Thursday, 10 December 2009


News Release - for immediate use
10 December 2009
ATTN: News desks

Dave Thompson and Rob Gibson, SNP MSPs for the Highlands & Islands, have this morning (Thurs.) welcomed the launch of the new Crofting Bill which Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham announced in Inverness.

The legislation will address issues of widespread concern that crofting is in decline and a consequence of persistently high levels of absenteeism, growing levels of neglect and the continuing removal of land from crofting tenure.

The first part of the Bill proposes reforms to make the Crofters Commission more effective in delivering its core function of regulating crofting by allowing for directly elected members, greater flexibility in developing regulatory policy and changes to its powers to bring it into line with more conventional non-departmental public bodies.

Part 2 of the Bill will create a new Crofting Register which will be map-based and clearly define the extent of, and interest in, a croft and other land in crofting tenure.

Part 3 of the Bill defines 'owner-occupier crofters' and places a duty on the Commission to take action in respect of absenteeism and neglect by both tenant and owner-occupier crofters - requiring crofters to be resident on, or near, their croft and put it to some form of productive use.

Part 4 of the Bill tackles speculation on development of croft land by strengthening grounds under which the Commission may reject an application to decroft where it considers the cumulative effects of such applications to have a negative impact on crofting in the area, the long term sustainability of the community and the corresponding environmental, cultural and landscape benefits derived from crofting.

Rob Gibson MSP welcomed the announcement, saying:

"This legislation is very welcome and long overdue in improving crofting regulation. In particular, I have consulted many constituents across the Highlands who will welcome new powers to reject decrofting in the wake of applicants gaining outline planning permission. This should be able to stem the haemorrhage of good croft land for housing speculation.

"As the bill progresses it will become even more relevant to building sustainable crofting communities for the future.

Dave Thompson MSP praised the removal of burdensome requirements contained in the previous draft bill, such as the high cost of the register and the housing occupancy requirement:

"The Scottish Government is committed to developing a sustainable crofting sector, and the new Bill will set out measures to ensure crofting survives as a unique way of life.

"I have travelled around my constituency listening to crofters concerns and what they hope to see in the legislation. The SNP is a listening Government and that is reflected in today's Bill. As it goes through Parliament I look forward to scrutinising the legislation in detail and would urge everyone with an interest to make sure they give me their input as it travels through Parliament.



Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham laid out the details of the Bill at a press conference this morning at Scottish Natural Heritage in Inverness (9:40am).

Details of the announcement can be found at:

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


News Release - for immediate use
9 December 2009

ATTN: News desks

Speaking ahead of his contribution in this evening's Holyrood debate on Broadband for Rural Scotland, Highlands & Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson welcomed a much-needed broadband boost for rural communities.

Today the Scottish Government announced an upgrade of 71 telephone exchanges to improve online services.

Due to high broadband take-up, a number of telephone exchanges in rural areas of Scotland have not been able to accommodate new users because of capacity constraints. Today's announcement will go a long way in relieving that strain.

Commenting, Rob Gibson said:

"I am very pleased to see a number of small settlements throughout the Highlands, in particular Durness, the Craigs, Gillock, Lyth, Tongue, Berriedale, Kinbrace, Rosehall, Scourie, Westerdale, Achiltibuie and North Erradale, as well as many throughout the Islands, have been identified for upgrade.

"At the beginning of this year I issued an eye opening report on the findings of a broadband consultation I conducted throughout my constituency. The numbers of hard pressed families and businesses operating with inadequate speeds and provisions, or even no internet at all, is simply insufferable in today's modern age.

"Upgrades in these acutely identified areas will go some way in improving the situation, though the job of increasing capacity, reach and speed in Scotland's rural areas is still far from finished and requires BT to offer equal access as enjoyed by city dwellers.



Copy of Rob Gibson's Broadband Consultation report attached.

Background: The Scottish Government announced in September that it was working with BT to agree an upgrade programme by looking at areas most in need. Following completion of this work, BT has already started work on the upgrade programme and expects the first upgrades to be operational by March. The exchanges to be upgraded are:

Argyll and the Islands - Coll, Colonsay, Gigha, Jura, Pirnmill, Kilchattan Bay, Kilfinan, Machrie, Pennyghael, Sliddery, Whitehouse

Ayrshire - Craigie, Straiton

Caithness and Sutherland - The Craigs, Durness, Gillock, Lyth, Tongue, Berriedale, Kinbrace, Rosehall, Scourie, Westerdale

Dumfries and Galloway - Bargrennan, Durisdeer, Marrburn

Forth Valley - Inversnaid, Trossachs

Inverness and East Highland - Advie, Glenferness, Laggan, Scatwell

Lanarkshire - Elvanfoot

Lochaber - Ardgour, Glenborrodale

Lothian - Garvald

Moray - Drummuir, Mulben

Orkney - Birsay, Hoy, Papa Westray

Renfrewshire - Loganswell

Scottish Borders - Grantshouse, Longformacus, Abbey St Bathans, Borthwickbrae, Lempitlaw, Stobo

Shetland - Burravoe, Fetlar, Gutcher, Fair Isle, Out Skerries

Skye and Wester Ross - Achiltibuie, Duntulm, Kinlochewe, Staffin, Uig, Killilan, Loch Scavaig, North Erradale, Tarskavaig

Tayside - Strathardle, Amulree, Bridge of Balgie, Bridge of Gaur, Butterstone, Trochry, Tummelbridge, Fern and Menmuir

For further information on the upgrade, see:

Monday, 7 December 2009

Gibson backs rheumatology campaign

News release
immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has backed a campaign to block proposed cuts to the rheumatology services in Dingwall.

Mr Gibson added his voice following the intervention of SNP colleague Dave Thompson. After concerns were raised by Sutherland constituents and George Budge of Wick that the unit in Dingwall is due to be either cut to a 5 day a week service or have it's bed capacity reduced to be able to remain open for 7. The charity supported Puffin Pool is open on Saturdays and should not be forced to reduce its much appreciated hydrotherapy service.

Mr Gibson said…

"I am concerned by the plans to cut back on services at Dingwall. This unit offers relief to people across the Highlands so if anything the NHS should be increasing the scope of the operation not reducing it."

"I am calling on Chair of NHS Highlands Gary Coutts to make sure that people who rely on the rheumatology centre in Dingwall are not unfairly treated."

"Health centers which offer respite for those afflicted with arthritis are important and the fact is they should be open 7 days a week for those that need them not for 5 days or for fewer people."

Gibson backs rheumatology campaign

News release
immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has backed a campaign to block proposed cuts to the rheumatology services in Dingwall.

Mr Gibson added his voice following the intervention of SNP colleague Dave Thompson. After concerns were raised by Sutherland constituents and George Budge of Wick that the unit in Dingwall is due to be either cut to a 5 day a week service or have it's bed capacity reduced to be able to remain open for 7. The charity supported Puffin Pool is open on Saturdays and should not be forced to reduce its much appreciated hydrotherapy service.

Mr Gibson said…

"I am concerned by the plans to cut back on services at Dingwall. This unit offers relief to people across the Highlands so if anything the NHS should be increasing the scope of the operation not reducing it."

"I am calling on Chair of NHS Highlands Gary Coutts to make sure that people who rely on the rheumatology centre in Dingwall are not unfairly treated."

"Health centers which offer respite for those afflicted with arthritis are important and the fact is they should be open 7 days a week for those that need them not for 5 days or for fewer people."


Friday, 4 December 2009

Gibson pipped at the post

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has been pipped at the post on being named green politician of the year at the Scottish renewable green energy awards to Green Politician Patrick Harvie.

The Co convenor of the Scottish Green Party who is also convernor of Holyrood's Transport and Climate Change Committee beat Rob who was short listed along with SNP Colleague Alyn Smith MEP and Lib Dem MSP Liam Macarthur.

