Constituency MSP for Argyll and Bute, Michael Russell, joined MSP’s from across the Scottish Parliament to raise a cup to the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning.

Putting politics aside, Michael Russell MSP joined with Janice Preston, Macmillan Head of Services in Scotland for the charity’s flagship fundraising campaign which aims to raise millions to help people with cancer live life as fully as they can.

Last year thousands of people across the UK took part in a Coffee Morning event, raising around £27m for Macmillan. This year the total raised by Coffee Morning since it began in 1991 will pass the £200m mark. The official day for World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is Friday 28th September but you can hold your own event at a time to suit you.

It couldn’t be more simple to get involved – all you need to do is get together with family, friends or colleagues over coffee and cake. You can register now for your free fundraising pack via the website – www.macmillan.org.uk/coffee – or find a Coffee Morning near you to get involved in.

Help people with cancer live life as fully as they can and find a Macmillan Coffee Morning in your community to attend this September. www.macmillan.org.uk/coffee

Difficulties being experienced by two vessels in the Cal Mac fleet which serve Arran have resulted in major disruptions to the services for Islay and Colonsay. Commenting on the Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said:

 

“Whilst everyone is aware of the problems of success that Cal Mac has been experiencing, including record numbers of passengers and greatly increased sailings, the recent problems have highlighted the absolute necessity of getting more vessels into the fleet and have also indicated potential weaknesses in operations and management that need to be addressed.

 

No one doubts the extraordinary hard work of Cal Mac staff in trying to overcome current issues but equally no one in the affected community should have to experience, once again, severe problems that are causing considerable personal difficulties for those who rely on lifeline services as well as a threat to key local, late season, tourist events. Such impacts, leading to economic and social damage, are unacceptable.

 

It is good news that there are two new vessels under construction though the delay to these is unfortunate. However CMAL has, apparently, been scouring the world for several years for a suitable additional vessel as a stop gap and has failed to find one. Most people who rely on ferry services do not understand that failure and want to see it overcome.

 

Cal Mac also needs to look again with urgency at its maintenance and refit routines. They have an aging fleet but passengers need to be assured that maintenance routines are being undertaken with sufficient regularity and that refits are being planned at times that don’t impinge on busy periods.

 

Kenny Gibson MSP and I have requested a meeting with the relevant Ministers in the Scottish Government, which would include representatives of the local Ferry Committees on Arran and Islay. We hope to make Ministers aware of the huge difficulties caused by this situation and make some concrete suggestions for the future. Whatever happens these problems cannot be allowed to continue, let alone happen again.”

Starting this month, Universal Credit Scottish Choices will be available to those living in Argyll and Bute. Whilst the UK Government continue the rollout of Universal Credit in Scotland, which is expected to be completed in December, the Scottish Government are using the minor administrative powers they have in relation to Universal Credit to attempt to mitigate its impact.

Sometimes known as “The Scottish Flexibilities”, Universal Credit Scottish Choices will give people the choice to receive twice monthly payments and to have the housing cost in their Universal Credit award paid direct to their landlord.

Commenting, Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said:

“The SNP Scottish Government remains strongly opposed to the rollout of Universal Credit, in particular the decision that every person claiming UC will only receive their first payment after 5 weeks.

This is leading to rent arrears and hardship and whilst we have been repeatedly calling on the UK Government to halt the roll out of Universal Credit to make the necessary improvements to delivery it has been falling on deaf ears.

I am pleased that so far the take-up rate of the Universal Creidt Scottish Choices has been high – with more than 2,500 people choosing one or both of the choices in the final two months of 2017 – and I am hopeful that this will be of assistance to many of my constituents in Argyll and Bute.”

This year’s SNP Programme for Government will help contribute to a successful and vibrant Argyll and Bute, driving progress in health, social security, the environment and the economy, Michael Russell MSP has said.

Argyll and Bute will benefit from ambitious action in a wide range of areas throughout 2018-19, including:

• Empowering head teachers to lead improvements to their schools with more power over their own budgets; developing ways for parents and pupils to ensure their voices are heard in decision-making; giving £10m to schools and councils to work together across regions; continuing to support teacher recruitment; and investing £33 million over three years to help children in care with education.
• A National Export plan ‘A Trading Nation’, backed by £20m, will boost the value of Scottish exports, help Scottish companies succeed in emerging markets, and provide additional help to those considering overseas trade.
• The National Infrastructure Mission, the most ambitious infrastructure spending plans yet, will invest £1.5 billion more infrastructure each year by 2025-26,including for faster broadband, improved transport and more low-carbon energy.
• £250m will be invested to reform the way we treat mental health in children and adults – delivering 430 new school, college and university counsellors, and fast-track specialist treatment systems for those with serious mental illness.
• A new Scottish Social Security System with dignity and respect at its heart will deliver 11 benefits, including the first Best Start Grant payments for low income families with young children by Christmas, 6 months earlier than planned; a 13% increase in the Carers’ Allowance – an extra £442 per person this year – as well as funeral expense assistance.
• New legislation to introduce a Scottish National Investment Bank.
• A major package of reforms in the justice system – with a new support system for victims, witnesses and families of those affected by crime, including a dedicated case worker for families of murder victims, improved information and support about prisoner release, as well as support for engagement between victims and offenders to help the victim and to prevent reoffending.
• £1bn investment a year including funding for low carbon transport solutions and to phase out new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032 – creating at least 20 electric towns across Scotland by 2025; adding 1500 new charge points in homes, businesses, and in public; investing £20 million to help people switch to electric vehicles; adding more than 1500 new ultra low emission vehicles to public sector fleets; and investing £1.7 million to add over 100 green buses.
Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute said:

“The SNP’s plan for Scotland signals a major boost for jobs and the economy in Argyll and Bute, including an additional £7 billion infrastructure investment in schools, hospitals, transport and digital connectivity over the next five years.

“We are continuing the major reforms in our health, education and justice systems over the course of 2018-19– with a significant £250 million extra funding for mental health services, increased support for teachers, head teachers, parents and pupils, as well as a major package of reforms for the justice system, increasing support for the victims of crime and their families.

“With Scottish exports up 12% – the fastest growth in the UK – a £20m National Exports Plan this year will ensure Argyll and Bute’s businesses thrive in the face of the Tories’ damaging hard Brexit plans.

“Despite Brexit, we will ensure Scotland remains an attractive place to live and work and provide advice and support for those EU citizens already living in Argyll and Bute that are dealing with the Tory government’s unfair plans to charge them for the right to live and work here.

“And our global climate change ambition will continue to be matched by realistic action, with £1billion funding in low carbon and public transport over the next year.

“These bold and ambitious plans for the year ahead are just some of the reasons why the SNP is the second biggest party in the whole of the UK.”

This year’s Programme for Government contains 12 new Bills, with a further 13 Bills continuing from the previous legislative session and will include major announcements:

List of Bills:
• Budget Bill
• Biometric Data Bill
• Census Bill
• Consumer Protection Bill

• Disclosure Bill
• Electoral Reform Bill
• Electoral Franchise Bill
• Family Law Bill

• Female Genital Mutilation Bill
• Non-Domestic Rates Bill
• Scottish National Investment Bank Bill
• South of Scotland Enterprise Agency Bill