Joint Call for More Government Action on Crumbling Island Roads

Two local politicians have come together to call for more action from the SNP Government over the problem of potholes and crumbling roads in local islands communities.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron and local Scottish Conservative Councillor Alastair Redman have issued the plea for additional funding following figures released under Freedom of Information by Argyll and Bute Council which show that a significant number of road faults have been raised with the council over several months.

Figures from May show that 106 road faults were raised from Islay, while figures for June show 101 road faults raised.

Argyll and Bute Council had announced an additional £15m worth of investment in roads in the most recent council budget.

However, local residents have raised concerns that this funding may not be enough to combat the growing problem on the islands road networks, which is largely caused in part by heavy haulage associated with the thriving whisky industry on Islay and Jura.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron said: 

“These figures make it absolutely clear that councils are struggling to fix local roads, which is in large part due to successive budget cuts by the SNP Government.

I saw for myself the condition of the roads on Islay earlier in the year. It is simply unacceptable for them to remain in such a dire state.

That is why the Scottish Conservatives have called on the Government to create a £100m pothole action fund, to help local councils get on top of their roads.”

Local Councillor Alastair Redman said:

“Since my election last May, I have been calling for extra funding to resolve this scourge on the island communities that I represent.

Islay and Jura have a growing whisky industry which is welcome, but this is having a major impact on local roads, with little recognition from the SNP Government.

The SNP need to invest more in improving local roads, otherwise more faults will be raised and this will impact local road users and local businesses.

Worry as New Report Finds Western Isles Most at Risk of Depopulation in Scotland

A new report which shows that the Western Isles is the area most at risk of depopulation has been met with concern by Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron.

The findings, which were published by the National Records of Scotland as part of their annual review of demographic trends, shows that the projected change in population between 2016 to 2026 in the Western Isles will fall by 4.8%.

Comparatively, other island authorities such as Shetland and Orkney are projected to see increases in population of 0.2% and 0.5% respectively. Nearby Highland Council will also see growth of 1.7%.

The report announced that as of June 2017, the total population of Scotland hit 5,424,800 – the largest ever seen, and it is expected to grow over the next ten years by 3.2%.

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“The news that the Western Isles is facing a depopulation crisis is not new, but what this report indicates is that little has been done to counteract that shift.

Many local residents will question why it is that other rural authorities like Shetland, Orkney and Highland are going to see modest increases in population and yet the Western Isles is set to take a massive hit.

I know that the Comhairle have done a lot in recent years to improve educational outcomes and to encourage more young people to stay on the island. Likewise the UK Government’s commitment to remote island wind will hopefully lead to economic regeneration too.

But ultimately, the SNP need to step up and encourage outside investment to the islands, otherwise this crisis could have serious economic and social implications for the islands.”

Concern as Early Cancer Detection Rates Fall in NHS Highland Area

New figures released today by NHS Scotland show that the number of early cancer detections in the NHS Highland area are falling.

The numbers, which were published by the NHS statistics service ISD Scotland, show that in 2015-16, the percentage of patients diagnosed at Stage 1 for breast, colorectal and lung cancers sat at 24.7%.

In 2016-17, the percentage fell to 24.3%, which represents 50 fewer diagnoses at Stage 1 compared to the previous year.

The figures also show a fall in the percentage of patients diagnosed at Stage 2, while the percentage diagnosed at the final Stage 4 of cancer rose from 24.7% to 25.3%.

In 2012, the SNP Government pledged to increase the proportion of people diagnosed with early stage cancer by 25 percent within three years – with specific focus on breast, colorectal and lung cancers.

But the nationwide figures released today shows that those with breast, colorectal or lung cancer, only 25.3 percent were diagnosed at the earliest stage, an increase of only 8.4 percent.

These figures are down from 9.1 percent last year, and well behind the promised 25 percent increase.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron said:

“These figures are deeply concerning, and are yet another example of the need for a new direction from the SNP Government in how they manage the Scottish NHS.

People across the Highlands will rightly be worried by this trend, particularly in light of the fact that the SNP Government are well behind on their target to increase the proportion of people diagnosed with early stage cancer by 25 percent within three years.

The new Health Secretary needs to make this a top priority”.

Donald Cameron Responds to Labour Attack on Sutherland Spaceport

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has defended the decision of the UK Government to pick Sutherland as the site for the proposed new vertical spaceport, following criticism from a senior Labour politician.

Commenting on the announcement, Chi Onwurah MP, who acts as Labour’s Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, stated in the House of Commons:

“The proposed Sutherland spaceport will be the northernmost operational spaceport in the world. As a Newcastle MP, I am all for going north. However, spaceports are overwhelmingly sited near the equator where the Earth’s rotational speed is highest, allowing rockets to harness an additional natural boost. Does funding take into account the potential extra costs associated and what factors were taken into consideration when choosing the location far from the equator, although close to Tory marginals?”

Responding, Donald Cameron MSP said:

“This is an utterly ignorant comment from a Labour politician.

The fact of the matter is that Sutherland was chosen as the vertical spaceport site because, as the UK Government rightly pointed out, Scotland is the best place in the UK to reach in-demand satellite orbits with vertically launched rockets.

The UK Government also announced an additional £2m towards horizontal launch sites, and there many parts of the UK in the running for this.

It’s abundantly clear however that this utterly bizarre statement highlights the reality that a left-wing Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn would deny Scotland vital investment.