Congratulating Patrick on his success Rob said…

"Renewable energy is going to be the backbone of Scotland's future. Therefore it for all politicians to get behind it and make sure that it works. A dereliction of this is a snub to the dynamic and sustainable future which Scotland (with it's wealth of renewable resources) is due. Energy independence is an essential tool for national sustainability."

Rob who will be among a delegation among the delegation attending the Copenhagen summit said that green politics are more important now than ever.

"The fact is we are now in the climate change era. It is up to politicians to try and pull in the right direction to make sure that we don't suffer overly."


Gibson welcomes Government action on crofting

News release
Immediate release

SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed news that hundreds of crofters will see interest payments on their homes halved after action from the Scottish Government.

The announcement was made by Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham means that as many as 1,700 crofters will be able to move from a fixed interest rate, as high as seven per cent, to a new variable rate of three point five per cent.

Mr Gibson said…

"I welcome this decisive action from the Scottish Government which will make a positive difference to crofters in the current economic recession."

"Crofters living in rural and remote areas often bear the brunt of the recession. The cost of living is magnified due to the fact of geography so any help that the Scottish Government can give (especially in these times) is good."

Rob also welcomed the statement that the Scottish Government is encouraging SEPA to waive fees to rural based businesses such as fishing, farming and forestry.

"It is important that rural businesses are helped as much as their urban counterparts to over come these tough economic times. Rural sustainable communities and businesses are going to be more important in the future prosperity of Scotland so support today is investment for tomorrow."


Gibson urges loan consideration

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has called on landlords, small to medium sized enterprises, Not for profit organizations and charities to make the most of the Scottish Governments energy saving loans

These organisations are eligible for a 0% interest loan of between £1,000 and £100,000 to install renewable energy technologies or measures that reduce energy consumption.

The loan funded by the Scottish Government is available for (among other things*) high efficacy heating, biomass systems as well as renewable features such as, wind hydro and solar panels.

Mr Gibson said...

"This a great deal which is definitely worth investigating. It is a chance to become more energy efficient and save money."

"Increased Energy efficacy is a win win situation. I would encourage SMEs, charities, not for profit organsiation and landlords to look seriously at this loan. It offers a way in which to improve their property as well as lessen energy usage and carbon emissions."

"In the climate change era being more energy independent is going to become more important. This loan is a way of achieving that energy independence."


Contact Energy saving Scotland advice centre for more information
0800 512 012

Link to website with more information.

*List of energy devices which can be used and improvements which can be made:
In the past, this loan scheme has supported the installation of:
• Improved lighting and controls.
• Compressed air fittings.
• Boiler/heating controls.
• Heat recovery.
• High efficiency electric motors.
• Building and pipe work insulation.
• Biomass systems.
• Ground source heat pumps.
• High efficiency heating.
• New plant/machinery.
Solar photovoltaic.
• Hydro-electric.
• Wind.
• Solar water heating.
• Solar space heating.
• Wood fuel heating systems
(boilers and room heaters/stoves).
• Heat pumps (ground, air and water source).
• Biomass heating systems.

The list is not exhaustive and other energy saving or renewable technologies may be considered. However please be aware that any electricity-generating renewable system, which the energy review suggests will result in the site becoming a net exporter of electricity over the course of a year, is not eligible for a loan.

Who can apply:
The scheme is aimed at Scottish businesses that fall within the EC definition of Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME), private sector landlords, not-for-profit organisations and charities.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Gibson congratulates Forres world champions

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP has lodged a motion in parliament congratulating Murdoch Brothers butchers of Forres on their success at the 2010 World Scotch Pie championships.

The Forres based butchers beat of stiff competition from a record breaking 85 entrants to claim top spot in the steak pie category prize last week. They also picked up a bronze award for their pork pie

The butchers are a family company founded three generations ago, and uses world-class quality ingredients for its 40-year-old original family recipe which is still in use today.

Mr Gibson said…

"This is an impressive result for the Murdoch Brothers Butchers; they beat off stiff competition to win the crown. The victory is no mean achievement this was a year of record entries so it is an impressive feather in their cap."

"This win means that Forres has it's very own world champions. It is important that in the recession and an age when people are more likely to shop in the supermarket than locally then it is important that people recognise the quality that is on their doorstep."

"Competitions like this are a great way of show casing excellence. It is clear that Murdoch Brothers has that in both it's steak pies and pork pies too."



Copy of Motion

S3M-05318 Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party): Forres Pies are World's Best— That the Parliament congratulates Murdoch Brothers Butchers on its success in the 2010 World Scotch Pie Championships; commends the Forres-based butcher shop in beating out 85 other entrants to earn the title of World Scotch Pie Champions while also taking home the bronze medal for its pork pie and gold medal for its steak pie, and recognises the continued excellence of Murdoch Brothers, a family company dating back three generations, and the world-class quality of its 40-year-old original family recipe, still in use today.

Monday, 23 November 2009

'Announce Pentland Firth Leases Locally' - Gibson

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has demanded that the Crown Estate Commission show commitment to the Far North Communities by announcing the proposed leases of sites in the Pentland Firth for marine power production in either Caithness or Orkney.

Mr Gibson has written to the Commission saying that the most appropriate place to make the announcement (which is due in March 2010) would be in the area.
He said that to make an announcement anywhere else would be in-appropriate….

"Making this announcement in either Caithness or Orkney is a must. Not doing so would be downplay the communities that will produce clean power for Scotland the UK and eventually European needs."

"I have written to the CEC to ask them to make their announcement in the Far North."
"The CEC should re-engage with the Far North making the announcement there would be a start."

Mr Gibson has also lodged a motion in parliament on the issue


Copy of motion
S3M-5246 Rob Gibson: Announce Pentland Firth Leases Locally—That the Parliament notes that the Crown Estate Commission is due to announce in March 2010 the proposed leases of sites in the Pentland Firth for marine power development; argues that this announcement should be made in either Caithness or Orkney to show commitment to the area that will ultimately deliver on the renewable potential for Scotland and the rest of Europe, and believes that the decision to make such an important announcement elsewhere is inappropriate

Thursday, 19 November 2009

'Far North renewable infrastructure has to be top priority' - Gibson

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson says delivery of key infrastructure to support renewable energy developments in the Pentland Firth has to be a top priority of HIE and Scottish Enterprise.

Mr Gibson was speaking after he received a response from Enterprise Minister Jim Mather over the Renewable Action Plan timetable.

Mr Gibson asked in a parliamentary question whether the port infrastructure requirements and linked finance for launching tidal and wave power equipment in the Pentland Firth and other parts of Scotland have been identified as required by the Renewables Action Plan timetable.

Mr Mather responded that HIE and Scottish Enterprise were finalising the National Renewables Infrastructure Project report which sets out approaches to funding the key infrastructure identified. The report will form an important role in the delivery of marine renewables leasing round in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters.

The findings are due to be submitted to Scottish Ministers later on in the month.

Speaking after Mr Gibson said that infrastructure implementation in such places as Scrabster harbour and Orkney is of the utmost importance….

"Most MSPs agree that marine renewables need to be developed as quickly as possible to meet agreed climate change targets."

"I expect agencies like HIE and SE to prioritise this work so that funding for Pentland Firth infrastructure developments can begin to be paid out of this year's budgets."

"Anything slower is unacceptable."



Copy of Q & A
19 November 2009
Index Heading: Education and Lifelong Learning

Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive whether the port infrastructure requirements and linked finance for launching tidal and wave power equipment in the Pentland Firth and other parts of Scotland have been identified, as required by the Renewables Action Plan timetable. (S3O-08475)

Mr Jim Mather : Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise are finalising the National Renewables Infrastructure Project (N-RIP) which is a key action from the Scottish Government’s Renewables Action Plan. This project is setting out a spatial framework for the development of key infrastructure in Scotland required to support offshore renewables, with wave and tidal development being a key element of this work. The project will also set out approaches to funding the key infrastructure identified.

