Ongoing Problems with Western Isles Ferry Service

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Commenting on the continuing problems of the ferry service to the Western Isles, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has said that issue is a “devastating indictment” of the Scottish Government for failing to plan properly for the service.

The Scottish Conservative MSP said: “If people lose confidence in the reliability of the service then they will think twice about setting up businesses and investing in the islands. I have had numerous constituents from the Western Isles contacting me to express their fears.

“This failure by the Scottish Government to sort out the ferry service is a devastating indictment of the SNP’s 12-year track record in Government.

“This is a lifeline service and fundamental to the future of the Western Isles and yet we have not seen the necessary long-term planning to ensure that we have a fit-for-purpose ferry fleet.

“The SNP continue to fail the Western Isles and have allowed this situation to develop over the last decade while the service has deteriorated.

“Angus MacNeil is more than happy to speak up when it comes to sounding off about a second independence referendum, but he seems to have failed to make the case for ferries with his SNP colleagues at Holyrood who control the purse strings.

“We now need a positive commitment from Nicola Sturgeon to provide the islands with a resilient ferry service that minimises the chance of cancellations at the height of the summer season.”

MSP warning that crofting threatened by social care costs

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has warned that the costs of social care may be putting the family ownership of crofts in the Western Isles at risk.

Mr Cameron spoke out after being contacted by constituents concerned that crofts are having to be sold in order to meets the costs of residential care.

The Scottish Conservative MSP, who is a member of the cross-party group on crofting in the Scottish Parliament and specialised in crofting law before being elected, said:

“I am increasingly alarmed by accounts I have personally received from locals who are desperately worried that they are going to lose crofts which may have been held by them for generations.

“We are witnessing a situation where crofts, which were intended to be handed down to the next generation, may have to be relinquished to meet escalating costs of care for an elderly relative.

“Understandably this is causing considerable distress.

“Crofting is, of course, a system of land holding, but it means so much more than that, and is part of the cultural heritage of these islands.

“I fear we could lose much of crofting’s traditions if we allow it to be disrupted to a significant extent by families having to meet these costs.

“This issue need to be addressed and I intend to pursue the matter in the Scottish Parliament.”

MSP welcome for shinty funding

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has celebrated the award of more than £2,000 to an Argyll shinty club by putting a motion to the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Cameron lodged his motion after an announcement that £2,306 has been granted to Glenorchy Camanachd, a club based in Dalmally, Argyll,  by sportscotland through the Awards for All Scotland programme.

He said: “I am particularly pleased that the money will be used to help deliver weekly shinty training sessions to primary school pupils by volunteer coaches.

“Shinty has a great tradition in Argyll, and is passionately supported by many local people,  but if it is to have a secure future then the love of the game, and the skills necessary to play it at a high standard, have to be passed down to the next generation.

“Although this is a relatively modest sum I felt it was well worth highlighting it in a motion to the Parliament.

“I am sure that Glenorchy Camanachd will go from strength and strength and I look forward to seeing them in action  when I next get the chance.”

The motion, as published, is below: 

That the Parliament acknowledges that Glenorchy Camanachd has been awarded £2,306 from sportscotland through the Awards for All Scotland programme; understands that the funding will be used to delivery weekly shinty training sessions to primary school pupils by volunteer coaches; recognises that Glenorchy Camanachd is based in Dalmally and currently competes in the Mowi South Division 2; acknowledges the importance of introducing more young people to shinty, and wishes Glenorchy Camanachd every future success.

 

Comment: Argyll and Bute Rural Growth Deal

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Commenting on successful discussions between Argyll and Bute Council and the UK Government on the Argyll and Bute Rural Growth Deal, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron said: “I am delighted that the UK Government is responding so positively to the ambitions that we have for Argyll and Bute.

“The Rural Growth Deal has the potential to deliver for communities the length and breadth of the area and make a real positive difference to the prospects of the local economy.

“It’s now over to the Scottish Government to confirm support for the next stage of the journey and I hope, and expect, to see progress over the coming months.

Mr Cameron added: “By working together, and drawing on their respective strengths,  the Council and both Governments can make a world of difference for people living in remote and rural communities like Argyll and Bute.”

All-weather pitch wins support of local politicians

A new all-weather pitch that is to be installed at Islay High School has been hailed by local politicians as representing a significant benefit for the community.

Highlands and Islands Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron commented: “As we all know, Islay has more than its fair share of weather, so having a purpose-built all-weather pitch will significantly increase the opportunities for local people to participate in sport all year round.

“This is very good news indeed as participation in sport can be very beneficial for keeping us fit and healthy, not to mention helping to develop the sporting prowess of our young people.

“I am particularly pleased that this facility is coming to Islay because sometimes there is a feeling that people living in smaller or more remote communities miss out on opportunities which are available in the larger towns and cities.”

