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.”

No Answers from SNP Government to Drop in LFASS Payments

Scottish Conservative MSPs quizzed the SNP Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing during a Ministerial Statement in the Scottish Parliament earlier today.

The Cabinet Secretary used his third statement in as many weeks to announce another post-Brexit farming consultation, and to lay out some of the SNP Government’s plans for Scottish agriculture.

Fergus Ewing also alluded to the cap to LFASS payments mandated by the EU Commission, which will see LFASS payments set to 20% of current levels in 2020.

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Donald Cameron MSP said:

“While we welcome the consultation announced by the SNP Government, who have finally come up with some kind of plan for future farming support, the speed of progress to this point has been glacial at best, and ignores the need to address the immediate concerns of farmers and crofters in Scotland’s more marginal areas.”

“The Scottish Conservatives will scrutinise the consultation document in detail, and we will continue to challenge the SNP Government to produce a tangible plan so that our farmers have some certainty over their future.”

Scottish Conservatives Farming Spokesman John Scott MSP added:

“When I asked Fergus Ewing how he intends to address the drop in LFASS payments from £65m to £13m in 2020, he had no answers.”

This support is vital to their continued existence, as food producers as well as being the day-to-day custodians of our environment and landscape.”

Concern as Record Number of Absences Hit NHS Highland

Concerns have been raised following news that the number of absences affecting NHS Highland has hit a record high.

The statistics, released by NHS Scotland’s ISD service show that the sickness absence rate for the year 2017/18 was 5.19%.

Records for individual health boards were first collected in 2011, when the absence rate for NHS Highland was just 4.8%.

The news coincides with the announcement that the amount of money spent by NHS Highland on bank and agency staff has rocketed past the £8m mark – a record high for the health board.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron said:

“Our NHS staff work phenomenally hard to meet the growing demand for our health service, and NHS Scotland needs to do all it can to support its staff and work to reverse the clear growing trend of absence in the service.

However, it is abundantly clear that despite promises to tackle spending on locum staff, the SNP are failing to manage the workforce crisis in the NHS, and instead of recruiting permanent staff to meet demand, NHS Highland are being forced to shell out more on bank and agency staff to plug the gaps.

Instead of spending all their time planning for another unwanted independence vote, the SNP need to get a grip of this crisis and fix the Scottish NHS.”

Calls for Perjeta to be made available on Scottish NHS backed by Donald Cameron MSP

“Women in Scotland should be able to access the life-extending breast cancer drug Perjeta just like women can in England and Wales”, so says Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron.

The campaign to make the drug Perjeta available in NHS Scotland has been driven by the charity Breast Cancer Now Scotland.

Donald Cameron MSP joined secondary breast cancer patient and Perjeta Now campaigner Jen Hardy at Holyrood to support the charity’s petition calling for the manufacturer Roche, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Medicines Consortium to work together to agree a deal to finally make Perjeta routinely available on the NHS in Scotland.

Perjeta, taken in combination with Herceptin (trastuzumab) and docetaxel (a chemotherapy drug), is a first-line treatment for patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer.

It gives patients with incurable breast cancer nearly 16 additional months of good-quality life, on average – compared to the alternative treatment option of trastuzumab and docetaxel alone.

While it has been the standard of care in England for over four years, Perjeta has been rejected three times in a row by medicines approval body the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) as it is not considered cost-effective.

Following a meeting at the Scottish Parliament last Wednesday between patients, MSPs, the Scottish Government and Roche, it was announced that the drug company intends to make a new application to the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), for Perjeta to be considered for NHS use in Scotland.

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“It is a travesty that women with incurable breast cancer living in Scotland are still missing out on a life-changing drug that is now routinely available in other parts of the UK.

The precious extra time that Perjeta offers could mean the world to patients. It’s the hope of being able to see their children grow older or spending another Christmas with their loved ones.

That’s why I’m supporting Breast Cancer Now’s campaign to make this drug available to women in Scotland and would encourage local people to do the same”