The findings of the report will be submitted to Ministers later this month with publication of the findings expected by the end of this year. These findings will play an important role in the delivery of the marine renewables leasing round in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Gibson to open Taste of Tain

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson is delighted to open a day which offers a true flavour of Tain.

The Taste of Tain event (which runs from 12 till 5 PM on Saturday 14th of November) is a community run event which showcases the town's businesses, produce and culinary excellence.

There will be stalls from local businesses as well as music throughout the day. There will also be a cooking demonstration from award winning chefs Sheila McConachie and Graham Harvey on how to cook with whisky.

Mr Gibson said...

"It is a great idea to get all the excellence that Tain has to offer under one roof. There could well be a few Christmas presents bought that day. In the economic hardship it is important that local businesses are not disadvantaged so to have a showcase of this kind can only be good."

"I am delighted to be asked to open the event. Tain has a vibrant culture and small local businesses very much add to it. It allows people to represent the area as well as shape it. A strong culture depends on people being able to live and work in the area. Events like this promote the businesses that are already there as well as the area as an attractive place to live and visit."

"I will be particularly interested in finding out how to cook with whisky…."



Link to taste of Tain website

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Gibson calls for replacement of level crossings

News release
immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has called on Network Rail to start this year to replace dangerous level crossing in the North of Scotland.

Mr Gibson’s call came during a member’s debate proposed by SNP MSP for Kilmarnock and Loudon Willie Coffey on the conduct of inquiries into fatalities at level crossings. Following recent fatalities in Halkirk and Kilmarnock.

Rob said….

“We need to seek a safe environment for rail and road users alike. Network Rail must do much more than it has done. It says that it seeks to develop, in the plans that run alongside last year's media campaign.

"Solutions which could lead to the replacement of some crossings".

"It must start in the north of Scotland and it must start this year.

He also said that Fatal Accident Inquiries need to be changed so they the public could get a clearer picture of the issue.

“It is obvious that the rail regulatory bodies did not take seriously the Cullen inquiry and that FAIs in Scotland must be central to the way in which we address the matter. Transparent records and responses are needed. An FAI can provide those and may follow them up. I would like to know, for example, what effect Network Rail's placing of cameras at the Dingwall crossings has had on driver behaviour. I could ask many other questions, but that is important to know.”

He also asked….

“Network Rail….says that it spends more than £80 million improving the safety of level crossings each year. How much of that £80 million is spent on the most vulnerable crossings? In addition, we need to know how much of the millions of pounds that Network Rail claims it spends on maintenance and renewal programmes is spent on the most vulnerable crossings.

Mr Gibson said due to the trauma that train drivers after they’ve hit a vehicle at a level crossing then it was understandable why the Union would want a go slow over vulnerable crossings. However he said that the increase of journey times would also make the trains themselves less viable.

Speaking after M r Gibson said he was impressed with the debate and welcomed the suggestions made by Willie Coffey and the response to the debate by the Minister.

“Accidents in the North of Scotland are increasing with more devastating effects. It is time that Network Rail starts to invest quickly to help improve the safety for road users and rail users alike .

"It is also time that FAI’s are changed to take into account the bigger picture of the incident. I look forward to changes coming soon.


Thursday, 5 November 2009

Gibson Welcomes Migdale confirmation

News release
Immediate release


Delivering as opposed to scaremongering' was how Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson greeted the news that the SNP Scottish Government has given official go ahead for a new hospital in Migdale.

Mr Gibson who was due to ask a question on the subject this afternoon said he was bemused by recent reports which seemed to be suggest that the hospital would not be replaced.

He said that the recent unfounded scaremongering has caused concern in the local community and called for a more circumspect opposition in the future.

"The SNP Government has delivered for the people of Sutherland whilst our opponents can only spread scare stories. There was no danger to the hospital whatsoever."

"I am glad that I can end this nonsense over claims surrounding Migdale hospital. Elderly people genuinely concerned regarding what they have been reading and hearing in recent weeks. In the end it was for nothing. So I look forward to a new hospital which will deliver for the people of Central Sutherland."

"Direct action from the SNP Government will deliver this hospital for the people. Years of prevarication and delay which marked the Liberal Democrat and Labour years of Government in Scotland delivered nothing.."

"I can reassure the people who have intimated their concerns regarding the future of the hospital that it will be built. I thank the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Nicola Sturgeon for her longstanding and consistent support for this project."


Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Gibson calls for council insurance claim

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson is urging Highland Council to make an insurance claim against the MoD for the bill to repair Laxford bridge.

Mr Gibson made the call following a response he received from Armed forces Minister Bill Rammell in which he said that if the local authority was to make a claim against the MOD for the cost of the damage then it would be investigated by a third party insurer.

The bridge was damaged last month when a military vehicle toppled over the edge striking and damaging the parapet.

Mr Gibson said that he hoped that the Highland Council would make a claim…

"I am glad that the bridge opened to all traffic last week. Great credit has to go to the workers who managed to open it up so quickly.

"However I do not think that the hard pressed tax payers of the Highlands should have to fork out for this repair. I hope that the Highland Council will make a claim against the MoD. In a time of economic hardship where everyone is cutting back on expenditure including the council then it would be a counter productive not to attempt to recoup the cost of repairs to the bridge."

"The fact is that it was the MoD who caused this damage. There is a way by which the council can make a claim. Therefore the very least they should do is make that claim."

Mr Gibson also said that the Minister said that representatives of the community had a chance to make their feelings known about road usage by the military. At the next military forum which is attended by representatives from the Scottish armed forces.


Gibson backs use of recycled tyres

News release
Immediate release

SNP MSP Rob Gibson has called on Highlands and Islands Councils (and others across Scotland) to seriously consider using recycled tyres in engineering projects.

Mr Gibson call came following a meeting with Dennis Scott at the Northern Tyre recycling centre.

The Evanton based outfit takes tyres from across the region and compresses them (around a hundred forty at a time) into bales which can then be used in flood defences as well as foundations for roads, buildings, embankments and dams.

Mr Gibson said that recent flooding was a portent of things to come and that councils were going to have to become more adept and innovative at dealing with the problem. He said that using tyre bales which are produced at Evanton would be a way to help shoring up flood defences and stabalising embankments which could slip in heavy rain.

He said…

"What we have seen over the weekend and in recent months is unfortunately the future. Increased rains will lead to increases in flooding coupled with destabilasttion of cliffs and embankments. Erosion is going to be an real problem as the climate change era intensifies. That is why councils and other organisations need to heed this sustainable low tech solution."

"From what I have seen in Evanton there is no doubt that this is a simple device which works. It also has the benefit of making use of old tyres, lessing the need for landfill and also reduce the amount of fly tipping."

"Indeed this is already proven technology as the road from Syre to Kinbrace proves. The tyres act as a foundation for the road making sure that it doesn't sink into the peat. There must be many miles of roads in the Highlands, Islands and Scotland which have that problem. So a simple solution such as recycled tyres is welcome."

"I was greatly encouraged by my meeting with Dennis, his enthusiasm and drive is making sure that the technology and ideas are spread far and wide. The enterprise has a dual function of making use of waste whilst providing good quality and long lasting materials to make a real difference to engineering projects that save cash and recycle unwanted tyres."



Photo Of Dennis Scott and Rob Gibson at Centre in Evanton

Wednesday, 28 October 2009


News Release
For immediate use

28 October 2009

Highlands & Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson today hailed the unveiling of a new website providing a wealth of information on Scotland's history through online resources for teachers, pupils and the wider public.

