Scottish Conservatives Launch “A New Approach to Scottish Farming”

The Scottish Conservatives have today published “A New Approach to Scottish Farming” which sets out the principles of their future farming policy for Scotland.

The document forms the basis of the Scottish Conservative debate on future agriculture policy in the Scottish Parliament today.

A Scottish Conservative approach to Scottish farming will focus on productivity, regional differentiation, environmental protection, research, education and securing the future of farming careers.

The Scottish Conservatives will highlight the opportunity of designing and implementing a new support system that is much better suited to the needs of Scottish agriculture than the outdated Common Agricultural Policy.

The rest of the UK remains the biggest market for Scottish farm produce; it is crucial that any new system does not create any friction with this internal market.

This approach recognises the unique landscapes and circumstances faced by 85 percent of Scottish agriculture and would maintain funding to farmers facing remoteness, harsh climate, and poor soil quality.

The Scottish Conservative focus will provide support to farmers providing key environmental outcomes, combining financial stability with environmental measures.

The introduction of measures to help new entrant farmers, more flexible working and managing exits from farming would help to secure the future farming workforce.

Our education system must also adapt to support a new generation of land managers through Rural Skills Level 4 and increased vocational training. STEM subjects must be a priority in order to allow farmers to harness technology, and implement future focused environmental strategies.

Scottish Conservatives Shadow Secretary for the Rural Economy Donald Cameron MSP said:

“The Common Agricultural Policy is not fit for purpose and we have an opportunity to design and implement a system far more responsive to the needs of Scotland’s farmers.

“The SNP continue to let farmers and crofters down, by being far more preoccupied with promoting independence than working with Scottish agriculture to grasp this opportunity; as a result farmers face uncertainty and anxiety.

“Our ‘New Approach to Scottish Farming’ sets out the principles of the system the Scottish Conservatives will set up post Brexit.

“Our focus is on practical, simple support that farmers can access easily and quickly.

“The Scottish Conservatives want government to support environmental measures, new technologies, new entrants to farmers, and flexibility for those in farming as well as those who wish to exit with dignity.

“Scotland’s unique landscape poses challenges and opportunities which we will embrace and continue with the same levels of funding.

“Above all, Scotland’s farmers deserve an ambitious programme of support and encouragement that will ensure our rural communities capitalise on the opportunity we now have.

“In contrast, the SNP seems content to wage constitutional warfare rather than address the serious, practical issues facing farmers today.”

Cameron Writes to West Coast Motors in Bid to Save Dunoon to Glasgow Route

Donald Cameron MSP with Cowal Councillor Yvonne McNeilly

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has written to West Coast Motors in the hope of securing a future for the Dunoon to Glasgow bus service.

The service, which is due to be axed following an announcement by the Greenock-based bus operator McGills, is the only direct bus service between Dunoon and Glasgow.

West Coast Motors already operate a number of services across Argyll and Bute, including services between Campbeltown and Oban to Glasgow respectively.

Following the issue being raised by constituents with Donald Cameron, he has written to the operator to see if they would consider taking on the route.

In a letter to the operator, Donald Cameron said that he felt the loss of this service could act as a “disincentive for people wanting to visit Dunoon”.

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“The number of people who have been in touch with me about this issue really shows that the loss of this service will have an impact on Dunoon and the wider Cowal area.

While I respect the decision that McGill’s have taken, I hope that another operator may be able to come in and take on the route.

West Coast Motors already operate a number of similar services in the area, and while I would not want to put any undue pressure on them, I hope that they will at least consider it, so that this vital service can remain in place for the community.”

Cameron Challenges Minister Over Peak Time Ferry Proposals

Concerns over a proposal to increase ferry fares on peak time services has been raised by Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron.

The idea, which is contained in the SNP Government’s Scottish Ferries Plan, is one of several proposals to ease passenger and vehicle congestion put forward in the document which maps out the future of Scotland’s ferry services until 2022.

However, the idea has been criticised by local communities across the Highlands and Islands, with some fearing that it could discourage people from living and working in Scotland’s island communities in particular.

Today in the Scottish Parliament, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron asked the Minister Paul Wheelhouse to give assurances that local people across the region would not be impacted by such a proposal.

Paul Wheelhouse responded by stating: “we recognise the concern that users of lifeline ferry services have about accessibility to services when they need them” and that he would “be happy to meet Donald Cameron to discuss his concerns about issues that have been raised directly with him.”