Also adding his support is local councillor, Alastair Redman. Councillor Redman said: “This is a significant investment and one which local people have been hoping would come to the island for several years.

“Our thanks should go to everyone who have worked for this and I am very pleased indeed that Argyll and Bute Council, despite its straitened finances, continues to aspire to support our island communities.”

MSP says success of school helps secure future of Gaelic

Highlands and Islands Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron has said that the success of a Gaelic-medium primary school in Lochaber is helping to secure the future of Gaelic.

Mr Cameron highlighted the performance of Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Loch Abar, which is located in Caol, near Fort William, in a motion to the Scottish Parliament which was lodged earlier this week.

Mr Cameron said: “It is fantastic that the school won the Gaelic Award at the 2019 Scottish Education Awards and a testimony to the hard work of the teachers and children that they should have done so well.

“What is perhaps most significant is that it shows that young people, when given the opportunity, will really take the language to heart and excel.

“This is a sign that our native language has a bright future in Lochaber, and that the culture and traditions which it gives expression to will be passed on to future generations.

“Preserving the traditional culture of the Highlands and Islands is plainly a good thing in itself but learning a language like Gaelic also brings with it educational advantages to learners that will stand them in good stead throughout their lives.”

Mr Cameron’s motion is as follows:

Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Loch Abar air Prìomh Dhuais a bhuannachadh aig Duaisean Foghlaim na h-Alba 2019

Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Loch Abar air Prìomh Dhuais a bhuannachadh aig Duaisean Foghlaim na h-Alba 2019 Gu bheil a’ Phàrlamaid a’ cur meal-a-naidheachd air Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Loch Abar, a bhuannaich Duais na Gàidhlig ann an Duaisean Foghlaim na h-Alba 2019; gu bheil i a’ tuigsinn gu bheil an duais ag aithneachadh cruthachadh cultar adhartach agus tionnsgalachd leantainneach a thaobh Foghlaim tro Mheadhan na Gàidhlig agus Foghlam Luchd-ionnsachaidh na Gàidhlig, gu bheil i ag aithneachadh na h-obrach a rinn an ceannard Iain Iòsaph MacNèill agus a sgioba gus na sgoilearan a thoirt air adhart agus gus dèanamh cinnteach gum bi a’ Ghàidhlig aIg ginealaichean ùra de dh’òigridh ann an Loch Abar, agus gun tèid cultar agus dualchas na Gàidhlig a ghlèidheadh; gu bheil i ag aithneachadh cho cudromach ’s a tha e cothrom a bhith aig òigridh air a’ Ghàidhlig anns an sgoil, agus gu bheil i a’ guidhe gach soirbheas dhan a h-uile duine ann am Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Loch Abar san àm ri teachd.

Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Loch Abar Wins Gaelic Prize at the Scottish Education Awards

That the Parliament congratulates Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Loch Abar on winning the Gaelic Award at the 2019 Scottish Education Awards; understands that this recognises the development of a progressive culture and continuous innovation in relation to Gaelic medium and Gaelic learner education; recognises the work carried out by head teacher, John Joe MacNeil, and his staff in developing the school’s pupils and ensuring that new generations of young people in Lochaber are able to speak Gaelic and preserve Gaelic culture and traditions; acknowledges what it sees as the importance of offering pupils the opportunity to access Gaelic language at school, and wishes everyone at Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Loch Abar well for the future.

 

 

 

MSP Says Transport Failings are Putting Islands at Risk

Highlands and Islands Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron has said that the future of  island and remote communities across the Highlands and Islands are being put at risk by uncertainty over vital transport links.

Mr Cameron spoke after the air traffic controllers’ union announced another strike which will affect HIAL airports in the Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland and Inverness.

The news follows widespread reports of passengers being unable to book on to ferry services due to over-capacity, and delays in introducing new ferries into service.

Mr Cameron said: “My postbag is over-flowing with complaints from constituents across the whole Highlands and Islands region.

“People are having to cancel appointments, they can’t visit relatives when they want to, and businesses are not able to get their products to market, or receive supplies when they need them.

“This catalogue of failures is entirely the responsibility of Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP Government. They have been in power for 12 years and cannot blame anyone else.

“Everywhere you look, whether it is the town centre ferry service to Dunoon, insufficient capacity on ferries to and from the Western Isles, or the failure to resolve the HIAL dispute, the story is the same: a failure to plan ahead or, when trouble breaks out, a failure to get a grip.”

Mr Cameron said he feared for the future of communities dependent on the failing transport links.

“The SNP Government down in Edinburgh don’t seem to understand that our communities are utterly dependent on reliable transport infrastructure. When the ferry or plane doesn’t run, there is no alternative route.

“If local businesses lose confidence, they will either fail to invest or they will relocate. And we will find it even more difficult to attract younger, economically active people to live in our remoter communities which are already threatened by population decline.”