Announced yesterday by the Cabinet Secretary for Education Fiona Hyslop, Scotland's History Online covers a range of subjects, from prehistoric through to 21st century Scotland, with more than 200 topics that include links to over 1,000 other online sources and a wide range of interactive supporting materials.

A historian and former Guidance teacher, Rob said:

"This is a welcome resource in celebrating Scotland's rich history and providing access to learn about our country's past, especially during the Year of Homecoming . I have long urged for more focus and consideration to be given to the teaching of Scotland's history in schools and this is a fantastic step forward, providing advanced, interactive material for teachers and students integrated into the Curriculum for Excellence.



Scotland's History Online found at:

The resource is structured by time periods:
-Early People (Prehistoric)
-Caledonians, Picts, Britons and Romans (Ancient)
-Wars of Independence (Medieval)
-Medieval life (Medieval)
-Renaissance, Mary Queen of Scots and the Reformation (Early Modern)
-Union of the Crowns to Union of Parliaments (Early Modern)
-Jacobites, the Clearances and Enlightenment (Early Modern)
-Making of Industrial and urban Scotland (Modern)
-Scotland in the 20th and 21st centuries (Modern)

Gibson questions HIE over land unit

News release
Immediate release


Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands has gained assurances from HIE that it remains strongly committed to both its Community Land Unit and community land buy outs.

On Wednesday morning (during Scottish Government budget scrutiny) the Holyrood Economy energy and Tourism Committee heard from acting CEO Sandy Brady that community land buy outs can contribute to regional competitiveness and that HIE has flexible funding available should major new buy outs arise. Even though HIE meets only a fraction of the total cost which has been paid by the National Lottery since the land fund was created.

The Big Lottery has indicated that there have been fewer buy out applications since 2006 [ 11 from the HIE area to date] compared to the 82 funded for land and buildings from 2001 to 2006 at £12.4 million.

When asked by Mr Gibson Sandy Brady denied that there was any loss of momentum in supporting applications that had been lodged.

Speaking after the Committee hearing Rob Gibson said,

"There is an urgent need for the Big Lottery to deliver support for the Embo football team in their bid to turn Skelbo forest into forest crofts."

"When I quizzed HIE they did not agree that the Community Land Unit was acting as a gate keeper for the Big Lottery but is doing its best to promote sound applications it receives."

"Statistically in this phase of land buy outs it is important to note that 32 of 91 grants made by the Big Lottery involved applicants who had previously received a grant under the Scottish Land Fund (before 2006).

Mr Gibson revealed that he has previously sought clarification from the Big Lottery as to their attitude to community land buy outs from their Scottish chair Alison Magee.

He said,

"She assured me in a conversation at the Sutherland Summit six weeks ago that there was no change of emphasis from the approaches of the Scottish Land fund into the era of Growing Community Assets (GCA) post 2006. Community activists were quoted recently as saying the there was a 'lack of momentum' due to Scottish Government disinterest. My analysis of this phase of land buy outs and development suggests that these criticisms are inaccurate."

"I will be monitoring progress with great care. If communities feel aggrieved then I need to know. However the availability of £18 million still to be allocated from the GCA Fund before mid 2010 suggests that land buy out applications should be stepped up to test the system."


Monday, 26 October 2009

Gibson calls for greater recognition of clearance villages

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has called for greater listing and interpretation of pre clearances villages following concerns over a lack of interest by Historic Scotland.

Mr Gibson has written to Culture Minister Michael Russell to seek clarification on Historic Scotland's policy towards the categorization and promotion of Clearance village sites.

The issue was raised during debates on the reasons for the Diaspora at the Highland Homecoming Festival last weekend. And whilst he was attending the final performance of Highland Homecoming's 'Flight of the Arctic Tern' (which in itself was a commemoration of the clearance emigrant Alexander Gunn), Mr Gibson was approached by the Mackay Country Group, (who themselves have pioneered a clearance trail around the Ceannabeinne Township near Durness) regarding the issue.

Rob who researched and wrote 'The Highland Clearances Trail' which documented villages like Ceannabeinne in order to attract visitors to the sites directly associated with the Clearance said….

"There are many such sites which deserve to be listed, interpreted and remembered as part of our national story. In every part of Scotland and particularly the Highlands and Islands there are dozens of such sites. Historic Scotland has done much good work to celebrate pre-historic sites such as World Heritage Orkney. But villages inhabited for centuries before the Clearances forced their people to scatter need action. I have visited many of these. Good examples include Lorgill near Glendale in Skye; Rosal and the dozens of other settlements in Strathnaver; Badbea on the Ord of Caithness; and Crakaig near Calgary in Mull.

"I look forward to renewed efforts by Historic Scotland to safeguard such sites from inappropriate development and prepare appropriate interpretation of a key parts of our history."

"It would be a great legacy to leave from the Year of Homecoming to have more information on where people's homes used to be. It is also important to let people know that the wild landscapes that they travel around in the North and West are in fact often man made. The piles of stones strewn across the landscape bear testament to the fact that many people used to live here and were it not for greed and ignorance still would."


Thursday, 22 October 2009

Gibson calls for debate on Highland Hospice financial loss

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has lodged a motion for debate in the Scottish Parliament urging action from the Scottish and UK Government to help compensate Highland Hospice after it lost £658,832 following the collapse of an Icelandic bank.

Mr Gibson said that due to the nature of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme criteria some wealthy individuals had been repaid after the UK subsidiary of Icelandic bank Kaupthing, Singer and Friedlander went into administration last year. He also pointed out that despite a Westminster Treasury Committee recommendation that all charities be compensated it had not happened.

Paying over £25,000 in interest alone since the September 2008 collapse, Highland Hospice has only recovered £132,294, leaving a black hole of £526,538 in its accounts in contrast to the Christie Hospital in Manchester which the Prime Minster specially intervened directly to aid, which was then fully compensated. Mr Gibson understands that the reason why the Highland Hospice it has not being bailed out by the UK Government is that the new Third Sector Resilience Fund (introduced by the Scottish Government) would count against it. However Mr Gibson also understands that Highland Hospice does not qualify for the fund.

He has therefore asked the Scottish Government to re-asses the criteria for the resilience fund and has called on the UK Government to fairly recompense all charities including Highland Hospice.

Mr Gibson said…

"I hope that this motion attracts enough cross party support to allow it to be debated in Parliament. The palliative care carried out by the Hospice is invaluable and unique. It delivers great dignity to those in their final moments of life. And acts as a great comfort to their families and friends. So it is important that it is not allowed to end."

"I hope that both the Scottish and UK Government can take action that makes sure that the excellent care provided by the Hospice throughout the Highlands and Islands can continue."

Mr Gibson has also lodged a series of written questions with the Scottish Government asking if the resilience fund can be restructured to allow applications to be made by organisations which were affected by the collapse of the Kaupthing, Singer and Friedlander bank.



Copy of motion for debate

Fair Treatment for all Investors in Kaupthing, Singer and Friedlander
That the Parliament recognises that many charities lost large amounts of money when the UK-based subsidiary of Icelandic bank Kaupthing, Singer and Friedlander was placed in administration by the UK Government in 2008; notes that the Highland Hospice, the only hospice serving adults with incurable life-limiting disease in the Highlands and acknowledged as the centre of specialist palliative care expertise in the region, was one of these depositors; considers that, due to the arbitrary Financial Services Compensation Scheme criteria, some wealthy individuals have been compensated for their loss in full and that, due to a direct intervention by the Prime Minister, the Christie Hospital in Manchester, a registered charity, was fully compensated but that Highland Hospice has not been compensated for its loss, despite a Treasury Committee recommendation for charities to be recompensed, and understands that this is because the UK Government has stated that this would affect the general help provided to the third sector by the Resilience Fund launched earlier this month by the Scottish Government; understands however that Highland Hospice does not meet the criteria of the Resilience Fund, and would therefore welcome both a review of the Resilience Fund's criteria and that the Scottish Government make representations to the UK Government to fairly recompense all charities and enable Highland Hospice to continue to provide invaluable palliative and end-of-life care throughout the Highlands of Scotland.

