Russell comments on dairy industry enquiry debate

Speaking in this afternoon’s debate on the inquiry into the dairy industry, conducted by the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee, Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, said:

“I congratulate my fellow Committee members and the Committee clerks for their work in the inquiry and I welcome the Scottish Government’s Dairy Action Plan, published earlier this month, which accepted all of our recommendations. I am particularly pleased that the Scottish Government is committed to innovation in the industry and the development of a Scottish dairy brand, to be launched in October.

“However, it is imperative that action is taken now to sustain dairy production in Bute and Kintyre, and ensure the long-term sustainability of the Campbeltown creamery. The investment package for Campbeltown creamery of £450,000, confirmed by the Cabinet Secretary in today’s debate, is of great importance and needs to be spent on the creamery as quickly as possible. The Scottish Government must also introduce the ferry concession requested by Bute dairy farmers, and backed by NFUS. All these things need to happen sooner, rather than later.

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MSP calls on Council to suspend Castle Toward sale

“The Community Empowerment Bill should be given a chance to work for the people of South Cowal”

Following last Tuesday’s meeting between representatives of the South Cowal Community and the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities, and Pensioner’s Rights, Alex Neil, Argyll & Bute MSP Michael Russell has taken a new initiative and written to Council Leader Dick Walsh, asking him to suspend the sale of Castle Toward until the new Community Empowerment Bill is fully enacted.

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FIRST SCOTTISH ISLAND GETS 4G

I am very pleased to see that at least one part of the Argyll & Bute Constituency now has 4G phone coverage. Up until today it was only available on the Cowal shore as a spill over signal from Inverclyde.

Welcome as this is, there needs to be much greater investment by the companies themselves in their own network and far less contempt for their customers – constant outages, drop signal and failure to repair weather damaged masts and equipment for days and even weeks.

The recent Oban Times story of Vodafone’s failure to restore the first responder pager system on the Island of Luing for three months was just another example of how cavalier their treatment is of local people – even those delivering lifeline services. Their litany of excuses made a bad situation even worse.

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SAVE CASTLE TOWARD GROUP COMES TO THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

“FRUSTRATION AT LACK OF PROGRESS FROM AUDIT SCOTLAND”

Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, today (Tuesday 24th March) joined representatives from the Save Castle Toward Community Supporters Group (SCTCSG) to meet with Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights, and outline their concerns about the conduct of the Castle Toward sale by Argyll and Bute Council.

During the meeting, the group highlighted the “unfinished business” of the South Cowal Community Development Company (SCCDC)’s bid to buy Castle Toward from Argyll and Bute Council, and Audit Scotland’s slow progress in tackling the “anti-democratic” actions of Argyll and Bute Council in blocking the bid. Furthermore, Mr Neil was presented with a petition of 10,000 signatures in support of the community purchase of Castle Toward.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Russell commented:

“I was delighted to welcome representatives of SCTCSG to meet with the Cabinet Secretary today. I am pleased that he has recognised the need for democratic renewal in communities, which will be greatly enhanced when the Community Empowerment Bill becomes law.
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Motion on Blipfoto

This will be published in the Scottish Parliament Bulletin tomorrow – a motion I have tabled to support Blipfoto. These motions don’t get debated but are seen by other members and more widely.

Motion Number: S4M-12729
Lodged By: Michael Russell
Date Lodged: 18/03/2015
Title: Blipfoto

Motion Text:
That the Parliament regrets that the Edinburgh-based social media photographic site, Blipfoto, has gone into liquidation; understands that the company’s assets might be acquired by Polaroid, with whom it had recently established a partnership; commends what it sees as the vision and passion of Blipfoto’s founder, Joe Tree, who, with the help of a dedicated group of colleagues, staff and members, has built over the last 10 years a world-wide creativity community that share a photograph every day; hopes that any new owner will recognise what it considers the positive and collaborative nature of Blipfoto and consult and nurture its diverse user base; understands that Blipfoto’s members are using the hashtag, ‪#‎blipforever‬, to campaign for a secure future for the site and to have ongoing secure access to their data and pictures; commends to any new owner the positive benefits of the company retaining its HQ in Edinburgh, and hopes that what it sees as this uniquely successful Scottish start-up can continue to expand its global reach and membership.

