Constituency MSP for Argyll and Bute, Michael Russell, has said that the Tories’ “narrow-minded Brexit rhetoric” is to blame for a fall in the number of overseas workers coming to Scotland, and warned that this may cause damage to the economy and public services.

Latest figures from the DWP show an 18% drop in the number of National Insurance registrations by overseas workers coming to Scotland between 2015 and 2018.

Argyll and Bute has been hit with a 22% drop in migrant workers’ registrations since 2015.

The figures reinforce warnings that Argyll and Bute faces a demographic crisis that could hammer public services – as an ageing population leaves Scotland with fewer working-age taxpayers.

All of Scotland’s population growth over the next 25 years is projected to come from migration.

Analysis by the Scottish Government has found that Westminster proposals to cut migration to the tens of thousands would cost the Scottish economy up to £10 billion per year by 2040.

Commenting, Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said:

“The Tory government’s hostile approach to migration is failing Argyll and Bute.

“Their anti-immigrant obsession and narrow-minded Brexit rhetoric is driving people away from Scotland, and putting vital public services here in Argyll and Bute on the line.

“The simple fact is that without inward migration our working-age population will decline, making it harder to fund vital public services like hospitals and schools in the future.

“It is now imperative for Scotland to have the powers to set an immigration policy which suits our specific needs and recognises the huge benefits migrant workers being to our economy and society.”

SNP MSP for Argyll and Bute, Michael Russell, has called on Argyll and Bute Council to make the most of its funding allocation from the Scottish Government’s £50 million Town Centre Fund.

Announced by SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay during his budget statement, the new fund aims to drive local economic growth by helping town centres fund projects such as re-purposing buildings for retail, business and community enterprise, while improving access and infrastructure.

After allocations were announced this week by the Scottish Government, it has now been confirmed that Argyll and Bute will receive a share of £1,242,000 from the new ring-fenced fund.

Commenting, SNP MSP Michael Russell said:

“This funding announcement can help transform town centres throughout Argyll and Bute.

“The health of our town centres is vital to the economic and cultural life of our communities – and this new investment can make a real difference.

“Argyll and Bute Council must now ensure that the £1,242,000 is spent wisely and ensure our local town centres reap the benefits of this huge investment.

“The SNP’s Town Centre Fund is part of a wider package of business support measures that will help drive economic activity in Argyll and Bute, helping give our local high streets a welcome boost.”

“Local people are being used in a game of contractual brinkmanship”.

 

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has urged Argyll and Bute Council and the current provider of Islands air Service paid for by the Council to “step away from the brink” after the Council announced the service would be suspended for at least six weeks from mid-May following a failure to agree a new tender.

Mr Russell said:

“This is almost an exact repetition of the situation that arose in May 2015 when once again the Council said the service would have to be suspended as it could not agree a new tender.

On that occasion common sense in the end prevailed, after the affected communities of Coll, Tiree and Colonsay had made their extreme concern and anger known and after they had asked me to raise the matter in the Scottish Parliament.

Once again, however, it seems as if local people are being used in a game of contractual brinkmanship. It is likely that the difficulty remains the cost that the Council can pay, and the price that the contractor wants to receive. That should be a matter for discussion and negotiation and I would urge both sides to step away from the brink and ensure that a settlement is reached well before the expiry date of the current arrangement.

There are two additional elements that need to be understood and acted on. One is the fact that news about this matter was given to the media before islanders and their representatives were informed, which is in clear breach of the spirit of the Islands Act.

The second is that these services are lifelines and any threat to lifelines causes extreme worry in remote communities. There should have been no question of this situation arising given past experience and the management of the tender process has clearly fallen well short of an acceptable standard.

I have been in touch with the Council about this and have also written to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport. I hope that a resolution can be found very quickly indeed.

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell, has said SNP plans to establish a Scottish National Investment bank will help transform inclusive growth across Argyll and Bute.

Last month, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP announced plans for an initial investment in the bank of £130 million as part of his draft budget proposals for 2019/20.

Subject to regulatory and legislative approval, the national investment bank will aim to begin investing in Scottish businesses and communities from 2020 – investing at least £2 billion in its first ten years.

The investment bank will provide loans of up to £10 million for small to medium sized local enterprises with high growth potential.

In advance of the Scottish National Investment Bank’s establishment, a £150 million Building Scotland Fund announced in 2017 will provide debt and equity support to the private sector and organisations, such as housing associations and universities, to support the development of housing across all tenures, develop modern industrial and commercial space and support industry-led research and Development.

MSPs are set to vote on the Scottish Government’s budget proposals at Holyrood next month.

 

Commenting, Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said:

“A national investment bank has enormous potential to transform communities here in Argyll and Bute, and across Scotland. Operating within a core set of principles, the bank will deliver sustainable growth – with both individuals and small local businesses set to benefit.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy here in Argyll and Bute, so it’s very exciting that we are one step closer to providing historic investment for projects the length and breadth of Scotland.

“I would urge MSPs of all parties to get behind the plans.”

 

SCDI’s Director of Policy and Public Affairs Matt Lancashire said:

“We welcome announcement of £130 million to support the creation of the Scottish National Investment Bank, which will deploy patient capital to back long-term investment in business scale-up and innovation, and could have a positive impact. We also welcome the decision not to progress the out of town Business Rates levy and additional support for our struggling town centres to help them adapt in light of continued change.”

 

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) Policy & Campaigns Officer Paul Bradley said:

“The Bank provides the opportunity for Scotland to establish itself as a global leader in moving to a high-performing and modern economy, one built on sustainable finance to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon economy where the benefits are realised across all groups in Scottish society. SCVO will continue to monitor and feed into the process of setting up the Bank.”