Copy of questions to Scottish Government

To ask the Scottish Executive what the criteria are for charities to receive funds from the £1.7 million Third Sector Resilience Fund.

To ask the Scottish Executive who will be responsible for the dispersal of funds from the Third Sector Resilience Fund.

To ask the Scottish Executive whether applications to the Third Sector Resilience Fund from organisations that have been affected by the collapse of the Kaupthing Bank will be given special consideration.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Gibson welcomes EC intervention over UK Transmission charges

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has lodged a motion welcoming news that the European Commission is to write to the UK Government seeking clarification of their transmission charges for renewable energy.

The EC took action following a question from SNP MEP Alyn Smith in which he asked if the charges which sees renewable energy projects in remote areas paying more to use the system, contravenes new EU directives on discrimination against peripheral areas.

Recent estimates of transmission charges show that Shetland, Orkney the Western Isles and Orkney face a charge of £20 whilst Highland is around that figure. Renewable project in the South, such as West Berkshire and Hampshire, receives a subsidy for production.

A long standing critic of the transmission charges Mr Gibson said...

"I welcome the fact that the EC are to write to the UK Government to seek clarification on this issue. These charges are iniquitous and put in real danger the renewable revolution that could transform the economic future of the Highlands and Islands and Scotland."

"It is in the continent's interest that Scotland, is given a level playing field when it comes to the production and transmission of renewable energy. In an era of climate change and with issues of energy security to the fore, then it is ludicrous to have in place prohibitive charges in the very area where the vast bulk of that energy is produced."

"The Highlands and Islands are well known for their potential in renewable energy. However the transmission charges actively work against this. The latest move from the EC is encouraging. I hope they will realise the burden that these charges cause and force the UK Government into a climb down. It has long baffled me how the UK Government can justify these charges."

"I hope that members of all parties, especially those from the Highlands and Islands, will support the motion and the intervention from the EC. I hope that they join with the SNP in calling for the UK Government to scrap this discriminatory system so that renewable energy producers in the North and West have a fair deal."



Copy of Rob's motion

End Discrimination in Transmission Access Charges
That the Parliament welcomes the intervention of the European Commission over the UK Government's iniquitous transmission charges that are considered to discriminate against producers of renewable energy in remote areas; notes that recent figures estimate that under these charges renewable energy producers in Shetland and Orkney pay over £21 per kilowatt hour to use the system while in some areas of the south of England a similar venture would receive a subsidy of around £7/kW, and considers that these charges are unfair and represent a risk to a viable renewable energy future for Scotland, especially the Highlands and Islands, which in turn jeopardises potential jobs as well as economic and scientific advancement.

-Estimated cost of transmission charges in Scotland and cost and subsidy of charges in England and Wales

S3W-27749 - Maureen Watt (North East Scotland) (SNP) (Date Lodged Friday, September 25, 2009): To ask the Scottish Executive what the average national grid transmission charge is in each local authority area.

Answered by Jim Mather (Tuesday, October 06, 2009): The generation zones used by National Grid to calculate transmission charges do not precisely match local authority boundary areas. However, according to National Grid estimates taken from their Seven Year Statement* published in May 2009, National Grid estimate average transmission tariffs for generation in each local authority area in Scotland, England and Wales are as follows:

Local Authority - Average Generation Tariff (£/kW)
Aberdeen City 21.5887
Aberdeenshire 19.5926
Angus 16.8710
Argyll and Bute 14.8222
Clackmannanshire 14.4797
Dumfries and Galloway 12.4227
Dundee City 16.8710
East Ayrshire 13.6017
East Dunbartonshire 16.8710
East Lothian 13.6017
East Renfrewshire 13.6017
Edinburgh, City of 13.6017
Eilean Siar 21.1042
Falkirk 14.4797
Fife 14.4797
Glasgow City 14.2367
Highland 19.8546
Inverclyde 13.7977
Midlothian 13.6017
Moray 21.5887
North Ayrshire 13.6017
North Lanarkshire 14.0407
Orkney Islands 21.5887**
Perth and Kinross 15.6754
Renfrewshire 13.7977
Scottish Borders 13.6017
Shetland Islands 21.5887**
South Ayrshire 12.4227
South Lanarkshire 14.0407
Stirling 15.1148
West Dunbartonshire 13.9937
West Lothian 14.0407

Bath and North East Somerset -1.6032
Bedfordshire 2.1105
Blackburn with Darwen 6.1423
Blackpool 6.1423
Blaenau Gwent -1.6032
Bournemouth -3.2820
Bracknell Forest -1.3867
Bridgend -1.6032
Brighton and Hove -1.3867
Bristol -1.6032
Buckinghamshire 0.3619
Caerphilly -1.6032
Cambridgeshire 3.1542
Cardiff -1.6032
Carmarthenshire 0.2537
Ceredigion 2.1105
Cheshire 3.1542
Conwy 5.7534
Cornwall -6.6838
Cumbria 6.1423
Darlington 9.8537
Denbighshire 4.1979
Derby 2.1105
Derbyshire 3.1542
Devon -4.9829
Dorset -3.2820
Durham 9.8537
East Riding of Yorkshire 6.1423
East Sussex -1.3867
Essex 1.1825
Flintshire 4.1979
Gloucestershire -0.2931
Greater London -2.7034
Greater Manchester 5.1701
Gwynedd 5.1938
Halton 6.1423
Hampshire -2.3343
Hartlepool 9.8537
Herefordshire 0.2537
Hertfordshire 0.3261
Isle of Anglesey 6.8725
Kent 0.2545
Kingston upon Hull 6.1423
Lancashire 6.1423
Leicester 2.1105
Leicestershire 3.1542
Lincolnshire 4.1979
Luton 2.1105
Medway 0.2545
Merseyside 5.1701
Merthyr Tydfil -1.6032
Middlesbrough 9.8537
Milton Keynes 2.1105
Monmouthshire -1.6032
Neath Port Talbot -1.6032
Newport -1.6032
Norfolk 3.1542
North East Lincolnshire 6.1423
North Lincolnshire 5.1701
North Somerset -1.6032
North Yorkshire 7.9980
Northamptonshire 2.1105
Northumberland 11.7277
Nottingham 2.1105
Nottinghamshire 3.1542
Oxfordshire 0.3619
Pembrokeshire -1.6032
Peterborough 3.1542
Plymouth -6.6838
Poole -3.2820
Portsmouth -1.3867
Powys 0.2537
Reading -1.3867
Redcar and Cleveland 9.8537
Rhondda, Cynon, Taff -1.6032
Rutland 3.1542
Shropshire 2.1105
Slough -1.3867
Somerset -3.2820
South Gloucestershire -1.6032
South Yorkshire 4.1979
Southampton -3.2820
Southend-on-Sea 0.2545
Staffordshire 2.1105
Stockton-on-Tees 9.8537
Stoke-on-Trent 2.1105
Suffolk 2.1105
Surrey -0.5661
Swansea -1.6032
Swindon -1.4949
Telford and Wrekin 2.1105
Thurrock 0.2545
Torbay -3.2820
Torfaen -1.6032
Tyne and Wear 9.8537
Vale of Glamorgan -1.6032
Warrington 6.1423
Warwickshire 2.1105
West Berkshire -1.3867
West Midlands 2.1105
West Sussex -1.3867
West Yorkshire 6.1423
Wiltshire -2.0906
Windsor and Maidenhead -1.3867
Wokingham -1.3867
Worcestershire 2.1105
Wrexham 2.1105
York 6.1423

*Information to existing and prospective new users of the GB transmission system to help them assess opportunities for new or additional use of the grid system.

