Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has expressed concern that the number of police officers serving in the Highlands and Islands divisional area has fallen in recent months. He spoke after the publication of a report which shows that the numbers serving in the region had gone down by thirteen.
Mr Cameron said: “Community policing is highly valued in the Highlands and Islands but that cannot be sustained if police numbers are under pressure.
“Compared to other regions across Scotland, our region seems to be doing the worst, with a reduction in the last recorded quarterly figures of 13 officers.
The Scottish Conservative MSP added: “Many locals have been very disturbed by the amalgamation of Scotland’s regional police forces, and the centralisation of the service.
“These figures appear to confirm that the SNP Government is continuing to prioritise the Central Belt and is neglecting the concerns of residents of rural Scotland.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has slammed Scottish Government ministers over their repeated failures to get a grip on the problems facing ferry users in the Highlands and Islands.
Mr Cameron spoke after negotiations between the owner of Ferguson Marine and the Scottish Government descended into a slaging match, while a growing number of ferry services have struggled to accommodate islanders wishing to travel due to limited capacity.
The Scottish Conservative MSP said: “People across the region will have been dismayed by the deteriorating relationship between Ferguson Marine and Scottish Government ministers. While they trade verbal blows, people here are wondering what on earth is happening to their promised ferries.
“I am afraid that the SNP has presided over a litany of failures: they just don’t understand that a resilient ferry service is absolutely fundamental to the communities I represent.
“Without an adequate transport infrastructure, confidence will drain away and we will find it even more difficult to attract investment in new enterprises and retain our young people.
“We need a fundamental review of how we arrived at this crisis as well as the development of a proper, long-term plan that will reassure people here that their concerns are being treated seriously.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has committed to fight for Scotland’s nature by signing Scottish Environment Link’s “Standing up for Nature” pledge.
Mr Cameron is the Scottish Parliament’s species champion for the merlin, a rare breeding bird that can still be found in his Highlands and Islands region.
Mr Cameron said: “The fate of the merlin shows why it is so important that we challenge biodiversity loss, and why I am more than happy to sign this pledge.
“The merlin is a beautiful bird, usually only glimpsed as it dashes across moorland in pursuit of a pipit or lark.
“They are Scotland’s smallest bird of prey – the males only the size of a thrush – but quite capable of defending their territories against much larger birds. They have even been seen harrying eagles which have strayed near to their nests.
“However the merlin suffered a very serious decline in numbers during the 1950s and 1960s due to organochlorine pesticides getting into the food-chain which caused them to suffer breeding failure. When the pesticides were removed, the birds made a recovery.
“They are still an officially red-listed species which means they are of conservation concern, so we must not get complacent, but it shows that if we get the science right, it is possible to take effective action.”
The pledge reads:
“The joint emergencies of rapid biodiversity loss and climate breakdown require transformative action. As a member of the Scottish Parliament, I pledge to stand up for nature.
“I will do everything in my power to ensure Scotland’s natural environment has strong and effective protection, alongside ambitious targets for its recovery and enhancement. When 1 in 11 species in Scotland is at risk of extinction, these measures are vital, whatever our future relationship with the European Union.”
An Argyll and Bute councillor has won the support of an MSP in a dispute over the construction of giant pylons near the village of Dalmally.
The project, proposed by SSE, which would involve the construction of 52 new pylons carrying high voltage lines, is being opposed by local residents.
Councillor Andrew Vennard (Oban North and Lorn) contacted Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron after attending a community meeting in Dalmally at which the long-running proposal was discussed.
Councillor Vennard said: “The local community is up-in-arms about this proposal which has now been going on for a considerable period of time and has cast a blight over the lives of many residents who stand to be badly affected by it.
“Although there has been some talk about under-grounding the cables we have no confirmation and the worry continues.
“I am very grateful that Donald, who I know has contacted the developer in the past about this issue, is intervening in an attempt to gain some clarity about what is intended.”
Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said: “Too many communities across the Highlands and Islands are living under the shadow of proposed industrial developments that threaten to blight their surroundings.
“The residents of Dalmally understandably fear that their neighbourhood is being turned into an industrial corridor.
“It is disappointing that there remains uncertainty over this matter and I am pursuing it with the developer and the Scottish Government which, ultimately, is likely to make the decision.
“They have to understand that while we all appreciate the need to secure our energy supplies, projects should not be undertaken regardless of the impact it has on those who live nearby.”
Comments made by the SNP Government’s Finance Secretary Derek Mackay during a BBC Radio 4 interview, where he suggested that Scottish fishing could be part of a trade-off with the EU have been slammed by Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron as the real betrayal of our fishing communities.
The Finance Secretary appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, and when pushed on the issue of whether an independent Scotland might have to hand over fisheries powers back to the EU in exchange for future membership, Mr Mackay said: “We voted to stay within the EU. We accept there are trade-offs in any deal”.