Only the Scottish Conservatives are committed to long term investment in the Highlands”.

Credit to Calum Ross and the Press and Journal Highlands and Islands Edition who originally reported on the comments. 

Cameron Welcomes UK Government Investment in Highlands

The UK Government has announced that funding for a proposed vertical launch spaceport has been awarded to a site in Sutherland following a bidding process involving applications from across the UK.

The UK Space Agency has awarded Highlands and Islands Enterprise £2.5 million in funding to develop the site, which it hopes will be able to facilitate the vertical launch of space rockets and satellites to boost the UK’s thriving space industry.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise has already been working closely with the American aerospace firm Lockheed Martin who have also welcomed the announcement.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron said:

“This is extremely positive news and yet another example of how much the UK Government values the Highlands.

The commercial space sector is estimated to be worth around £3.8 billion to the UK economy over the next ten years, and I welcome the fact that Scotland will play a big part in developing that new market.

Indeed, this spaceport will create thousands of new skilled jobs, and I believe it could be a catalyst in reversing the trend of depopulation that many parts of the Highlands and Islands have had to face.

I look forward to working with the UK Government and HIE to see this incredible project come to fruition.”

Click here for more information about this exciting project

Concern Over Failure to Deliver New Suicide Plan

Concerns have been raised over the SNP Government’s failure to deliver a new suicide strategy, despite promising that it would be ready by the end of June.

It means Scotland has been without a suicide strategy for a year-and-a-half, with the previous plan running out in 2016.

Last month, then mental health minister Maureen Watt promised the vision would be published before July.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has backed calls made by charities for a new national body to be created to drive forward change, and for increased support for bereaved families.

In addition, the Scottish Conservatives want to see more suicide prevention training for key staff.

The news comes as the most recent figures from the National Records of Scotland show that 58 people ended their life in the NHS Highlands area in 2017 – a five year record high.

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“It is disappointing that Scotland has been without a suicide prevention strategy for a year-and-a-half, particularly in light of the fact that the issue is growing in the Highlands.

Suicide remains a major killer in Scotland, and we know that issues such as loneliness and isolation can be a big factor in more rural and remote parts of Scotland.

That is why I am calling on the new mental health minister to make this an urgent priority.”

Almost 500 Businesses Fail to Receive Farm Payments on Time

The Scottish Conservatives have welcomed news that the Scottish Government exceeded their target of paying 96% of farmers and crofters crucial farm payments on or before the annual deadline, after their failure to do so the previous year.

Figures released show that 97.4% of businesses received their payments on time, amounting to almost £392m worth of subsidies.

The payments include Basic Payment Scheme, Young Farmers and Greening payments.

However, a total of 468 business are still waiting for their payments, averaging at £18,803 per business, meaning £8.8m is missing from the rural economy.

Shadow Environment Secretary Donald Cameron MSP said:

“We welcome the fact that more businesses have received their payments on time following several calamitous years of mismanagement by the SNP Government.

Nevertheless, almost 500 business are still without crucial payments and this will be of significant concern to them.

The SNP Government need to provide these businesses with the reassurance that they deserve, and make sure that they receive their payments sooner rather than later”.

Cameron Slams “Weak” SNP MPs for “Letting Down the Highlands and Islands” Over Heathrow Vote

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has slammed SNP MPs including Ian Blackford, Brendan O’Hara, Drew Hendry and Angus MacNeil, for letting down the Highlands and Islands by refusing to back a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

The third runway is seen by many to be a huge opportunity to better connect Scotland to the UK capital and beyond. It was backed by the SNP Government in Edinburgh, but during a vote in the House of Commons, failed to get backing from SNP parliamentarians.

Now, the SNP have come under fire from Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron, who has described the decision to abstain as weak and hypocritical.

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“The SNP like to boast about standing up for Scotland but their MPs have let down people across the Highlands and Islands by failing to back a third runway at Heathrow.

Of course, we’re used to seeing the SNP trying to undermine the UK, but the fact is that a third runway will boost the economy here in the Highlands, as businesses and industry across the region have recognised. The SNP Government in Edinburgh have been among the biggest cheerleaders for the project, which makes it all the more hypocritical and perplexing that their MPs decided to abstain.

Fortunately, the Scottish Conservatives and others have voted in favour of this project, and Scotland will now see the benefit of this development, even if the SNP’s pursuit of another cheap political stunt in Westminster means they’re again left carping on the sidelines.”

Donald Cameron MSP Welcomes 30th Anniversary Exchange Event in Parliament

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron helped welcome the anniversary of the exchange programme between Dunoon Grammar School and Hardenberg Gymnasium school at an event in the Scottish Parliament last week.

The relationship with the German school, who are based in the Bavarian town of Fürth, has existed for 30 years and has allowed pupils to experience each other’s culture as well as developing their language skills.

The German Consul-General, Jens-Peter Voss, attended the specially held reception in Holyrood alongside representatives from Dunoon Grammar, Hardenberg Gymnasium,  and other MSPs.

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“I was delighted to be present for this very special event.

In particular, I was honoured to speak with pupils from both Dunoon and Fürth, and to hear about their experiences on the programme.

Exchange programmes such as this one are incredibly beneficial in introducing young people to new cultures and languages, and are clearly a valuable method of fostering better relationships with other countries in the long run.

I look forward to welcoming the next milestone in this very successful partnership.”