Western Isles Ferries

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP, Rhoda Grant asked The Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations, Mike Russell MSP, during the Brexit statement in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, (18th December) what plans they had for opening up new freight routes to the continent for Scottish produce in the event of a No Deal Brexit. She went on to ask which Ports and routes are the Scottish Government looking at as alternatives to Dover and  what boats are they hoping to procure given they cannot find boats to fulfil their own routes and services?

 

The Cabinet Secretary advised that the Government would have no trouble finding boats as they were different to the ones required for the Western Isles and easily found.

 

Rhoda Grant said “ This is rather ironic. The boat we asked for to cover the Western Isles route from Ullapool to Stornoway was a freight ferry which would in turn free up the Loch Seaforth as a passenger ferry.

 

“It would appear when there is a need for a freight vessel to be found to provide lifeline services to the Western Isles, a ferry cannot be found. However, when we require to move freight to the continent from Scotland, that’s no bother and a number can easily be found. This just shows the level of regard the Scottish Government have for the needs of the economy in the Western Isles.

 

Rhoda Grant concluded “While they are right to make contingencies for a No Deal Brexit and getting our produce to Europe, I would expect them to have the same regard for our fragile island communities who need reliable and accessible lifeline services.

 

 

Fireworks and Pets

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP, Rhoda Grant, who launched an educational leaflet earlier this autumn has reminded constituents that Fireworks are not just an issue around 5th November:

Rhoda said ” back at the end of October I teamed up with the SSPCA to launch an educational leaflet about fireworks and the dangers they pose to the vulnerable people, pets and wild animals. While bonfire night is over I am sure that many people still have fireworks.  Can I make a plea that people be considerate when setting them off.  This year we heard of a pony was absolutely shattered after being distressed all night, Another pet dog took a heart attack with the fright and yet another dog bolted when he heard a loud bang and he ran into the path of an oncoming car and was killed. This problem will recur as we get closer to the festive season, therefore think before you set them off and take steps to protect vulnerable people and pets. That said, I don’t want to dampen anyone’s party celebrations, I just want them to think before setting off fireworks. I do hope that constituents will have a Happy Christmas and Prosperous New Year

HIAL Air Traffic Control

At General Questions yesterday (6/12/18) in the Scottish Parliament, Highlands & Islands Regional MSP Rhoda Grant questioned the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson, in relation to the centralisation programme being proposed for Air Traffic Control.

 

Rhoda Said “ I asked the Cabinet Secretary if the proposal to centralise Air Traffic Control  was island proofed, if an impact assessment had been carried out and if he would reverse this decision, which was to base the HIAL Central Air Traffic Control System in Inverness. I advised that if the Inverness Air Traffic Control system could service Benbecula for example, then surely if the system was place in Benbecula it could quite easily service Inverness.

 

“ I advised the Cabinet Secretary that centralising the Air Traffic Control system in Inverness would not only be bad for the economy of other parts of the Highlands & islands, but it would be bad also for staff and workers. I suggested the funding being set aside for the centralisation of Air Traffic Control could be better spent on the resilience of HIAL airports.

 

Rhoda Grant concluded “The Cabinet Secretary advised that HIAL have to meet stringent Air Traffic Control regulations and in doing so would have to invest in the right technology and make sure their system was safe above all. However, he seems to have missed my point which was if they decide that having the one central Air Traffic Control base within the HIAL network, then why does it have to be based in Inverness. If this is going to be a state of the art system with the latest technology utilised, then this centralised system could be based in Benbecula or Stornoway or any of the island communities which are in greater need of jobs and the retention of skills.  Even better still that all airports in the network retain their own staff but use the remote access to provide cover when necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stromeferry Bypass

Highlands & Islands MSP Rhoda Grant seeks face to face meeting with Cabinet Secretary for Transport over Stromeferry bypass issue

 

Rhoda Grant MSP is seeking a meeting at the Scottish Parliament with the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson, to discuss the short, medium and long term issues surrounding the Stromeferry bypass.

