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 www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/20mphBill

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: www.26-30railcard.co.uk

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.”

Concern as More than a Fifth of Patients Seeking Mental Health Treatment Not Being Seen Within Target Period

More than one fifth of patients within the NHS Highland area who require mental health treatment are not being seen within the SNP Government’s 18 week target, new figures have revealed.

The statistics, published this month by NHS Scotland’s ISD service, show that between June 2017 and June 2018, 20.3% of patients who have been referred for treatment are not being seen within the 18-week target period.

The information was raised in the Scottish Parliament by Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron, who criticised the SNP Government over the “dire statistics”, and asked the Minister for Mental Health what could be done to improve waiting times in the Highlands and Islands.

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“Access to quality mental health services is absolutely vital, and in many cases time is of the essence especially in remote and rural parts of Scotland.

The fact that more than a fifth of people who have been referred for mental health treatment in the NHS Highland area are not being seen within the target period is deeply worrying.

The SNP Government urgently needs to sort out this crisis in mental health support sooner rather than later”.

SNP Minister Fails to Provide Cost Update of Delayed CalMac Ferries

The Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands Paul Wheelhouse MSP failed to update Parliament on the likely additional costs that will result from the recent announcement that two new CalMac ferries will be delayed.

In a question to the Minister this morning, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron asked if there would be additional costs as a result of the delayed ferries currently under construction with Ferguson Marine, and if so, how much.

The Minister was unable to provide the figures, noting that he would contact Mr Cameron separately to provide him with an update.

The delay will see one vessel designated for the Brodick to Ardrossan route delayed until 2019, and another vessel designated for the Uig ‘triangle’ delayed until 2020.

Donald Cameron MSP has been contacted by a number of constituents who are worried that the delay will mean worsening capacity issues, and loss of income to rural island economies.

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“The Scottish Conservatives welcome the investment in new vessels, but the public has a right to know if taxpayers’ money will be required as a result of these lengthy delays, and if so, what those additional costs might be.

In his answer, the Minister was eager to grandstand about the fact the orders were made in the first place. But island communities do not want to hear boasts from the SNP Government. They want to know when these much needed ferries will be ready, and how much it will cost the public purse.”

Cameron Lodges Motion to Celebrate 10 Years of BBC ALBA

A motion celebrating the tenth anniversary of BBC ALBA has been lodged with Scottish Parliament officials by Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron.

The motion notes the work of MG ALBA and the BBC, the principle partners of BBC ALBA and the fact that since its inception over £160m has been invested into producing Gaelic language content.

It also acknowledges the work the MG ALBA have done to work with other Gaelic organisations including Bòrd na Gàidhlig, to understand the changing trends in Gaelic culture and to implement these in its content, and also its investment in promoting Gaelic to younger audiences.

It is hoped that the motion will be debated in the Scottish Parliament as part of Members’ business if it attracts cross-party support.

The motion also recognises the recent partnership established by the UK’s four main Celtic broadcasters; S4C of Wales, Northern Ireland Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund,TG4 of the Republic of Ireland and BBC ALBA.

The Celtic International Fund aims to “promote co-development and then co-production through Scottish Gaelic, Welsh and Irish, and to encourage a broader European and worldwide internationalisation of productions which are originally conceived in those Celtic languages.”

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“The recent commitment by BBC ALBA and the other major Celtic broadcasters to invest more in original content is a perfect way to celebrate ten years of this fantastic public service broadcaster.

The fact that BBC ALBA accounts for around 50% of independently-produced hours for audiences in Scotland should be welcomed.

I am encouraged by the optimism shown by MG ALBA, and its continued investment in Gaelic media.

I would encourage all readers to get in touch with their local MSP, and ask them to sign my motion, so that we can properly recognise this landmark achievement.”

To view the motion and see who has signed it, click here