Monday, 28 March 2011



News release
For immediate use


SNP Candidate for the forthcoming Holyrood elections, Rob Gibson, has today backed local calls for more local decision taking powers for Caithness. 
Speaking as the race to Holyrood enters it's second week, Mr Gibson has outlined how Caithness could benefit from more local government. The SNP candidate, and Highland MSP since 2003, has pointed to Norway as an example of how more devolution in Caithness might work. 
In a major development in the race to represent the county in Holyrood, Mr Gibson is the first candidate in this election to respond to longstanding local concern at a lack of local rights to make council decisions in Caithness.
Speaking exclusively to North of Scotland News, Mr Gibson said:
"I am optimistic and confident about our future in Caithness. We need to take steps now to secure that prosperity, or we'll be kicking ourselves again and again further down the line.
"I fundamentally believe that a major step in securing that more prosperous future in Caithness involves taking more local government, health and development decisions locally.
"Taking more local responsibility means reaping more rewards locally. From our  emerging energy sector, to our vitally important small business community, Caithness stands to gain from more local powers. 
"Highland Council under a previous Chief Executive set up 'area' committees the size of Westminister constituencies. Now, some thought has to go into giving the Caithness wards some powers. A step by step return of powers to Caithness should begin.
"We need only look to Norway to see how smaller local government units make for more prosperous communities. In Scandinavia, it is small, rural communities - very similar to ours - who are leading the way in energy development, and they're making sure the local community benefits first and foremost. We have the skills, talent and drive to make this work in Caithness.

"There is undoubtedly local appetite for more decision making powers in Caithness, and I believe it is the job of politicians to listen and act on constituents' concerns. I am saying to folk in Caithness today; I hear you, I agree with you, and I believe more local government is best here."


Contact for campaign press is Alex MacLeod: 07590 281 259

In Norway, a commune can contain anything from 100 residents. These communes competently deal with administration of the education and health systems in the country, as well as working on localised energy systems. They provide small rural areas with strong representation within regional and national government.
In Sweden, the island of Gotland is at the forefront of renewable energy development. Under Swedish local government arrangements, the relatively small local authority enjoys a significant return on energy development in the area.

Monday, 21 March 2011


For Immediate Release – Monday 21st March 2011

Attn.     NEWS DESKS

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed today's news that the SNP Government will contribute £2.2 million to help complete a funding package of around £20 million for the project.
This work will not only include an upgrade of facilities at the port for existing users, including the fisheries and freight industries, but also exploit the potential from the emerging marine energy sector in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters.
Commenting Mr Gibson said:
"As promised, the Scottish Government has delivered the final funding package to give Scrabster Harbour the green light for building the marine renewable launch pad to service Pentland Firth tidal and wave leases.
"This points to a golden opportunity for the north coast mainland port. My congratulations go to the far-sighted harbour board leaders, Willie Calder and Jock Campbell who have given Caithness an example of clear sighted and steady business leadership with benefits for the whole area in mind.
"Along with all of us in the SNP I have backed Scrabster's efforts from the start. First Minister Alex Salmond agreed at the Caithness Regeneration Conference three years ago that the Scottish marine renewables revolution needed basic port infrastructure here
"Step by step the NDA, HIP, HIE and the SNP Government has delivered the public funds to compliment Scrabster's own investment. I am delighted we can keep ahead of the renewables development curve to create new jobs and a key hub here in Caithness."
The Scottish Government statement on the funding can be read here:

Saturday, 19 March 2011


"As we get ever closer to wholesale reform of the CAP post 2013, we have everything to play for. We're in a good position in Scotland to influence the eventual shape of the policy, and I'll be making sure I feed in as many of the suggestions I have had from our farming sector - whether it is making sure that food production comes first, or a call for more effective support for Scottish farmers, or less of the bureaucracy that has come to be so closely associated with the CAP."

Mr Whiteford added:
"I've decided to endorse Rob as our next constituency MSP, because he's done tremendous work to fight for farming in Edinburgh. I don't want to see a Lib Dem MSP let Labour in by the back door, so I've decided it's time to stand up and be counted. This time, I'm voting SNP."



