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.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has called on the SNP Government to pass on money to Argyll and Bute Council to help it invest in local schools.
Mr Cameron spoke after the UK Government announced that the Scottish Government would receive an extra £2bn in funding through the Barnett Formula, following the prime minister’s announcement of extra funding for schools in England.
The Scottish Conservative MSP said:
“The SNP has a dismal record on education with our standards declining compared to many other countries during the 12 years that they’ve been in power.
“However this extra cash from the UK Government, coming Scotland’s way because of the Barnett formula, gives them an opportunity to make amends by passing on funds to the council to invest in schools across Argyll and Bute.
“The life chances of children across Argyll and Bute would be greatly enhanced if this money is spent wisely, and I urge Nicola Sturgeon’s government to pass on the cash.”
Cllr Yvonne McNeilly (Cowal ward), Conservative policy lead for education, welcomed Donald Cameron’s intervention. She said: “I’m sure that Donald is speaking for people across Argyll and Bute.
“The council badly needs more financial support from the Scottish Government and I very much hope that as a result of this announcement we are able to invest more in our schools.”
“As the UK comes out of the European Union it is very important that there is a Scottish voice on Europe which looks beyond the grievance politics of the SNP.
“There are huge opportunities for Scottish businesses as we develop trading links across the world and reassert control over our fishing grounds.
“I look forward to putting the case for a strong Scotland in a strong UK operating as a truly global player in the years ahead.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has been appointed Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Europe and External Affairs.
The appointment is one of a number of changes made in the Shadow Cabinet following the resignation of Ruth Davidson as leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. Mr Cameron succeeds interim leader Jackson Carlaw MSP in the role.
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.”