**Shetland and Orkney will have additional offshore tariffs once the offshore Transmission Operator tender process is complete, however these tariffs have not yet been determined.

Monday, 19 October 2009

SNP backs further progress on Land reform

News release
Immediate release

The SNP Conference voted overwhelmingly to take land reform forward.

During the event at Eden Court in Inverness delegates backed two resolutions which called for the speeding up and increases in community buyouts as well as new information on who owns Scotland .

Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands, who proposed the successful resolutions, urged the agencies which are responsible to speed the land reform process, saying:

"HIE must make a speedy commitment to back its Community Land Unit and ensure it is funded. Also it has to be far more pro-active to support volunteers who apply for funds and stop giving the impression that it is a gate keeper for the Big lottery."

"The Big Lottery itself has applications for buy outs such as the one from the Embo football team to set up forest crofts in Skelbo woods. The Big Lottery says it is carrying on best practice from the Scottish Land Fund days. That has to include buying government owned land for community uses. I will be writing them to seek clarification on the progress of the Embo and other bids."

He added that the issue of land reform was still very much a live issue for the SNP...

"Overall, the SNP conference underlined the party's long held commitment to thorough land reform. At Eden Court the delegates endorsed my proposals to seek compulsory registration for all land holdings over 100 acres on the computerised land register. Means to identify and ban secretive offshore trusts from owning Scots land was called for. Enforcing residency obligations on overseas and absent land owners of large tracts of Scotland can ensure they are registered and accountable for their actions. this was also approved overwhelmingly."

"Land reform in Scotland still has a long way to go. However the resolutions and support of the SNP show that we are well placed to take it forward. There is an appetite in the Scottish Government to make sure that all Scotland's assets are put to their best use, land is prime among these, I look forward to further progress on this issue.



A copy of both resolution which were passed at the SNP Conference

32 Community Buy-Outs
Conference notes the low numbers of community buy out approvals and calls on the Big Lottery Fund to end its presumption against funding the purchase of government land.

34 Land Reform
Conference calls for the preparation of land reform measures by the Scottish Government to make optimum use of Scotland's basic natural resource in keeping with the principles of sustainable development. Conference recognises the slow pace of land registration through the National Registers of Scotland and seeks consideration of mechanisms which will speed up the process including means to identify beneficial owners of large areas of Scotland and the consideration of compulsory registration by landowners for all holdings of 100 acres and above. Conference also seeks an assessment of the practicalities of enforcing residency obligations on all land owners from overseas and gathering evidence on means to ban offshore trusts and companies and private trusts from owning land in Scotland

Monday, 12 October 2009

Gibson echos fears over War games

News release
immediate release

Highlands and Island SNP MSP Rob Gibson has echoed concerns regarding the threat posed by MoD war games to bottle nosed dolphins in the Moray Firth.

Mr Gibson was commenting following fears, raised by the whale and dolphin conservation society regarding the joint MoD and NATO war exercise (that for the first time will take place in the outer Moray Firth).

Mr Gibson said the expansion of the war area, (it used to be confined to the North West Coast of the Country) is a worrying development….

“The increased use of Sonar in our seas especially the Moray Firth is a cause for concern.”

“I have had heard anecdotal evidence that more whales were washed up around Cape Wrath and the North West during previous exercises. So the thought that we could see dolphin and porpoises stranded along the Moray Firth coast is worrying.”

“I really do not know why the MoD and NATO have decided that they need to use the Moray Firth for their war games but their sonar causes real dangers for the cetaceans that inhabit the area. The MoD say that they exercise caution with their sonar but I am sure it is not an exact science.”


Friday, 9 October 2009

Gibson seeks Mr Bean the Banker

News release
Immediate release

Deputy Convenor of the Economy Committee SNP MSP Rob Gibson says he is bemused by the disappearance of the Bank Of England's Mr Bean from a lecture he was due to give in Inverness.

Earlier this week Mr Gibson challenged the Deputy Governor (Charles Bean) of the Bank (or any other representative of the bank) to appear in front of Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee inquiry into the banking crisis. This followed a latest snub (this week) from the central bank who declared that they would not give evidence to the inquiry.

However it transpired that later on this month their Deputy Governor was due to present a lecture in Inverness at UHI Millennium Institute. However Mr Bean has since cancelled the engagement without explanation.

The Highlands and Islands Members said….

"It is a shame that Mr Bean will not be in Inverness this month as I had planned to ask him in person why he or anyone else from the bank refuses to appear in front of the committee."

"I hope that that prospect hasn't influenced the decision of Mr Bean to pull out of the lecture. But again I would ask him why he or someone from the Bank does not feel the need appear in front of the Committee."

"Their information would be a vital strand in the overall inquiry which has already taken evidence from the BBC's Robert Peston, and will receive written from the Treasury as will addressed by the Financial Services Authority in due course."


Thursday, 8 October 2009

Gibson calls for rural housing increase

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has urged for an end to rural clearances and a return rural re settlement during a debate in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Gibson's comments came during a debate on the rural housing report which was commissioned by the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee to encourage Scottish Government action to encourage more housing in rural areas.

Opening his speech Mr Gibson said that he was glad that the matter had been brought to the fore under an SNP administration. As in the last Parliament he and Richard Lochead (now rural affairs secretary) had been blocked by other (rural affairs) committee members for introducing such a report.

Welcoming the report from the Committee, Mr Gibson said that real change to the planning system was needed to help deliver more homes in rural areas…

"When local plans come up for production, the proposals are put forward by the planners, who have an holistic view—in theory—about how settlements ought to operate, and why it is more economic to have people living in small areas so that dwellings can be serviced more easily. We have to challenge that view; the SNP believes that there are issues around the way in which village envelopes are currently structured, and that that has to change. Why should a person have to have a job in agriculture to live and work in the countryside? We must find a way around that."

He quoted an example in Arran which is a prime example of why change is needed for the whole of Scotland…the applicant is trying to get a plot for his son to live and start a business. The plot is based 10 minutes from Brodick pier. However North Ayrshire Council has denied the application as they stated that they did not think that the site was appealing enough for the applicant. It's remoteness and the use of mechanical transport would distract from the appeal of the area and it would set a precedent which would be undesirable.

Speaking after the debate he said….

"Rural affordable housing has been allowed to become further out of reach to the general population for generations. This report is a start and I welcome it. However there needs to be greater practical change in planning departments for there to be a real difference. Repopulating rural areas is something which will breath new life into the country and is an aspiration worth achieving."


Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Gibson & Farlow demand MoD action

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson and North West Councilor George Farlow have written to the MoD demanding that they take their responsibilities in the North West Highlands seriously following a near fatal military accident at Laxford Bridge.

Mr Gibson and Cllr Farlow have demanded that the MoD use the insurance money to pay in full for the repairs to the bridge and to make substantial improvements to its approach roads.

The accident saw the occupants escape with minor injuries after their transporter toppled into the river. It lead to the parapet of the bridge being destroyed and now means that only vehicle under 7.5 tones can pass over it. HGV traffic, which include lorries serving the ports of Lochinver and Kinlochbervie, face a detour of between 50 and 100 miles.

Cllr Farlow said that the MoD had to act positively...

"To take responsibility for what happened and as an act of good will to the local community, the MoD has to foot the bill for the damage that their activities caused. The closures of the bridge to heavy goods traffic will hit the local economy hard. in a time of recession and ever increasing fuel costs it is all the more pressing that they act quickly."

"The MoD uses the North West for military manouvers on a regular basis so it is up to them to show that they value the community in which they are based by rectifying their mistakes. An upgraded bridge and approaches is a must. Failure to do so would suggest that the MoD does not care about the damage it inadvertently inflicts on the area."