News Release
For Immediate Use Saturday 19th March


Highland MSP and SNP candidate for Caithness Sutherland and Ross, Rob Gibson, has today hosted a large gathering of local farmers and crofters at the Carnegie Hotel in Tain. 
The reception celebrating Highland farming and crofting featured top agricultural MEP, Alyn Smith, as a special guest. The two politicians took questions from the crowd following the reception, which included local produce from in and around Tain.
During a speech to around forty local farmers, Mr Gibson revealed that the SNP would be placing support for farming businesses at the heart of its soon to be published 'farming manifesto'. The manifesto will include measures to continue to reduce red-tape, as well as placing the SNP squarely against the cuts to farming subsidies down in England. 
Many farmers in attendance have recently come out as endorsing Rob Gibson as the North's next MSP, including prominent local farmer Jim Whiteford.
Speaking after the reception, Mr Gibson said:
"It's been a pleasure catching-up with old friends and new today, and listening to very exciting ideas for the future of the agricultural industry.

"One of the major agricultural achievements of the SNP Government over the past four years is making life easier for farmers. That means cutting rep-tape, and ensuring that the support mechanisms are in place to attract new blood to the industry. Cutting out bureaucracy and reducing unnecessary administration will form a key component of the SNP's farming manifesto, to be published shortly.
"The Scottish recipe for success is in tune with many of our European partners and customers than a witch’s brew of cheap imports and reduced home production proposed in London, first by New Labour now by the ConDem.

"I'm confident of the SNP's support among farmers, who are faced with a Labour party who don't understand them and a Lib Dem party delivering Tory farming cuts down south. The SNP has a proven track record of support among farmers, because we value their contribution to the Scottish economy. I want to protect and build on our farming progress after May 5th."

Mr Smith added:

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Gibson celebrates Brora win

News release

Immediate release 16/03/11

Highlands and Islands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed an announcement that Brora Youth Football Club is to benefit from a Scottish Government scheme which sees money seized from criminals ploughed back into worthwhile youth projects.

Mr Gibson was commenting after it was announced that Brora Youth Football Club was to receive £50,000 of funding which will see a new  state of the art 3G Astroturf surface being laid.

Mr Gibson said...

"This is excellent news for Brora youth football club. I am no football expert but I am told that 3rd Generation Astroturf such as is been laid in Brora, is the best there is at the moment. This can only be a boost and help with the development of footballing talent in Brora and the surrounding area."
"I am a big fan of the Scottish Government Cashback to Communities scheme.. It takes money from criminals’ ill-gotten gains, such as drug dealing and give it back to schemes which benefit youth groups across Scotland. Great credit has to go to Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill for taking the scheme forward."
"Since it was set up in 2007 Cashback to communities has given more than £40 million to hundreds of projects across the country helping more than half a million young people.
"Investing in our young people in this way is a sure way to build a better community, investments of this sort might even help Brora Rangers in the long run."


The Scottish Government’s CashBack for Communities programme uses money seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act to fund community projects in Scotland. Since it launched in 2007, £39.7 million has been taken from criminals and given to a variety of community projects. More information is available at:
The one-off £5 million in grant funding announced today will help 23 community groups upgrade their facilities or build new pitches or changing rooms. The projects have been identified as being of strategic importance to the Scottish game by the Scottish FA with the assistance of sportscotland.
The Scottish FA is a long term CashBack partner and was awarded £2.5 million between 2008 and 2011 to help fund a variety of youth coaching programmes and street football initiatives. More information on the ongoing work done by the Scottish FA funded by CashBack can be found here:
A list of the projects identified for funding is attached.
These awards are indicative at present and subject to further scrutiny after the full details of the projects are made available.

Brora Youth
New 3G surface 55m x 20m


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Gibson hails Cooperative model

News/Agriculture release

Immediate release  14/03/11

Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands hailed the setting up of the Fenwick Weavers Society, the first documented cooperative in the world, two hundred and fifty years ago today
14th March 1761.

Mr Gibson said that great strides forward had been made since the 18th Century in the Co-op movement and that is remained one of, if not the,  the fairest  models of ownership.

In 2011 a billion workers around the globe control producer and consumer coops.