 

Rhoda said ” We are at an impasse now. Highland Council say they cannot afford to fund a long term safety solution to address all the problems associated with the Stromeferry bypass. They have only enough funding set aside to carry out essential remedial work to the rock face each year. Highland Council advise that as a result of the millions they spend on this remedial work each year that other essential services such as Education are missing out. The Government say they cannot help as this is an issue for the Local Authority to deal with as the route (The A890) is not a trunk route. So what we have here is a situation that has gone on and on year after year, a situation that gets kicked into the long grass and no one steps up to the plate to come up with a solution. All the time the route is being used by the public, including school children travelling the route twice per day and no one knows the true extent of the risks other than that they do exist.

 

I have written to the Government more than once on this issue, I have tabled Parliamentary Questions, I have tried to get the Government to take over responsibility for the road given it is the main route to the Uists and South West Ross, I have had dialogue with Highland Council and all that happens is the issue gets pushed back and fore and no solution is found.

 

Rhoda continued ” I am determined that this matter is addressed now before anyone is injured or killed on this road.  Given that Highland Council covers the largest geographical area of any local authority in the UK, with some 26,484 square km covering a third of Scotland, there are nearly 7,000km of regional roads, I am seeking to meet with the Cabinet Secretary for Transport to push hard for a solution to be found, whether that be the Government body, Transport Scotland, adopting this route as a trunk route, or the Government helping out Highland Council with extra funding.

 

 

 

 

 

Fireworks and Pets

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP, Rhoda Grant, who this year launched an educational leaflet campaign regarding the use of fireworks and the danger to animals, recently lodged a Parliamentary Question asking the Scottish Government whether it plans to make a submission to the UK Government regarding the consultation on the restriction of the sale of fireworks, and what information it has regarding the timeline of the consultation.

 

In her written answer, the Minister for Community Safety, Ash Denham, advised that in September she wrote to the UK Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility to request an update on any actions being taken on Fireworks at Westminster. She was advised that while the Office for Product Safety and Standards are reviewing the guidance material available to consumers on the safe and responsible use of fireworks, no changes to legislation at a UK level are being considered at this time. However, Ash Denham confirmed that the Scottish Government will undertake a consultation on the use and regulations of fireworks in Scotland. This consultation will take place early next year.

 

Rhoda Grant said ” Every year this issue comes to the fore during the dark winter months and every year we hear about the distress and even death caused to some animals as a result of the use of fireworks by the general public. This year I was supported by the SSPCA and I produced an educational leaflet which was distributed through Vet Practices and Pet shops as well as the SSPCA themselves, highlighting the issues. No one is wanting to spoil anyone’s fun. What I want to encourage is for the general public to attend community public fireworks events and if setting them off near their own homes to first stop and think about the consequences. For example, are their elderly or vulnerable neighbours that you should advise, to prevent scaring them with the loud bangs. Is there pets next door and if so should you tell the neighbours that you are going to set off fireworks in order that they can be prepared to comfort their pets if needs be.

 

Rhoda concluded, If there is a Government consultation on this issue early next year, then I would urge anyone with a vested interest to make their views known. I will certainly highlight such a consultation once I become aware of it.

Cairngorm Mountain

At Topical Questions within the Scottish Parliament today (4/12/18) Rhoda Grant, Highlands & Islands Regional MSP, asked the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing MSP, what action the Government was taking in response to Cairngorm Mountain Limited entering administration.

 

In his response the Cabinet Secretary advised that Cairngorm Mountain was open for business and that the HIE was the lead Agency who were working closely with the Administrators. He advised that the Government had lodged funds with the Administrator which would ensure the business remained open and staff were paid.

 

Rhoda Grant speaking this afternoon said ” I welcome the work that has been done so far by representatives from HIE and also the fact that the Government have lodged funding with the Administrator to ensure staff still get paid  especially with Christmas just around the corner.This was my main concern. However, the Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust and the Save the Ciste campaign have both been pushing for community ownership of Cairngorm to allow for new developments and expansion. The company’s collapse should open the door for a very serious discussion about how local people can take this forward, albeit the unknown quantity is the future of the funicular and the cost of repairs, so I urged the Cabinet Secretary to seriously look at and consider a Community buy out of this business.

 

” I was advised that HIE were in communications with the Administrator and local groups such as the Funicular Response Group, the local Community Council and other stakeholders and they would look at all options.

 

“As far as I am concerned we have to protect staff jobs and make sure we keep this excellent asset open over this key period of weeks and months when snow sport brings a massive boost to the local economy. If a Community Buy Out is deemed the best way forward, then I hope that this option will be seriously considered.