 

MSP Warns that Super-Fast Broadband Roll-out is in Danger of Falling Behind Schedule

Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has issued a warning that the R100 broadband project to deliver superfast broadband across Scotland is running behind schedule.

He has expressed his fear that this failure will be particularly damaging to businesses in the Highlands and Islands which are dependent on broadband to conduct their operations and which, because of their location, are distant from customers and suppliers.

Donald’s warning came after First Minster Nicola Sturgeon was unable to confirm that her government would deliver on its pledge by the end of the current Parliament in 2021. Her comments were made at a committee meeting of the Scottish Parliament held yesterday (Wednesday 8th May).

During that meeting, it was revealed that the procurement process designed to identify a contractor was already months behind schedule and that until that process was complete the First Minister could not confirm the details of the actual roll-out. The procurement process should have been concluded in February 2019.

Donald Cameron said: “People across the Highlands and Islands who have been waiting for this roll-out will be deeply dismayed by Nicola Sturgeon’s inability to provide a direct answer.

“Access to decent broadband is absolutely fundamental to anyone running a business and the Scottish Government’s failure to handle the project properly and to deliver on its pledge is putting investment and prosperity at risk.

“It is particularly disappointing given that the Government was warned about this as long ago as September last year by Audit Scotland. There just seems to be no urgency in the way the Scottish Government have responded.

“Business owners continually tell me that they need the Government to be on their side and understand the challenges facing them. At the same time, one way that island and remote communities are seeking to address the challenges of depopulation is by attracting entrepreneurs to set up their businesses here and take advantage of the quality of life which we offer.

“But we cannot do that if the government continually fails us on providing vital infrastructure whether it is ferries, decent roads, or broadband.”

Cameron Demands Action in Argyll & Bute as Report on Bullying in NHS Highland Published

Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has demanded action from the Scottish Government over the bullying crisis at NHS Highland with specific reference to revelations about practices in Argyll and Bute.

The Sturrock Report, published today (9th May) has confirmed that a culture of harassment and bullying has prevailed at NHS Highland for at least a decade.

Mr Cameron questioned the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jeane Freeman MSP, at the Scottish Parliament on the contents of the report, written by John Sturrock QC.

Mr Cameron drew the Cabinet Secretary’s attention to those parts of the review which covered Argyll and Bute.

In the report Mr Sturrock wrote that he was “concerned to hear from a number of sources about particular problems in some of the island communities and of a management culture located in Lochgilphead and Oban which seems to have created significant tensions and resulted in poor relations between managers and frontline staff.”

Mr Cameron asked the Cabinet Secretary for her response to the suggestion in the report that a specific and independent review of management practices in Argyll and Bute was necessary given that the nature of some of the allegations implicated management “at a very senior level”.  

After the debate Mr Cameron said: “I am pleased that Jeane Freeman accepted my point and will now look into appointing someone external to investigate what has happened in Argyll and Bute.

“It is quite clear that this is very serious indeed and that it goes right to the top of the organisation.

“Although there has been an understandable focus on Raigmore and the northern part of the NHS Highland area, it is evident that this issue has also had repercussions for staff and patients in Argyll and Bute too. That must not be overlooked.

“This crisis has been in the making for years and is about more than just bullying. It is about failures of governance and leadership, and led to a growing sense of disillusionment among the communities that NHS Highland is there to serve.

“NHS Highland is the largest public sector employer in both the Highland and Argyll and Bute council areas, and is ultimately the responsibility of the Scottish Government.

“Health secretaries have come and gone but the problems have only grown worse as we see our health professionals struggling to deliver the care across the region which they so badly wish to deliver.

“For years we have seen public confidence draining away as NHS Highland has struggled with deficits and contracting services. There have been constant warnings about the consequences but little has been done.

“This has been bad for patients, and bad for communities who have lost services, but it has also led to many of NHS Highland’s staff being put under intense pressure.”

Donald Cameron MSP Backs Marie Curie Call

Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has lent his support to help improve the lives of people in Scotland living with terminal illness. 

Meeting recently with representatives from Marie Curie, the terminal illness charity, Donald was interested to hear about their efforts to ensure that everyone should get the care and support they need at the end of life. 

Marie Curie supported over 8,600 people in Scotland last year through their hospices, nursing care, and support services. Every five minutes someone dies without the care they need, often missing out on care because they have a condition other than terminal cancer such as organ failure or dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and frailty.

Donald Cameron MSP said: “Providing support to people who have a terminal illness, and to their family and friends, is one of the most important services any society can provide. It is reassuring to know that an organisation like Marie Curie is there to help, but it is also clear that more could be done especially given the growing need for their services. I would like to wish Marie Curie every success in their efforts which are inspiring and deserve widespread support.”

Susan Brown, Marie Curie said: “Thank you to Donald for supporting our call that everyone should get the care and support they need at the end of their life, regardless of their condition.”