Mr Gibson added…

"The wear and tear which the MoD's exercises put on an infrastructure in the North West (which it was never meant to bear) is worrying. I fear that there could be further instances such as those that happened last weekend which could have far worse consequences. It is time that the MoD takes responsibility for the pressure it puts on the roads and bridges of North West Sutherland. Repairing, strengthen and improving Laxford Bridge is a good way to start."

"Such responsibility is not without precedence. Local authorities regularly put demands on developers to upgrade infrastructure before planning permission is granted so it asking the MoD to upgrade the infrastructure to complement their uses (such as the transport of 1,000 pound gun transporters) is a reasonable ask."

Mr Gibson and Cllr Farlow also expressed their relief that no one from the transporter was seriously injured and complimented the swift and professional reaction by all those involved following the incident.


Monday, 5 October 2009

Gibson Congratulates Reids of Caithness

News release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating the owners of Reids of Caithness in Thurso on their gold star award for their treacle and toffee biscuits in this year's Great Taste Awards.

Mr Gibson said:

"This is a fantastic achievement for a local company that has been running in the area since the 60's. My warmest congratulations go to the Reid family and their staff; it's great to see hard work being rewarded in this way.

The Great Taste Awards have been described as the Oscars of the food world and this comparison demonstrates just how important this award is.

I wish them every success in future ventures and sincerely hope this is the start of many more accolades in the future!"


Note copy of motion lodged in parliament.

S3M-04946 Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party): Thurso Groaties Take the Biscuit— That the Parliament congratulates Reids of Caithness, in Thurso, for its win in the 2009 Great Taste Awards, organised by the Guild of Fine Food; recognises the hard work and innovation that goes into devising products of a high enough standard to gain a gold star, such as Reids’ Groaties; further recognises the commitment of the Reid family to the baking industry in Caithness since the 1960s and wishes them every success with their business in the future.

Far North Beef Event Success

News release

Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands made the opening speech at the Far North Beef Event held at Achnairn, Lairg last Saturday.

He praised the North West Cattle Producers Association who organised the event and all those who had turned up to share their expertise.

He went on…

"The workshops at Achnairn all underline the Scottish Government's belief that healthy cattle production must continue in the North West which is one of our least favoured agricultural areas in Scotland. I champion the crofters and farmers who produce a full range of healthy and tasty beef products. Now we need to ensure it is well marketed well starting locally. There is no finer beef on sale."

"The Scottish Government is working to cut down bureaucracy by supporting the formal merger of Food Standards Agency Scotland and the Meat Hygiene Service and this is receiving the attention of the Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead this very week. Two other pieces of good news help cattle production in the Far North. European States voted unanimously to support Official Tuberculosis Status for Scotland. Secondly the steady low declining BSE risk particularly with cattle born and bred here give excellent prospects for native and imported breeds alike."

"Above all tasty food produced and consumed locally deserves the support from government and from consumers. Paying the producer for premium beef is a price well worth paying in a world of indifferent animal health checks compared to Scotland."


Thursday, 1 October 2009


News Release


Commenting after Robert Peston’s appearance at the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee today where he said that the legislative proposals for a new banking regulatory regime are “unclear” about who will now be in charge, SNP committee member Rob Gibson said:

“Mr Peston’s appearance at today’s committee was both welcome an interesting. In particular were his comments about the legislation for a new regulatory regime being ‘unclear’ about who would be in charge of the new regime.

“After all we have learnt about how Gordon Brown’s tripartite regime had failed this is extraordinary. Has Labour learned any lessons from the banking crisis?

“We have a trail of headlines showing Gordon Brown’s culpability and this begs the question of what Labour is now playing at.

“This is also why the committee’s inquiry should have the full co-operation of the UK Government, Financial Services Authority and Bank of England.

“Without a full examination of the banks and the regulatory systems they operated under we cannot get to the bottom of what happened in the industry or focus properly on its future.”



Examples of how Gordon Brown failed to regulate the financial sector properly:

1. A speech Gordon Brown gave to the CBI Conference in 2005 where he called for "limited" regulation and even suggested whether there should be regulation at all.

The better, and in my opinion the correct, modern model of regulation – the risk based approach - is based on trust in the responsible company, the engaged employee and the educated consumer, leading government to focus its attention where it should: no inspection without justification, no form filling without justification, and no information requirements without justification, not just a light touch but a limited touch.

The new model of regulation can be applied not just to regulation of environment, health and safety and social standards but is being applied to other areas vital to the success of British business: to the regulation of financial services and indeed to the administration of tax. And more than that, we should not only apply the concept of risk to the enforcement of regulation, but also to the design and indeed to the decision as to whether to regulate at all. In the new legislation we will publish before Christmas we will make this risk based approach a statutory duty of the regulators."

2. The resignation of Sir James – one of the prime ministers key advisors - followed revelations that when he was chief executive of bank HBOS he sacked a whistleblower who warned that banks were heading for disaster. Sir James was knighted on the recommendation of the UK government, and later appointment as deputy chairman of the FSA.

3. The warnings by the HBOS whistle blower reflect similar warnings given to the FSA and the Prime Minister about Icelandic banks months before the UK Government took any action - and which is now seen as being so heavy handed it precipitated an even more rapid collapse.

Links to news articles showing how the FSA and Gordon Brown were similarly warned about the Icelandic banks months in advance can be read here:

PM knew of problems with Icelandic banks in March

FSA was warned not to allow Kaupthing to take over Singer

4. Details of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report on Banking Supervision and Regulationcan be found here:

5. In March - A National Audit Office inquiry into the handling of Northern Rock, found that the tripartite regulatory structure created by Gordon Brown was seriously flawed, and that Treasury officials decided it was not a priority to fix it.

6. “Brown told us not to question banks on risky practices, says City watchdog”:

Contact: SNP Holyrood Press Office - 0131 348 5761

MoD exercise blocks Laxford Bridge

News Release
Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands has condemned the disruption to life in NW Sutherland due to an MoD vehicle destroying the parapet at Laxford Bridge on the A838.

He said, 'School children, doctors and general travellers were stranded due to MoD exercise vehicles destroying part of Laxford Bridge today.'

'If any costs arise then the MoD must pay in full. Also I hear that oil may have spilled into the river. If mussel beds are affected this could be an even bigger mess.!

Mr Gibson concluded, 'I will be writing to the MoD to seek a full explanation and agreement by them to pay full costs so that local people are not out of pocket and any environmental dame as well as damage to the bridge is made good as soon as they can. The Royal engineers are always touting for bridge building activities. They are needed urgently to fix Laxford Bridge.'



Pictured: MoD lorry being dragged out of the river Laxford.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009


News release - 29/9/09
For immediate use

Rob Gibson, SNP MSP for the Highlands & Islands, has welcomed the Scottish Government announcement today by Crofting Minister Roseanna Cunningham to remove draft plans for a residency requirement on decrofted houses.

Mr Gibson said:

"This welcome news shows that the Scottish Government is listening intently to crofters' views and needs for this draft legislation to ensure it will tackle the real problems faced in crofting today.

"After much lobbying from myself as well as the Crofting Foundation and others the Minister has rightly indicated that the residency requirement in the draft bill will not be carried into the Bill itself. This requirement would place an unworkable role on local authorities who would be required to assess decrofted land and determine whether those living there had been doing so for 184 days per year.

"There is still a major problem of speculation of croft land, but it is in the interest of everyone involved in crofting to produces workable measures. Doing nothing about speculation is not an option as the Crofting Minister has said, but her willingness to remove this requirement reflects well on her and all those who made their feelings known during the consultation.


Monday, 28 September 2009

Wick High School - new build agreed by SNP government

News Release

Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands has warmly welcomed the inclusion of a new Wick High School in the new £1.25 billion school building programme announced by the Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop. As one of 14 secondaries included, it is the recognition that years of neglect is at last being corrected.

