Following Argyll and Bute Councils visa application for Sine Halfpenny – a Canadian Gaelic teacher who is fully qualified to teach in Scotland- being declined by the home office local MSP Michael Russell has expressed a deep disappointment at the UK Government’s immigration policy.

Commenting on the decision Mr Russell said:

“This ridiculous decision by the UK Government shows their nonsensical position on immigration. There is literally no one else to take this job and the candidate who has been successful is desperately keen to teach on Mull.”

“Migration based upon an artificial cap on numbers is a disgraceful approach which can only damage Scotland. The price for this UK Government folly is being paid by the parents and children of Bunessan.”

“The parents of Bunessan have put in an awful lot of hard work to get a Gaelic unit established and to find that the final blockage in getting the dedicated teacher required is London Tory obsession with keeping migration numbers down is both outrageous and ridiculous”

“I have asked the Scottish Government to support the council in redoubling its efforts to get this sorted for the good of the children and community on Mull”

Argyll & Bute MSP Michael Russell has suggested to Argyll & Bute Council that they dip into their reserves to establish a fund which can start to deal with the “emergency” of potholed roads and broken road surfaces which is damaging vehicles and has the potential to disrupt communities.

Mr Russell said:

“I have been pressing Transport Scotland and BEAR since the New Year to take forward a much increased programme of repair on the trunk roads in Argyll & Bute and I am glad to say that work has now started on the A83, the A82 and the A85. Transport Scotland did another inspection last week on the A83 and are insisting that BEAR accelerates their work and devotes more resources to it. I will continue to monitor that situation but I hope that the worst of the problems will be sorted within a few weeks.

Of course the bulk of the local roads are the Council’s responsibility and I have received many complaints about those roads as well. Some, like the main – and only – road on Jura are in such a dreadful state that is leading to concerns from hauliers about the safety of using them. Others – like the A886  and the A8003 which I use on a regular basis – have patches where the surface has broken up and many potholes.

Drivers avoiding these can cause traffic accidents and in addition essential workers, like carers, are having delays and disruptions to the vital work they do because of damage to their vehicles.

Local road users must report these problems  to the Council whenever they experience them because only when a pothole has been reported and not acted on can individuals claim compensation for damage.

But it would be better if the Council accepted that the current situation constitutes an emergency given the severe deterioration caused by adverse weather, first of all in terms of extreme wet weather in the summer and autumn and then very cold winter conditions. They could then meet that emergency by dipping into their reserves and establishing a fund to take forward urgent repairs across the area, starting with the worst affected routes like Jura but covering everywhere over the next few months.

The Council cannot simply  go on saying that its current budgets are constrained. They have reserves and the reality is that such reserves are, in part, about putting aside resources for times when special circumstances require special measures. This is one of those times and accordingly I have suggested to the Council that they set up a new fund, with monies from their reserves, immediately.

I will continue to monitor the local road situation closely and I would encourage people to report faults and damage quickly and regularly until they are fixed. Community Councils are also getting active in the matter and that is to be welcomed and I am sure Councillors want to see improvements made without any further delay.”


SNP MSP Michael Russell has welcomed the news, Royal Bank of Scotland will be reversing its decision to close the Inveraray branch.

It was announced earlier today that RBS will keep ten branches in Scotland, previously cited to close, open until at least the end of 2018 when they will conduct an independent review on the use of these branches. One of the ten branches is in Inveraray.

As part of the package of support the Royal Bank will look to open new branches across Scotland, improve ATM accessibility for all communities affected by the closures, review opening hours of remaining branches, and work with communities to give empty branches to local community groups for free.

Following the announcement, SNP MSP for Argyll and Bute, Michael Russell said:

“I was extremely concerned when the Inveraray branch was listed to be closed especially as it would mean there would be no bank in the town, severely affecting those who live there, local businesses and tourism.

“It was the wrong decision and I met with The Royal Bank to express my opposition.

“I have also been involved with members of the community, supporting their determination to prevent the closure.

“This  announcement is a result of that strong and determined community effort as well as great work by – amongst others – SNP Westminster Leader, Ian Blackford MP and my colleague Brendan O’Hara MP who raised the issue in the Commons.

“I will continue to engage with RBS to convey the importance of this branch to my constituents.

“The branch in Inveraray must work locally to increase usage and the bank at national level needs to take actions to underpin that process.   The need of the community for the branch will not diminish so ways must be found to build footfall and transactions. I will be making those points when I meet RBS at senior level again shortly.”