Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has challenged the SNP Government on its looming failure to meet its own target for delivering broadband to Scotland’s island communities.
In response to a Scottish Government statement on the National Islands Plan today (Tuesday 8th October), Donald Cameron highlighted the disproportionate impact the delays would have in the Highlands and Islands region.
Speaking afterwards, the Scottish Conservative MSP said: “The R100 superfast broadband project has been subject to numerous delays and is a standing rebuke to the SNP’s claims to be delivering for our communities.
“In this day and age, residents and businesses rely on decent broadband: none more so than people living in our island communities. There will be bitter disappointment across the islands at having been so badly let down.
“Nicola Sturgeon’s government needs to get on with the day-job of delivering these vital infrastructure projects.”
An announcement by the UK Government to commit £25m to the Argyll and Bute Rural Growth Deal was welcomed by Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron.
The funding will be matched by the Scottish Government, meaning £50m worth of investment coming to Argyll and Bute, following a campaign by Argyll and Bute Council and other agencies, as well as local Scottish Conservative councillors.
Commenting on the announcement by the UK Government Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron said:
“This is a golden opportunity to strengthen the economy of Argyll and Bute and create a more prosperous future for our communities, and I am proud that it has been delivered by Scottish Conservatives working at the heart of the UK Government.
“The priority must now be for all the relevant agencies, including the Council, and the Scottish Government, to get behind the Growth Deal and ensure that we maximise the benefits from this investment.
The Scottish Conservative MSP added: “There is so much that can be done to realise our potential and I am looking forward to working with all the partners to ensure we do just that.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has said that decisions about how to spend a £1.7m windfall in the Western Isles must prioritise the long-term sustainability of its coastal communities.
The Scottish Conservative MSP spoke after it was announced that the money would be awarded to the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar from the Scottish Crown Estate’s marine assets following its first year of devolved management.
Mr Cameron said: “This is good news, especially in the context of the squeeze that public services have experienced in the Western Isles following years of unfair financial settlements from Nicola Sturgeon’s government.
“However it is vital that we listen to the coastal communities and make sure that the money is spent in a way that helps to sustain them over the longer term.”
Councillor Ranald Fraser (Sgir’ Uige Agus Ceann A Tuath Nan Loch ward), added: “Here in the Western Isles we face all kinds of challenges to securing a sustainable future for our communities and, in particular, retaining and attracting young people which are our future.
“Therefore I am pleased that we seem to be getting this funding from the Crown Estate and hope that further co-operation can ensue as we deal with the financial challenges facing our council.”
A Highlands and Islands MSP has expressed amazement after it was revealed that the Scottish Government failed to make a single award of Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) to businesses in Argyll and Bute in the last three years.
Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said; “It is frankly amazing that not a single penny seems to have been received by businesses in Argyll and Bute from this fund in three years, while millions have gone to other areas in Scotland.
“There is a huge disparity between what businesses have received across the Highlands and Islands and what the Central Belt receives. And this is despite our area being largely made up of areas covered by the highest tier of grant available.
“Argyll and Bute is crying out for investment in our business sector as well as in our infrastructure and yet, once again, the Scottish Government and its agencies seem to be neglecting us.”
Argyll and Bute Council’s Policy Lead for Economic Growth, Councillor Alastair Redman, added: “Argyll and Bute has many great businesses which I am sure would benefit from some investment, and we badly need a thriving private sector to attract young people and keep our communities thriving.
“The distribution of Regional Selective Assistance should not stop at the Highland Boundary line.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has said that the SNP must do more to tackle rising crime in Argyll and Bute.
Mr Cameron spoke out after official Scottish Government figures showed that incidents of recorded crime had risen in Argyll and Bute by five times the national average between 2017/18 and 2018/19.
The Scottish Conservative MSP said: “In the last recorded twelve months there were 2,367 crimes across our area which was an increase of 5%, far higher than the rise experienced across the rest of the country.
“We think of Argyll and Bute as a relatively low-crime area so this is a concerning development, particularly as non-sexual crimes of violence showed an even greater percentage increase.