RUSSELL PROMOTES SCOTTISH SONGS FOR ARGYLL SECONDARY SCHOOLS

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has today (18th March) written to all secondary schools in Argyll and Bute, enclosing a copy of a new compilation CD, produced by Greentrax Records, of famous Scottish songs and encouraging them to use the CD to spread knowledge of great traditional Scottish music.

Mr Russell said:

“I was immensely impressed when I heard this CD for the first time. I have known the record label for many years, and Greentrax is very keen to ensure that knowledge of Scottish songs is gained by every pupil in every school. I wanted to do a little bit to assist in that aim and therefore I have bought a number of copies to give to local secondary schools.

“I think this CD is a valuable educational tool and I hope that these CDs will assist in the teaching of Scots language and culture, particularly for those pupils who are either studying or thinking of studying for the new Scottish Studies qualification.”

MSP WELCOMES FUNDING FOR COMMUNITY OWNERSHIP OF ENERGY PROJECTS

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has today (17th March) welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement of £21 million of funding from the Local Energy Challenge Fund, for community ownership of energy projects.

Among the recipients of grants from the Local Energy Challenge Fund are Community Energy Scotland, who are receiving £1.8 million to develop viable grid connections for small scale generators in areas of constrained network on Mull.

Commenting on the funding award, Mr Russell said:

“This funding is a very positive development for the people of Mull. It will improve the stability of grid connections where it is needed most in the constituency. Therefore I welcome this announcement from the Minister today.

“I am pleased that the Scottish Government, through its Local Energy Challenge Fund, has recognised the special status and potential generating capacity of the islands in my constituency. I look forward to future projects in Argyll and Bute benefiting from this fund, when the second round of funding opens in the near future.”

Fergus Ewing, Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, added:

“The Scottish Government is defining a distinctive approach to Scotland’s future energy provision; putting communities at the heart of decisions about their local energy system; and empowering them to take an economic stake in new developments.

“These projects are a huge step towards defining a distinctive approach to Scotland’s future energy provision. They will provide vital learning across extremely challenging areas, such as adding value to local economies, matching local supply and demand, and addressing fuel poverty.

“But we know this is just the beginning, and we want to support more innovations like these. This is why the Scottish Government will run a second Challenge Fund, subject to the next spending round, making up to £500,000 available in 2015/2016.”

MSP CALLS ON DEVELOPERS TO WITHDRAW BACHAN BURN WIND FARM PROPOSAL

Argyll & Bute MSP Michael Russell has called on PNE Wind to withdraw its proposal for a major wind farm, which would be sited above Dunoon and Innellan on the Cowal Peninsula, but which would be visible from all along the lower Clyde, and as far away as the Isles of Bute and Cumbrae.

 

In an open letter to the developers, written after a well-attended public meeting held in Dunoon on Friday night (13th March), Mr Russell has outlined a number of reasons why the plan should not proceed to the formal planning stage, and has also expressed concern that the reputation of the Forestry Commission is suffering as a result of their involvement with the project.

 

Commenting on the proposed development, Mr Russell said:

 

“I am dismayed that PNE Wind have fallen well short of the standards of consultation expected by my constituents when a major planning application arises in their communities. Their failure to thoroughly consult representatives of the communities in Dunoon and Cowal was laid bare last Friday night, when they failed to attend a public meeting called by the relevant Community Councils to examine the proposals in more detail.

 

“The application includes areas that have been refused permission twice before by the community, and the choice of site was described by one attendee at the meeting as ‘the worst visual intrusion of any such proposal’. Moreover, there is a significant body of opinion within the community that questions this use of the Forestry Estate, given that the Forestry Commission is the landowner of the proposed wind farm site. As a former Environment Minister in the Scottish Government, I am therefore deeply concerned that the Forestry Commission’s good reputation within the community will be put at stake if the Bachan Burn application proceeds to the formal planning stage.

 

“I am a strong supporter of the Scottish Government’s energy and renewables policy, and I listened carefully to the arguments from both sides on the Bachan Burn wind farm proposal. However, as the project does not command local support, for the reasons highlighted above, I have therefore taken the unusual step of writing an open letter to PNE Wind to urge them to withdraw this proposal.”