Rob said that across the Highlands and Islands and beyond the cooperative model is thriving,

" Here in the Highlands two fine examples are Caithness Livestock Breeders, who have turned in healthy results this week in tough times and Highland Grain Ltd of Tore in the Black
Isle the famous suppliers of malting barley to the Scotch Whisky industry . There are many more to celebrate not least the Coop food stores dotted around our towns and villages in the North and new windfarm coops springing up."

"I have long championed the coop movement and note with pleasure that these mutual ideas spread across the world from Scotland. In today's trading world it is coops and mutuals
which are the most stable and sustainable businesses. John Lewis Partners and Waitrose are two employee owned chains that give the highest satisfaction to customers, year in, year out."

"Farming coop have been very successful across Scotland aided by the longstanding support of government and including the SNP Scots Government which have backed the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society Ltd. Even better the support is cross-party and is exemplified by the huge turn out in Fenwick today. "

"Last October I achieved a longstanding personal ambition to visit the Mondragon coops in the Basque Country. Begun in 1956 they now include 256 coops in the Mondragon Corporation with 90,000 members and plants in 18 countries all run by employee owners. Scotland needs their approach here in many fields. In the 1970s community coops were imported as an idea from Ireland, some still function. But the field is much wider and the search for sound business models in an uncertain world can learn from the co-operators of Fenwick and their many
successors right here in our own area."


Copy of Rob's speech (as well as link to the full debate) during the Wille Coffey's Members debate on the Fenwick weavers


Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): I congratulate Willie
Coffey on bringing this debate to the chamber at this historic
time of 250 years after the creation of the Fenwick Weavers
Society, which is the oldest example in the world of a
distributive co-operation for which there is documentary
evidence. The creation of the society was a remarkable event,
which was based on the idea that solidarity between those who
live together can be developed for their best interests and
those of their families and the community in which they live.
Indeed, the weavers society served as a model for others in
more industrial communities and, as we know, the idea spread to
many parts of the world.

It is interesting to consider the Fenwick weavers in the
context of how people respond to crises, because the issues
that they faced in the 1760s were a Britain at war and a
Scottish economy that was affected by import restrictions and
so on, which was also very much the experience of Robert Burns
slightly later. In the end, they, too, supported emigration to
try to free themselves from the yoke that they were under,
which is what Robert Burns wrote about in trying to show up the
landlords who tried to stop people escaping from that kind of

That situation happened again and again. Indeed, the kind of
communities that Robert Owen was involved in setting up in the
new world, in Pennsylvania, and those that Welsh idealistic
socialists set up in Patagonia were very much in the tradition
of trying to create a co-operative community that could stand
up for itself and make its way in the world.

The Fenwick idea has had many elaborations in later times, not
the least of which, as is mentioned in the motion, is the
Mondragon Corporation. It was founded in the wreckage and
carnage of the Spanish civil war in the Basque Country in an
area that had been devastated economically and had a closed
economic system. Don José María Arizmendiarrieta got together
some young men, who got themselves a technical education and,
in 1956, became involved in the production of—I
understand—small heaters of German origin. As the process
developed, they created their own bank, social security,
colleges and universities. Today, there are 256 co-operatives
in the Mondragon Corporation, which have worldwide reach.

Don José María recognised that innovation and education were at
the heart of the movement, as I guess the Fenwick weavers did. He said:

“However splendid the present might be, it is destined to fail
if it turns its back on the future.”

He thought that, through co-operation and solidarity,
innovation would enable workers to meet the challenges of the
ever-changing world. That is a huge testament to the ideas that
began in Fenwick so many years earlier and were carried forward
elsewhere in Scotland and in England.

I am delighted to support whole-heartedly the motion and an
idea in which I have been interested for 30 years. I visited
Mondragon at last in October and saw that it benefited from
ideas that had stemmed from our country and many others in
creating a model in which capital is controlled in a democratic
fashion for the benefit of all. I congratulate Willie Coffey
again on lodging the motion and I wish him and the Fenwick
Weavers Society well for the future.


For immediate release: Tuesday 15th March 2011

Attn:    Newsdesks
            Political/Culture Correspondents


Scotland's up and coming traditional musicians will be celebrating today as their school is given a reprieve from closure by Education Secretary Michael Russell who is putting £200,000 into Plockton Music School with £200,000 in a partnership with West Highland College.  