Donald Cameron MSP said following the exchange:

“There has been huge concern across the islands about this particular proposal found in the SNP’s ferries plan, and the minister did not adequately address the very significant worries which local residents have about the issue.

“At a time when the high cost of living remains a real threat to population levels in our island communities, the last thing we need are hikes in fares on lifeline ferry services.”

Concern as Western Isles “Miles Behind” Superfast Broadband Target

A recent survey has suggested that the Western Isles is miles behind achieving the 2021 target of every home and business having access to superfast broadband.

The survey, carried out by the consumer magazine Which? measured the broadband speeds of all of Scotland’s 32 local authorities in the year to September 2018, carrying out 277,575 speed tests.

It found that the average broadband speed in the Western Isles was a mere 11.5Mbps, which was considerably behind most mainland authorities.

The SNP Government defines superfast broadband as having “speeds greater than 30 Mbps”, and have made a commitment on several occasions to ensure that “every home and business in Scotland [has] access to superfast broadband by 2021”.

Although broadband and wider telecommunications policy is set by the UK Government, the SNP Government are responsible for the rollout of broadband through its ‘Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband’ programme.

Last year, the former Digital Minister Matt Hancock announced that due to the poor performance of the SNP Government in delivering superfast rollout, the delivery of the next phase of “full-fibre” rollout would be carried out between the UK Government and Scotland’s local authorities.

Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said:

“Ensuring that communities have fast and reliable broadband is an absolute necessity, and I firmly believe that in this day and age it is a service which people expect to have just like any other utility.

It is appalling that the Western Isles is miles behind achieving superfast broadband speeds of 30Mbps and it is very concerning that other local authorities in the Highlands and Islands are nowhere near achieving the 2021 target.

While the SNP engage in their own internal civil war, many people across the islands are being left behind, and it is high time Nicola Sturgeon got her priorities sorted.”

Cameron Calls for Scottish Government Backing for New Stornoway Port

Plans for a major investment in Stornoway were raised in the Scottish Parliament today following an exchange between Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron and the Transport Secretary Michael Matheson.

The investment, which comes in the form of a new deep water port by the Stornoway Port Authority, was highlighted by the Highlands and Islands MSP as part of a wider question as to what support is being offered to help ports across the country expand and attract new business.

The Stornoway Port Authority published details of their 20-year Master Plan in December 2018, and indicated that it has begun the process of seeking a Harbour Revision Order, as well as other licences from Marine Scotland to undertake the work.

The Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said in response to Donald Cameron that “we are engaged with a number of different parties in those ports in order to look at what further assistance can be provided. In relation to the port in Stornoway, we will give consideration to that and work in partnership with the local authority and the port authority.”

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“There is clearly a huge opportunity for Stornoway to develop a port which will allow larger cruise ships to berth, and will in turn be a boost for the economy of the wider islands.

It is important that the Scottish Government gets fully behind this project, and indeed assists other ports in taking advantage of new business opportunities.

I welcome the positive message from the minister today, and hope that all local politicians can work together alongside the Port Authority to ensure that these plans come to fruition.”

Residents Urged to Respond to Parliamentary Speed Limit Consultation

Proposed legislation which looks to reduce the speed limit in urban and residential areas has been put out for consultation by the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity committee.

The bill, which is being proposed by the Scottish Greens along with SNP backing, could see the speed limit in most urban and residential streets reduced from 30mph to 20mph.

Now, Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron is urging local residents across the Highlands and Islands to take part in the consultation exercise and make their views known.

Individuals and organisations can submit responses until 28 January at

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“Whether you are in favour of changing residential speed limits or not, it is clear that this bill will have an impact on local communities if it is passed, so it is very important that MSPs are aware of people’s opinions on it.

Several constituents have already been in contact with me about it, so it is vital that all views are taken into account and a sensible decision is taken.

I would urge residents to fill in the survey before the deadline on 28th January.”

Cameron Urges Young People to Take Advantage of New “Millennial” Railcard

A new railcard for young people aged between 26 to 30 years old has been launched nationwide following a successful pilot scheme.

The new railcard, which discounts rail travel by a third, has been introduced alongside the long standing 16 to 25 rail card.

The latest addition was announced by the UK Government in a bid to help save young people extra money when traveling by rail, and also to help reduce car journeys by encouraging people to take a train instead.

There is also a new app whereby people can access their railcard as soon as they pay for it, eliminating the need to wait for the physical card to arrive in the post.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has now urged young people across the region to take advantage of the new railcard. People can apply for it here:

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“The new 26-30 millennial railcard is a very welcome announcement by the UK Government as it will help hard-pressed young people to travel by rail without paying through the nose for it.