The news comes following a commitment made yesterday by the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Scotland that access to UK fishing waters will not be used as a bargaining chip in future Brexit negotiations.
Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said:
“The comments made yesterday by Derek Mackay expose the real view of the SNP when it comes to our fishing waters.
“The SNP Government would quite happily sell out Scottish fishing if it means rejoining the EU and the hated Common Fisheries Policy.
“Just as the Scottish Parliament looks set to gain new powers over fishing after we leave the EU, the SNP are ready to give control straight back to Brussels.
“Alasdair Allan and Angus MacNeil have long spoken about their desire to support local fishermen. Now is the time for them to tell their bosses at Holyrood that Scottish fishing will not be sold out to the EU.”
New funding which has been earmarked to go towards a variety of Growth Deals, including the proposed Argyll and Bute Rural Growth Deal and the proposed Islands Deal, has been welcomed by Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron.
An additional £300m of new funding has been announced today by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson while on a visit to Scotland, where he met with Armed Forced personnel at Faslane, and held separate meetings with Ruth Davidson and Nicola Sturgeon.
Since the Growth Deal scheme was first launched, some £2.78bn have already been committed, with the new funding announced today taking it over the £3bn mark.
Donald Cameron MSP said:
“This announcement from the Prime Minister is very welcome news, and I know there will be a lot of people across Argyll and Bute, the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland who will be delighted to hear this.
This is a prime example of the commitment of the UK Government to supporting economic growth in some of the most rural parts of Scotland.
Obviously the devil is in the detail, and I look forward to engaging with the Scotland Office further on that matter, and working with the all of the local authorities involved to see how best we can capitalise on the Deal.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has written to the chief executives of the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) and NHS Western Isles asking them to assure him that they have measures in place to deal with risks associated with food allergies.
Mr Cameron acted after research undertaken by the Scottish Conservatives indicated that neither council nor health board provides training courses for their staff or the public.
The Scottish Conservative MSP said: “While I understand the health board provides relevant information on food allergens and legislation is provided to staff and monitored daily, no specific courses were mentioned in their response, and the council did not provide any information at all on its provision.
“There is a growing recognition, following some recent tragic cases, that we all need to be more proactive in highlighting the risks from food allergies, and health boards and councils have an important role in providing a lead in their areas.
“I have written to NHS Western Isles and the Comhairle to ensure that they are aware of the work the UK Government is undertaking on labelling pre-packaged products and that they are undertaking appropriate measures to increase awareness.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has joined local councillor, Alastair Redman, in expressing concern about the impact new street lighting could have on an historic Islay village.
They are concerned that the installation of new streetlights, mounted on metal lamp-posts, could detract from the appearance of some roads in Port Charlotte, which is a designated conservation area. The new lights would replace wall-mounted lights and could, residents fear, make a significant impact on the character of the area.
Mr Cameron said: “A number of residents have been in contact about this matter as they fear that the introduction of these lights, which are really more suited to an urban setting, are inappropriate to their village.
“I think it is incumbent on the Council to show some regard to their concerns as local people are, rightly, proud of their architectural heritage and do not want to see it compromised by the insensitive implementation of a policy which is not appropriate for their community.
“I would urge them to look again at this issue.”
Councillor Redman (Kintyre and the Islands) commented: “A one-sized fits all approach is not right. Port Charlotte is a special place and that is officially recognised by its conservation area designation.
“Special provision is being made for other communities, like Inveraray, and I feel very strongly that the same consideration should be given to Port Charlotte.
“People here take pride in their village’s appearance and let’s not see it spoiled by the wrong street lights in the wrong places.”
Commenting on the continuing problems of the ferry service to the Western Isles, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has said that issue is a “devastating indictment” of the Scottish Government for failing to plan properly for the service.
The Scottish Conservative MSP said: “If people lose confidence in the reliability of the service then they will think twice about setting up businesses and investing in the islands. I have had numerous constituents from the Western Isles contacting me to express their fears.
“This failure by the Scottish Government to sort out the ferry service is a devastating indictment of the SNP’s 12-year track record in Government.
“This is a lifeline service and fundamental to the future of the Western Isles and yet we have not seen the necessary long-term planning to ensure that we have a fit-for-purpose ferry fleet.
“The SNP continue to fail the Western Isles and have allowed this situation to develop over the last decade while the service has deteriorated.
“Angus MacNeil is more than happy to speak up when it comes to sounding off about a second independence referendum, but he seems to have failed to make the case for ferries with his SNP colleagues at Holyrood who control the purse strings.
“We now need a positive commitment from Nicola Sturgeon to provide the islands with a resilient ferry service that minimises the chance of cancellations at the height of the summer season.”