You can watch the statement I delivered yesterday by clicking here.
Tiree Community Council, Tiree Development Trust and their local MSP, Michael Russell met with the Minister for Transport and Islands, Humza Yousaf today, Tuesday 24th January in the Scottish Parliament.
The Minister opened the meeting by confirming that he will take up the Community Council’s offer to visit Tiree in early summer.
The Community Council firstly took the opportunity to acknowledge the positive improvements to sea and air transport links they have seen with Transport Scotland. The Minister was able to announce that there will be increased capacity of eight flights to be added to the Glasgow to Tiree route, spread between the Twin Otter aircraft and larger 34-seat Saab 340 aircraft. Three more flights normally scheduled for the Twin Otter will be flown by the larger Saab 340s to provide extra seats around the time of the Tiree 10K in April, the Tiree Music Festival in July and the ultra-marathon in September.
Following negotiations with BT the Minister advised that a further green cabinet is to be fitted in Tiree. The go ahead has also been given by planning for the erection of a 4G mast. Housing issues were also raised and Michael Russell MSP confirmed he will write to Argyll & Bute Council about planning permissions for new entrant croft housing.
Following the meeting Tiree Community Council Secretary, Ian Gillies said:
“This was an extremely useful and constructive meeting for the Tiree Community.
“We were extremely pleased to be given the chance to cover so many issues that are important to Tiree.”
Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute said:
“This meeting was very successful and gave the opportunity for the Minister to hear from the Tiree Community.
“I look forward to the Ministers visit to the Tiree and hope to join him to follow up the important points raised today.”
The Scottish Government announcement that there will be an extra £1.5 million investment for more nursery teachers and graduates in deprived areas across Scotland has been welcomed by local MSP for Argyll and Bute, Michael Russell – with Argyll and Bute set to receive three additional teachers or graduates.
The new staff in Argyll and Bute, part of 435 nationwide, is part of the wider strategy of tackling the attainment gap and giving every child an equal start in life. The provision of extra high qualified childcare professionals will ensure that Argyll and Bute young people benefit from the highest quality care and early years education.
The Scottish Government is taking decisive action to improve early years learning and childcare, including expanding guaranteed free provision to 1140 hours by 2020– which will have a positive impact for families across Argyll and Bute.
Commenting, SNP MSP for Argyll and Bute, Michael Russell said:
“This new funding is very welcome news for Argyll and Bute, helping to ensure that more children in our most deprived communities are able to benefit from specialised childcare and high quality early years learning.
“The Scottish Government is committed to closing the attainment gap, and targeting funding in this way, as well as expanding the guaranteed free childcare provision to 1140 hours by 2020, is important in making this happen, and to ensure that every child across Argyll and Bute gets an equal start in life.
“The three new graduates or teachers that will be joining our workforce in Argyll and Bute will help improve childcare provision in our communities, and I look forward to seeing the Scottish Government continue to invest in our children’s futures.”
The MSP for Argyll & Bute, Michael Russell, has called for the current review of Oban Hospital to consider increasing services available at the facility rather than decreasing them.
Following last week’s public meeting Mr Russell said:
“The terms of reference of this review have made the community feel very uncomfortable. There seems to be an assumption that the Health Board is lining up Oban Hospital for further cuts and even fewer services.
“I am of the opinion that the opposite needs to happen. Oban is a key hub for the West Highlands and is in reasonable travelling distance for most of my constituents. A hospital that had an increased range of services including dialysis and which was used by consultants from Glasgow and elsewhere to meet patients and conduct examinations is what everyone in the area wants and is certainly what they need. In addition the excellent work in places like Lochgilphead shows that ambitious teams of GPs can extend services in new ways and help their patients avoid having to leave the area for a range of treatments.
“There are great staff in Oban and great GPs. With the proper resourcing Oban Hospital could become a model of community provision but that won’t happen if the Health Board and the Health and Social Care Partnership continue along the present route of endless reduction in services and endless centralisation.
“We should make a resolution for 2017 to have a new ambition for every organisation and facility in our area to deliver as much as possible, as well as possible, as locally as possible. The current review of Oban Hospital could give a kick start to such a process, building as it can on existing first class facilities and a supportive, positive community.”
The number of people working in tourism in Argyll & Bute increased by 10% in one year, new figures show – with Scotland as a whole seeing an increase of 11 per cent.
The statistics produced by Visit Scotland show that tourism supports 6500 jobs in Argyll & Bute, 17% of total jobs in the area.
Between 2014 and 2015, the number of people employed in the sector across Scotland grew to 217,000 – with the 11 per cent increase in Scotland above the 4 per cent rise in Great Britain as a whole.
The 217,000 members of the Scottish tourism industry represent 9 per cent of the country’s total employment and is the highest tourism level since Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES) records began in 2009.
41% of staff in the tourism industry work in restaurants, 24% in hotels and other accommodation and 17% in bars and related businesses.
SNP MSP Michael Russell commented:
“Our tourism industry is going from strength to strength and this increase in jobs shows the vital role that tourism plays in Scotland’s economy and particularly in Argyll & Bute.
“Scotland is famed for its warm welcome, incredible scenery and top class attractions – and with 2017 the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology we are celebrating our exceptional historical attractions.
“With Scotland ranked second in the Rough Guides list of the best countries in the world to visit this year, tourism in Argyll & Bute has a very bright future.”
Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said:
“Tourism is more than a holiday experience. It creates jobs and sustains communities in every corner of Scotland all year round and is at the heart of the Scottish economy.
“These fantastic new figures show that, from hotel owners to waiting staff, tourism really is the driving force for providing the jobs of today and tomorrow. They also demonstrate the industry’s commitment to the 2020 strategy – which aims to generate economic growth through tourism.”
Summer timetables “a compromise” but services improving overall.
The MSP for Argyll & Bute, Michael Russell, who represents more ferry routes than any other constituency member of the Scottish Parliament, has welcomed the publication of the new Cal Mac summer timetables.
Mr Russell said : “There has been some considerable – and very understandable concern regarding the late publication of this information but now it is in the public domain communities in Argyll & Bute will be pleased to have this confirmation of what will be running and when, and can now encourage bookings for the summer season.
I am particularly pleased that the Coruisk will remain part of the two vessel service to Mull which was highly successful last year . There was strong pressure for the vessel to be transferred back to the Mallaig / Armadale route and I understand the disappointment of the communities there that this has not happened. However the Coruisk has proved itself ideally suited to the Mull crossing and the major increase in traffic recorded last year will, I hope, be sustained and perhaps even surpassed.
There are some disappointments in the timetables including the inability of Cal Mac to respond fully to what the Islay communities say they need. There have been long running requests for enhanced services at weekends but these proposals fall some measure short of what has been discussed over the past few years.
Overall, however, the timetables – though always a compromise given the different demands of each route – reflect the continuing improvement in ferry services which has seen a major rise in spending by the Scottish Government, more frequent services and overall year on year improvements which are being enhanced by the commitments being rolled out by Cal Mac as part of its new contract.
I make regular representations on behalf of individual users and communities to the Transport and Islands Minister Humza Yousaf and to the company and I will continue to do so. This timetable shows that they are listening and responding even if they cannot deliver everything that everyone wants on every occasion. “
I closed this debate as Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe. You can see a video of my speech by clicking here.