The cost of traveling from the Highlands to Glasgow and beyond can be quite prohibitive, but this new railcard will help ease that financial burden, particularly for those commuting on longer distance journeys.”

Cameron Backs New Brexit Fishing Pledge

A new pledge calling on politicians from all political parties to support the Scottish fishing industry’s demand that “full control of UK waters be taken back from the EU”, has received backing from Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron.

The pledge asks politicians to;

  1. Vote against any arrangements that would extend our membership of the Common Fisheries Policy beyond December 2020 or that would take us back into the CFP after that date.
  2. Vote against any arrangement that prevents the UK from negotiating access and quota shares as a fully independent Coastal State from that date.
  3. Uphold the UK’s right to exercise complete control and sovereignty over its own waters.

The pledge comes following comments from the Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation Bertie Armstrong regarding the Political Declaration which stated that “the declaration gives the UK the power to assert its position as an independent Coastal State with full, unfettered sovereignty over our waters and natural resources.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said:

“I welcome this intervention from the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation who have confirmed that the political declaration between the UK and EU will ensure that we are an independent coastal state by 2020.

The Prime Minister has made it abundantly clear that we will decide who fishes in our waters and on what terms. Above all else, we will be leaving the Common Fisheries Policy and delivering what the people voted for more than two years ago.

The SNP needs to stop playing political games with Scotland’s fishing communities, and get behind this deal so that we can deliver on the Sea of Opportunity ahead of us.”

Over 73,000 Ferry Delays and Cancellations Since 2007

Since October 2007 over 73,000 Scottish ferry sailings have been delayed or cancelled on 29 routes operated by CalMac, according to figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives.

A Freedom of Information response has shown that sailings on these routes were delayed 34,124 times and cancelled 39,314 times.

That means, in the space of 12 years, the equivalent to around 117 sailings a week have been delayed or cancelled.

In Oban, there have been 10,546 cancelled or delayed ferry sailings since 2007. The worst affected route was the Oban to Craignure service which saw 4,235 cancelled or delayed sailings since 2007.

On the Rothesay to Wemyss Bay route, there have been 7,484 cancelled or delayed ferry sailings since 2007, and an additional 1,039 cancelled or delayed ferry sailings between Rothesay and Gourock in the 2015/16 year.

There have been thousands of cancellations and delays across other parts of Argyll and Bute since 2007 too. Some of the other affected services include, the Portavadie to Tarbert route which has seen 3,363 cancellations or delays, and the Tayinloan to Gigha route which has seen 3,143 cancellations or delays.

On the Stornoway to Ullapool route, there were 3,452 cancelled or delayed sailings since 2007, with a record number of 361 delays in the most recent year.

These findings came as part of a debate led by the Scottish Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament this week to highlight the chaotic state of Scotland’s ferry network under the SNP which has seen significant decline over the last 12 years.

Local issues were highlighted in the debate by Highlands and Islands MSP, Donald Cameron, who has received numerous complaints from residents across the Highlands and Islands Region since his election over two years ago.

Donald Cameron MSP said following the debate:

“Under the SNP Government, local people across the Highlands and Islands have faced a decade of insufficient capacity, delays, and cancellations to vital ferry services.

Ferry services are absolutely vital for people who live in the region and are a lifeline service for our residents, not just to connect the islands with Scotland’s mainland, but also to encourage tourism and boost the local economy.

We’ve known since 2010 that Calmac have needed to order one ferry every year in order to meet current passenger demands, and with an increasingly ageing ferry fleet, we are sleepwalking towards a major ferry crisis.

The SNP need to explain to local residents why they have failed so abjectly to get to grips with this problem.”

Cameron Calls for Long Term Solution Over ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ Chaos

Following the ongoing delay to reopening the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron (pictured on right) said:

“The travel chaos over the last few days following the landslides at the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ has been extremely problematic for both local residents and businesses alike, despite the heroic efforts of those working to make the road safe and get it open.

“While the extreme weather of last week was unusual, landslides closing The Rest are all too familiar to locals from across Argyll who are yet again suffering from severe disruption.

Despite millions being ploughed into landslide mitigation measures, it is abundantly clear that this is having little effect and people are fed up with warm words and empty promises to fix this.

“Argyll deserves a long term, permanent solution to this issue, and it’s high time the SNP Government provided it. To that end, I will be writing to the Transport Secretary and Transport Scotland this week.”