I was pleased that Argyll & Bute Council asked me to take part in their press conference this morning in Rothesay which was intended to brief journalists from across Scotland (and further afield) about preparations for welcoming and housing the refugees who are due on the island soon.
It was a positive event at which Cleland Sneddon, the Council’s Executie Director for Community Services, outlined what had been done by the local authority and the tremendous and active support coming from the community. The CEOs of ACHA and Fyne Homes gives details of the practical arrangements that have been put in place and I spoke of the wider support across Cowal and Argyll & Bute and the contribution that the refugees would undoubtedly make to the area, and not least to the population which is dropping in both Rothesay and Campbeltown (where the next group of refugees will go).
Speaking in a Scottish Parliament debate on the issue of ferry tendering Argyll & Bute MSP Michael Russell has given backing to the campaign by the Dunoon Ferry Action Group to have the extraordinarily high charges for the use of the pier at Gourock removed.
Any new service would have to find £3 million a year for the use of Gourock Harbour, a charge that DGFAG describe as “anti – competitive” under European Law.
Speaking in the debate in a speech that also referenced a number of other key ferry issues in the constituency including difficulties with the Islay and Colonsay service caused by a shortage of vessels Mr Russell said:
“I agree with the Dunoon ferry action group that the major problem in restoring a vehicle service there is not just finding a body to tender for it, but the price that Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd—CMAL—intends to charge for the pier in Dunoon. One of the big changes that we could have in Scotland would be to remove CMAL from the equation. Ferry services operated perfectly effectively without that intervening body for years. I do not think that there is any necessity for CMAL to be there.”
Speaking after the debate Mr Russell added:
Although I am very supportive of the excellent service provided by Western Ferries there is clearly a demand for further competition on the route . That can only happen, however, if another company wishes to offer a new service. At present the charges from CMAL – which is a monopoly – are set at a level which will deter any innovation. I am also far from convinced that CMAL is a necessary part of the ferry infrastructure and I would encourage the Scottish Government as it takes forward its ferry plans to look again at this body and find a way of removing it, thus allowing ferry operators to own and manage their own vessels.
I am proud of what the Scottish Government has done in difficult times for ferry services in this constituency and particularly pleased about the impact of RET which has been delivered as promised. I want to see Cal Mac retain the overall tender for the Hebrides and West Coast and then I want to see more vessels built. On the Dunoon Gourock route if an operator is prepared to bid for the route there could be a new service but for that to happen CMAL has to change or eliminate its demands.”
On the evening of Thursday 26th November 2015 The Rt. Hon Alex Salmond MSP, MP hosted a reception in the Scottish Parliament to celebrate the achievements of the Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund, launched in January 2013 by the former First Minister. Among the guests was Michael Russell MSP for Argyll and Bute.
The Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund, administered by War Memorials Trust, on behalf of the Scottish Government and Historic Environment Scotland, is making £1 million available throughout the centenary of World War I to support the repair and conservation of war memorials of any type or date throughout Scotland.
To date the Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund has made Grant Offers totalling over £528,000 supporting conservation and repair works to 67 war memorial projects across Scotland. In Argyll it has supported the Minard war memorial – http://www.warmemorials.org/search-grants/?gID=1107
Communities can still apply for funding to ensure that memorials in Argyll and Bute are in the best possible condition in preparation for the commemorative events which will be so significant on 11th November 2018. It is believed that up to 10% of Scotland’s estimated 6,000 war memorials are in either Poor or Very bad condition, so there is clearly scope for many projects to benefit from this grant funding. To find out more about the Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund please visit:www.warmemorials.org/grants
The Rt. Hon. Alex Salmond MSP, MP said “I was delighted as First Minister to support this scheme. It is important that communities all over Scotland have the ability to renovate their memorials.
It is great that so many have responded to date and I look forward to seeing even more communities sign up in future.
The greatest achievement of this scheme is that so many more memorials around Scotland are now in a condition that we would expect to respectfully commemorate the centenary of the sacrifice of those who fell in the Great War and conflicts thereafter.”
Frances Moreton, Director of War Memorials Trust said: “War Memorials Trust is delighted to have seen so much interest in the repair and conservation of war memorials in Scotland. We know there are many more projects which could benefit from support and we encourage custodians across Scotland to get in touch to ensure the war memorials remembering the fallen of their local communities are fit for the centenary events and services which will culminate on 11th November 2018.”
Michael Russell MSP added : “The work of Alex Salmond when he was First Minister in establishing the Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund has been much appreciated the length and breadth of the country. Communities have been able to take forward renovation of memorials of many different types. The village of Minard in my constituency has already benefited but there is still time for other communities to apply and I would encourage them to do so.”
The picture shows me in front of a restored memorial which was on display at the reception. It comes from the Caledonian Hotel in Edinburgh and records the hotel staff who fought in the Great War. It was found at the back of a cupboard in the hotel last year but will now be going in prominent display.
Michael Russell MSP took part in the Scotland and Malawi Co-operation Agreement Debate on Wednesday afternoon in the Scottish Parliament. The debate was held to celebrate the 10th Anniversary. He praised the work of the agreement and gave examples of the links that have been created in his constituency of Argyll & Bute.
You can see Mr Russell’s contribution by clicking here.
Sorry I couldn’t be at today’s launch of Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Service at Oban Library.
This service is for anyone who is affected by cancer and their friends, relatives, work colleagues , and carers. It provides a support service, time to talk, access to counselling, mutual support, internet access and links to other groups all within Oban Library.There is access to a huge range of supportive literature, advice and volunteers who have time to listen.
This service is already established in Campbeltown and Rothesay and will be rolled out to the rest of Argyll & Bute over time.
Macmillan Cancer Support are looking to expand and needs more volunteers within the Oban area. Volunteers receive training and support and if anyone could offer some of time to support this fantastic initiative then Deirdre Henderson would be absolutely delighted to hear from them.
To find out more :
Tel – 01546 605522
Web – www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/macmillan