The school had been set for closure after Liberal Democrat and Labour Councillors had voted to effectively close the well known and well loved institution last month.

Commenting, Highlands MSP Rob Gibson who attended the recent rally in Glasgow in support of the school said:

“This is great news and shows the SNP Government works where Labour/LibDem councils fail. Michael Russell’s dedication to Scotland’s culture and tireless work to better the education of our children is very welcome and truly fantastic.

"Mike Russell has found an imaginative bail out and a new way to develop the centre of excellence in traditional music. I've been a long time player and supporter of these young players whose talent and love of Scottish culture shows the future of our traditional music is safe in young hands. The SNP Government, MSPs and councillors share their values too.

“As a long time musician myself and a supporter of these young players, whose talent and love of Scottish culture shows the future of our traditional music is safe in young hands, it was a matter of disbelief when students, teachers and lovers of traditional music heard the LibDem/Labour Highland council's plans to close the school.

“They showed little duty of care for the students and their families with their announcement. The hypocrisy of praising protestors in the council chamber moments before voting to shut the school was a bitter blow and a stark contrast to the students demonstration in George Square in Glasgow, more a ceilidh-in than a sit in. 

"From the very start the SNP has consistently supported Plockton music students when the LibDem/Labour council thought it could axe the school without protest. They showed little duty of care for the students and their families. In council the hypocrisy of praise for the musical protesters followed by voting for closure was a bitter blow."
Speaking at the school this morning, Michael Russell said:

“The reaction to the proposed closure of the school from pupils, former pupils, musicians, politicians and members of the public clearly demonstrated the widespread support for the unique facilities at Plockton.

“This new partnership between the school and West Highland College will open up the school to older music students and allow them to take advantage of the quality teaching and outstanding legacy that Plockton has provided.

“Investment from the Scottish Government will make this partnership a reality and assist the bodies concerned in funding the school in these times of financial constraint over the coming years.

“Scotland has a fine history of producing talented professionals across a whole range of the arts and traditional music is no exception. As one of our National Centres for Excellence, it is already funded  by grant via the Highland Council and this will continue. Today’s announcement does not affect that relationship nor those responsibilities but opens up a range of new possibilities and broadens the base of support for this important facility.”

Dougie Pincock, Director of National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music:

“The additional funding through the college is a great opportunity for us to expand on the work we do already. The Scottish Government’s reaction to the overwhelming level of support we have received over the last few weeks is very welcome, and demonstrates a strong commitment to the development of Scottish traditional music education.”


Wednesday, 2 March 2011


For Immediate Use 2nd March 2011

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP, Rob Gibson, has today raised concerns over the future of rural petrol stations during a parliamentary debate this afternoon.

Mr Gibson - who has been approached by a number of constituents who are angry over the price of fuel - has pointed out that Lib Dem inaction on fuel duty could lead to the closure of small, rural petrol stations. Mr Gibson believes that fuel duty prevents independent garages from competing with larger supermarkets who can afford to pay duty.

One in three independent petrol stations have closed in the past 10 years.

Speaking after the debate, Mr Gibson said:

“Spiralling fuel costs affect us all, however I’m not sure that Lib Dem ministers in London actually realise the full consequences of their petrol price procrastination.

“I have been approached by Alistair Nicolson, who runs Pittentrail Garage in Rogart, who has told me that unless we see action from the UK Government to support small stations, businesses like his will disappear. He warns me that soon it may not be economically viable to run an independent petrol station in the Highlands, and I tend to agree.

“For folk like Alistair, the Lib Dem’s inaction on fuel duty is getting to be very worrying indeed. It is the fuel side of his business that is currently struggling, so we need to see action to lighten the load for these small garages.

“Petrol station owners like Alistair face losing their livelihoods and drivers in remote areas – where cars a necessity, not a luxury - will lose an essential service.

“This is yet another practical example of how fiscal autonomy and control of our own taxation could have a tangible and positive impact on our rural communities. And I urge Lib Dem ministers to deliver on their fuel pledge without delay, for the sake of businesses like Alistair’s.”