“Our police deserve all the help we can give them but, ultimately, it is up to the SNP Government to provide them with the support and resources they need to do their job.
“Judging by these results, it is evident that they need to do far more to help our police tackle this upsurge in criminal activity.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron is hopeful that there will be a positive outcome for Campbeltown Creamery after holding talks on site yesterday (Monday 23rd September). The current owners, First Milk, put the creamery up for sale last year.
Mr Cameron said: “I had a useful meeting with local management and staff about the future of the creamery and I’m hopeful that there will be a positive outcome.
“Local farmers are very keen to ensure that processing capacity is retained in Kintyre, and I am aware First Milk are working closely with potential operators in order to secure its future.
“The creamery makes a significant contribution to the local economy as both a business and an employer, and it is critical that we work together to ensure it continues to do so for many years to come.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has won an assurance from the Scottish Government that it will engage positively with proposals for an improved ferry service for Islay.
The Scottish Conservative MSP questioned Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, in the Scottish Parliament yesterday (Thursday 19th September) following a ferry summit held on Islay earlier in the week, which Mr Cameron also attended. The proposals agreed by those present at the summit will be published shortly in the Ileach newspaper.
Mr Cameron said: “I was pleased that the minister responded positively to my questions.
“Nothing could be more important to the people of Islay than a ferry service with increased capacity which is resilient and reliable. Demand is growing all the time with increasing visitor numbers and the success of Islay’s whisky industry.
“I look forward to working with all interested parties in Islay, especially the Islay community council, to ensure that the necessary investment takes place so we can look forward to a service which really meets the needs of everyone on the island.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has welcomed the scrapping of the SNP Government’s plan for a “Named Persons” scheme.
Mr Cameron, who is the Scottish Conservatives’ Policy Co-ordinator, said; “I share the widespread relief that this terrible scheme has been consigned to the dustbin by John Swinney, even if it took the SNP six long years to come to the obvious conclusion that the scheme was both unworkable and undesirable.
“When she took office five years ago, Nicola Sturgeon pledged that her priority was education. Since then she has presided over declining standards and a whole series of policy failures and shelved legislation, of which this news is just the latest.
“It’s clearer than ever that Scotland desperately needs a government at Holyrood which is focused on our vital public services and not on endless agitation about constitutional issues”.
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has said that the decline in free-to-use cashpoints in Argyll and Bute is a major worry to local businesses and residents.
Mr Cameron spoke after new figures from Which? revealed that the number of ATMs which can be accessed for no charge has declined from 83 to 74 between January 2018 and May 2019.
He said: “This is a steep decline over a short period and will affect residents across Argyll and Bute. Given this is also an area which depends on tourism to generate income and employment, it’s concerning that visitors might not be able to readily access cash when travelling around Argyll and Bute.
“I know that it is a real issue for businesses in our area who require easy access to cash for themselves and their customers, and I am particularly troubled that 3 of the 9 losses are reported to have been in deprived neighbourhoods.
“We now need to see a joined-up approach from the banks and regulators to turn this worrying trend round.”
Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has highlighted newly released figures which show that NHS Western Isles and NHS Highland have the highest rates of delayed discharge in Scotland. They stood at 25.3% and 15.5% compared to a Scottish average of 8.5%.
The figures for 2018/19 were released by the Information Services Division of NHS Scotland yesterday (Tuesday 17th September).
Mr Cameron said: “While the statistics indicate that NHS Highland and NHS Western Isles have the highest rates of delayed discharge, we should be cautious before leaping to conclusions.
“There may be factors relating to geography, the age profile of patients, and the availability of care homes, which have influenced the results.
“Nevertheless the overall picture in Scotland is that the SNP’s promises to eradicate delayed discharges have come to absolutely nothing as they are back up to more than half a million days, an increase of 6% in just one year. This means that people who should not have been in hospital occupied almost 9% of beds in NHS Scotland over the last year.
“It is a cause for concern that people may be staying in hospital longer than necessary, and I will certainly be in contact with the relevant authorities in the region to see if there is more that could be done to reduce the discharge times.”