Uist about the potential impacts of CalMac’s proposed summer 2022 timetable.

Allan asked what consultation was being undertaken with communities regarding next year’s summer timetable for the CalMac network, and why an overall reduction in services from Lochmaddy and Tarbert to Uig is being proposed. He also asked why the consultation period for the proposals was seemingly so short.

Commenting on the two options outlined in response by the Transport Minister, Allan said:

“It is vital that our ferry services prioritise the needs of islanders, as well as providing adequate availability for tourists.

“There are understandably a huge number of operational and logistical factors that need to be considered, including of course ensuring that crew members get the Hours of Rest they need.

“However, I would urge CalMac and Transport Scotland to look again at these proposals, as less capacity on these routes next summer - routes which CalMac themselves say have already been under increasing pressure in recent years - would clearly be detrimental to the communities of Harris and Uist that CalMac’s ferries are meant to serve.”

 

SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has today written to CalMac to raise his concerns over the proposed changes to next year’s summer timetable.

If the proposals go ahead, Tarbert would lose an outbound sailing to Uig on a Saturday as well as an inbound service on a Monday. While Lochmaddy would gain a Saturday morning sailing with the new proposals, this route would lose its overnight Friday sailing and two of its Sunday sailings. CalMac have not yet outlined the reasoning behind the proposed changes.

Organisations representing the Harris community and Hebridean tourism sector have expressed their dismay at the detrimental impact these changes could have on the community and on people travelling to Harris during the summer months, some of whom have already made holiday bookings for next year. The new timetable also doesn’t account for the outages which will be caused by scheduled infrastructure improvements to Uig pier, due to commence from September 2022.

Commenting, Allan said:

“These proposals to reduce the number of sailings on certain routes during the summer months are in direct opposition to what we have been calling for, especially over the last year or two – that is to say, additional ferry services to and from the islands to ensure that the needs of both tourists and local residents can be adequately met.

“For people to be given less than a week’s notice to consider the proposals and submit their views is, in my eyes, not long enough. It does not really communicate a desire to fully engage with the local communities in Harris and Uist regarding what would be major changes to CalMac’s summer timetable, particularly as local ferry service users groups seem not to have been directly informed about the proposals.

“CalMac’s staff continue to be under significant pressure, and are doing the best they can given the continued constraints of Covid-19 protocols and restrictions, as well as the usual disruptions brought about by dry dock season. However, to reduce the number of sailings from Tarbert and Lochmaddy to and from Uig next summer would put even more pressure on staff and on the network as a whole, and would be, in my opinion, a big mistake.”

 

 

SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, was invited to launch the Volunteer Centre Western Isles ’Give a Gift, Light Up a Life’ campaign in Uist at the end of October. The campaign was launched in Lewis by Cllr. Charlie Nicolson, Volunteer Centre Manager Suzanne Macaulay, and Sue Long from NHS Western Isles.

The campaign, now in its third year, is encouraging local groups and organisations to get involved by planning their own small acts of kindness projects in the lead up to Christmas time. It is hoped that the various forms of this year’s campaign will help bring a smile to those who may be feeling isolated and build links between people in communities.

Volunteer Centre Western Isles have launched a step by step guide for community groups, third sector organisations and churches to run their own ‘Give a Gift, Light Up a Life’ campaigns, as well as inviting individuals to donate gifts or handwritten cards at drop-off points throughout the Western Isles.

Following the launch, Allan commented:

“Volunteer Centre Western Isles do a wonderful job of supporting islanders all year round, and I was very pleased to be asked to help launch this year’s Christmas campaign in Uist.

“The festive season can be a very lonely and difficult time for some, and the past year and a half has also been trying on our collective mental health for obvious reasons. A project like this will help support people who may be isolated or struggling in some way, and I would encourage as many people as possible to join in however they are able to.”

Suzanne Macaulay, Volunteer Centre Western Isles Manager said:

“There are many people, particularly older people, within our communities who do not see anyone over the festive period or receive cards or a gift. This can be a very difficult time of year for those who feel isolated or lonely and a small gift and/ or card with a message donated to this appeal could make a huge difference, so they know that others in our community are thinking of them. This campaign encourages community volunteering to help make a difference this winter.”

If your group or organisation would like to get involved in ‘Give a Gift, Light up a Life’ this Christmas, you can download the guide from www.volunteercentrewi.org or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 01851700366 to request a printed copy of the guide.

Gifts or handwritten cards can now be donated at the following drop off points, with more locations to be added over the next month:

• Western Isles Library (old café) in Stornoway
• Volunteer Centre Western Isles Offices:
- Old Primary School, Tarbert, Harris
- Am Bothan, Northbay, Isle of Barra
• Uist - UCVO Thrift shop, MacGillivrays, Bayhead Shop, Co-op branches in Daliburgh, Creagorry and Sollas

 

SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, today welcomed apparent progress in the latest discussions between Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) and the Prospect Union around the future of air traffic control jobs.

HIAL and Prospect have this morning released a joint statement outlining their agreed framework for discussion to establish a new way forward for the implementation of HIAL’s air traffic management strategy (ATMS).

Prospect has agreed to suspend all industrial action while these talks continue.

Air traffic control jobs from Stornoway, Sumburgh, Kirkwall and Dundee had been due to be centralised to a remote tower centre in Inverness, with Benbecula and Wick John O’ Groats airports to be downgraded to Flight Information Services, despite widespread concerns about the removal of skilled jobs from rural communities.

The planned discussions between HIAL and Prospect will focus on the introduction of a surveillance programme across the HIAL network to be provided by a combined surveillance centre in Inverness, with air traffic services continuing to be provided locally at Stornoway, Sumburgh, Kirkwall and Dundee for the duration of the surveillance programme.

There will be a review at the end of the surveillance programme (or at five years, if that is sooner) of air traffic provision against a scope agreed by both HIAL and Prospect to inform the next steps of the programme. There will also be a phasing out of procedural air traffic control and the adoption of more modern and widely used techniques across HIAL’s network.

Further separate talks will take place regarding air traffic services at Benbecula and Wick John O’ Groats.

Commenting today, Alasdair Allan said: “I am pleased that HIAL have finally shown some willingness to compromise on the ATMS plans they originally proposed, which would have been damaging to the local economies and communities of the Western Isles.

“I hope that this next round of discussions will continue to move in the right direction and that air traffic control jobs at both Stornoway and Benbecula airports can be secured for the long-term. It is essential that jobs continue to be de-centralised if we are going to effectively tackle the issue of depopulation in our islands, and I am glad that today’s news brings us a step closer to reaching a solution.”

 

 

SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, is urging individuals and local businesses in the Western Isles to submit their responses to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the proposed islands bond scheme this weekend.

The consultation will close this Monday, the 25th of October, and the responses will be used to shape the development of the policy.

The Scottish Government has committed to developing an Islands Bond, offering 100 bonds of up to £50,000 to young people and families to help them stay in or move to islands currently threatened by depopulation.

Commenting, Allan said: “Depopulation is one of the biggest threats to our island communities. Anything we can do to reverse depopulation trends and encourage more people to live and work in the islands should be encouraged.

“These bonds will support people to buy homes, start businesses and otherwise make their lives here for the long-term. I believe that, if targeted appropriately, the scheme could make a real difference in helping the viability of certain communities.

“I would urge anyone in the Western Isles who has not already submitted their views in the consultation to do so before the consultation closes on Monday, as this is the most effective way of ensuring that the policy’s development reflects the views of people living in the islands.”

 

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