The “local hero” nominated by Argyll & Bute MSP Michael Russell who will attend the Royal opening of the new Parliamentary session on 2nd July will be Dorothy McDonald who is the Project Manager for Achievement Bute. The local heroes nominated by MSPs the length and breadth of Scotland will take part in the Riding Procession down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and will take part in Big Day Out Events.

Mr Russell used social media and the local press to invite nominations from across Argyll & Bute which he suggested should recognise exceptional contributions to the community and Dorothy McDonald was suggested by a number of people who had worked with her.

Speaking after Ms McDonald had confirmed Michael Russell MSP said:

“Dorothy McDonald is from the Island of Bute and has played a central role in securing inclusion for children with disabilities in her community. She is now the project manager for Achievement Bute an organisation with inclusion at its very heart.

Started in 1997 by a group of parents including Dorothy who met, to start with, in a Church Hall, Achievement Bute has, through the efforts of Dorothy and other volunteers now established a clear and valued place in the community.    

Dorothy has worked selflessly to secure recognition for  the organisation and its work from public bodies and other charities and to  professionalise its provision.  She  has  also been a tireless advocate for better services for children with disabilities on the island . That  has included making the case for better overall support from Argyll & Bute Council for individual children and their parents, Council  support services and for better mainstreaming in the local schools. 

Achievement Bute now  offers children with disabilities on the island opportunities to get involved in a wide range of activities ranging from drama to den building. These are always well attended and greatly assist in the inclusion of all young people in the community.  

Dorothy was nominated by parents of children she has helped who have the highest regard for the hard work she has put in both as a volunteer and as a worker for the charity. She is a very fitting “local hero” in Argyll & Bute.”

Argyll & Bute Constituency MSP Michael Russell has taken over as the Convenor of the Finance Committee of the Scottish Parliament, which scrutinises  and co-ordinates the Parliament’s response to the Scottish budget  as well as looking at wider issues of national income and expenditure.

Mr Russell was chosen by the SNP as its candidate to lead the committee last week and was elected by  the committee yesterday (Wednesday).

Commenting after the meeting Mr Russell said ;

“I am honoured and a little daunted to be chosen for this role.   Given that there is now a minority government in Scotland the job of Finance Committee convenor will be to seek consensus on the budget,  to ensure that the Parliament’s new tax powers are introduced smoothly and effectively and to protect and develop the model for public scrutiny of the budget and public finances in Scotland which is regarded with envy in other places.

The Committee is also likely to expand its remit and to become the Finance and Constitution Committee in the autumn when the present review of committee functions by the Parliament’s Standards Committee is complete.  At that time the committee may wish to look more widely at the operation of the Scotland Act  as it has developed over the past two decades and consider the relationship between the Parliaments and the Governments.  

I look forward to working with my Conservative Vice Chair, Alex Johnstone MSP and with the committee members who come from the Conservatives, Labour and the Greens as well as from the SNP.  I also look forward to working with the new Finance Cabinet Secretary Derek MacKay.

 In addition I hope to invite the committee to visit Argyll & Bute at some stage in the future.

Michael Russell MSP has welcomed news that Scotland has exceeded its world leading climate change targets – six years early.

New figures show that Scotland exceeded the 2020 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 42% in 2014.

Scotland continues to outperform the rest of the UK, with a 39.5% drop in Scottish source emissions between 1990 and 2014 compared to the UK’s 33% reduction over the same period. Scotland is one of the leading countries in Western Europe for reducing emissions.

The latest climate change statistics show Scotland’s emissions, for reporting against targets, have fallen by 12.5% year on year to 41.9 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2014.

This is a reduction of 45.8% from the 1990 baseline.

Commenting, Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said:

“This is good news and makes a positive contribution to our planet.   Of course much more is needed but we should all be pleased that , having past world leading legislation in 2009,  Scotland is now making outstanding progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These statistics show that we not only met the annual 2014 emissions reduction target but also exceeded the level of our world-leading 2020 target for a 42% reduction, six years ahead of schedule.

“The reduction in residential emissions in 2014 may have been due – at least in part –  to people simply turning down their heating. This underlines that the actions of someone in Argyll and Bute, if repeated on a large scale, can have a big impact in tackling climate change.

“With climate change one of the defining challenges of our time, there is a real need to cooperate with our neighbours and internationally – which is  yet another reason why Scotland and the UK are better off remaining in the European Union.”

Scottish Government responds to question from Russell with acknowledgement of criticisms made of the company.

The SNP MSP for Argyll and Bute has received an assurance from the Scottish Government that BT is not guaranteed to be the contractor for the 100% roll out of super-fast broadband that has been promised by the SNP Scottish Government for its third term.

Mr Russell asked a number of questions about BT’s broadband performance given many complaints in his constituency which, he believes, echo complaints received by other MSPs.  Just this week Borders Lib Dem Councillor Catriona Bhatia raised similar issues within her area.

Included in those questions was one about the 100% roll out which has been promised over the next five years.

However in answer the new Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing made it clear that BT was not guaranteed to be the contractor for the next phase.

Mr Russell said:  “I remain very dissatisfied – like many of my constituents – with the performance of BT both in delivering conventional telephone services and in rolling out superfast broadband.  My postbag is full of complaints about bad or non-existent delivery, very slow attention to service outages and provision of products that turn out not to be as advertised.  I am meeting BT this week to take these matters further.

I was however also concerned that BT would simply carry on with the contract to roll out super-fast broadband but now there will be a real choice for the Scottish Government when the next contract is awarded.

I am therefore  determined that BT’s poor showing is drawn to the attention of the Government when that contract is being considered and I hope that as a result BT will now up its game and do what it has promised for my area and for the rest of Scotland.

Consequently I am heartened by the acknowledgement from Mr Ewing that the criticism of quality of service that have been made and Ofcom’s determination to see improved standards is being openly acknowledged by the Scottish Government.”

The text of the Parliamentary Question, and the answer, is given below.

Michael Russell (Argyll and Bute) (Scottish National Party): To ask the Scottish Government whether it plans to give BT a role in delivering its commitment to provide 100% superfast broadband coverage across the country and, if so, what consideration it has given to the reported criticism of the company’s performance in the rollout in Argyll and Bute and the service it provides to phone and broadband customers.


Fergus Ewing:

The Scottish Government is currently working with BT to deliver the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, which will provide fibre broadband to at least 95% of premises in Scotland by the end of 2017.

Any new public investment to deliver the 100% superfast broadband commitment will be delivered via new open procurements. Until these contracts are awarded, it is not possible to determine what role, if any, BT might play in delivery.

The Scottish Government is aware of the reported criticisms of BT Openreach’s quality of service and is encouraged that Ofcom has set out clear proposals for higher minimum standards and more severe penalties for non-compliance.