He said,

"The SNP government has inherited a mountain of long overdue dilapidated schools. Recognising that Wick High School is a top priority shows concern for our children's school environment reaches all parts of the country where some school buildings have been long past acceptability."

"People in Caithness have been making a strong case. The SNP Government has listened and is now pledged to build a new Wick High School. Even in these times of recession schooling is a key part of our future and Wick High School has a key part to educate children whose prospects are also buoyed by the marine renewable energy revolution in the Pentland Firth. The first step to building young people's confidence in the place they come from is a modern school campus. Many more have to be modernised but Wick High School is the top priority."



28 September 2009

Christina McKelvie (Central Scotland) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive whether it will provide an update on the action that it has taken following the publication in 2008 of the Audit Scotland report, Improving the school estate

Ms Fiona Hyslop : I am pleased to announce that the Scottish Government and COSLA are launching a new School Estate Strategy Building Better Schools: Investing in Scotland’s Future today. Copies have been placed in the Scottish Parliament Information Centre
(Bib. Number 49305) and the document is available at:

Building Better Schools: Investing in Scotland’s Future represents the Scottish Government and COSLA’s agreed destination and route map to get the School Estate up to the standard which Audit Scotland set out in Improving the School Estate. It has been developed as a partnership between national and local government and we are jointly committed to continuing this partnership as we proceed with implementation. The Strategy has pupils at its centre and sets out the joint Government-COSLA target of achieving 90% of children being educated in good condition schools (condition A & B) with firm plans to lift the rest of pupils out of being educated in schools in conditions C & D.

I am also pleased to announce the 14 secondary schools will benefit from the new £1.25bn school building programme that will follow on from the current £2 billion of school investment that is being supported by the Government which are:

School Authority
Ellon Academy Aberdeenshire
Mearns Academy Aberdeenshire
Brechin High Angus
Dalbeattie High Dumfries & Galloway
Harris Academy Dundee
Eastwood High East Renfrewshire
James Gillespie's Edinburgh
Auchmuty High Fife
Wick High Highland
Lasswade High Midlothian
Garnock Academy North Ayrshire
Clyde Valley High North Lanarkshire
Ayr Academy South Ayrshire
Dumbarton Academy West Dunbartonshire

As I have previously set out to Parliament (Col 19247) we have engaged with COSLA, councils and the Scottish Futures Trust to identify the 14 schools and have taken into account the distribution of needs throughout Scotland; the best available information about schools' condition and unsuitability to deliver the curriculum for excellence; additionality; and authorities' plans and priorities and readiness to proceed.

We have also agreed with COSLA that we would accelerate the primary school announcement and that the same criteria will be used to identify these schools. We anticipate that all councils will benefit from the first tranches of the school building programme.


Thursday, 24 September 2009

Gibson Welcomes Free Maps for 11 Year Olds

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed the announcement that Ordinance Survey are continuing their 'Free Maps for 11 Year Olds' scheme for the seventh year running.

Mr Gibson urged schools across the far north to take up the offer which gives every primary school pupil in primary or year 7 a free map. Last year 54,408 maps were issued throughout Scotland and schools are being urged to get their orders in.

Mr Gibson said;

"The free maps for schools initiative is an excellent way to provide children with a valuable learning tool. Anything that helps children learn and interest them in a subject should be welcomed.

"It has been well received in past years and hopefully this year will be no different. I would urge schools to get their orders in as soon as possible. Ordinance Survey have indicated that most schools should receive their maps by Christmas but if the demand is higher that may be January at the latest.

The easiest way to order them is to go online at: and follow the instructions. The maps are also available to home educators on the same website by clicking on the 'Home Educators Ordering' link."


Wednesday, 23 September 2009


News Release - 23 September 2009

For immediate use

Rob Gibson, Highlands & Islands SNP MSP, today welcomed the Scottish Government announcement that a number of rural broadband exchanges are to be upgraded.

Commenting on the Scottish Government' s announcement (below) Mr Gibson said,

"This news has to be welcomed. Any improvement to the broadband connection to the Highlands will benefit the many individuals and businesses who rely on the internet for communication and work. Late last year I conducted a major survey on broadband with over 9000 households in the North Highlands and Orkney - the issue of capacity and connection speeds was of significant concern then and that is still the case today.

"I presented the consultation findings today to John Swinney, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Sustainable Growth and I will continue to keep constituents' views at the fore over the coming weeks.


For further information:


Scottish Government press release announcing upgrades:

News Release

September 23, 2009


Telephone exchanges in rural areas of Scotland are to be upgraded, providing increased access to broadband, John Swinney said today.

The Finance Secretary was speaking after talks with BT aimed at securing increased broadband capacity in some remote areas where access is not possible.

Mr Swinney said:

"While Scotland has high levels of broadband availability, the Scottish Government and BT recognise the frustration felt in some rural communities where people are unable to obtain a service.

"After exploring the many challenges with BT, we are pleased that a way forward has been found allowing an exchange upgrade programme to take place. This will enable more residents and businesses to benefit from a broadband service which people in most areas of Scotland already enjoy."

The exchanges to be upgraded are expected to be agreed in the coming weeks, following further discussions between the Scottish Government and BT. Exchanges operating at or approaching capacity will be given early consideration.

It follows the completion earlier this year of a separate Scottish Government project to extend affordable broadband services, which 2,100 businesses and households are now benefiting from.



News release - 23 September 2009
For immediate use

Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands wants to know why NHS Highland has been reluctant to support ME sufferers.

He has quizzed the health board who have admitted that they have no plans to coordinate support for ME sufferers.

He said, "For many years the condition called ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) has been identified as complex, but health boards don't seem to recognise the wishes of patients for sustained help."

"I believe it is time that NHS Highland published a strategy to meet the needs of groups such as those in the Tain area. Constituents have asked me to press for a speedier medical response."

"The most recent message I have had from the health board is that only - a small number of doctors have an interest, but not with any specific extra-training skills, just a general interest. There is therefore no disease-specific system at present and no plans to develop one at the moment. - "

Rob Gibson went on…

"This must be made a higher priority for NHS Highland."


Thursday, 17 September 2009

Gibson questions Diageo policy

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has warned against the diminution of Highlands and Islands distilleries and producers by the practices of Diageo PLC.

Mr Gibson's warning came during a debate in Parliament.

He highlighted the potential problems facing the whisky industry in the North as well as that of barley farmers. That a new style of business shown by Diageo in the Kilmarnock and Port Dundas closures could inflict.

In the debate Mr Gibson challenged Diageo to commit to the heritage of whisky.….

"Mega-distilleries could replacing the diverse regional nature of our iconic whisky industry. Diageo has to be asked what positive legacy it will leave for Scotland. Is what is good for the Diageo business model also good for Scotland? What level of value of their whisky business will be retained in Scotland?"

He also said he was concerned that Diageo had created a 'flavour map to categories whisky tastes rather than the traditional regional category'.

He said….

"Scotland wishes to retain the regional nature of whisky production. We do not wish to be left with a bad taste in the mouth from Diageo business decisions."

Earlier in the debate Mr Gibson questioned what Diageo's priorities were for distilling in Scotland.

He also quoted a letter from Foulis farmer Hector Munro in which he stated that barley surpluses has been as high as they had been in recent times. With no geographical protection for Scottish barley (which is a key component in whisky) his business is in doubt. Rob said…

"We need to take account of the way in which Diageo's demand for product affect people such as our barley farmers and the communities supporting small distilleries."

After the debate Mr Gibson said…

"Diageo has to commit to the heritage and complete process of whisky production in Scotland. It has to show loyalty to those that help deliver this world famous brand. In the Highlands and Islands whisky plays an important part in community, heritage and way of life. It cannot be put at risk by sweeping changes which Diageo seem to starting. It would be criminal if a company were to preside over the loss of quality and coverage and world standing. Even worse to in act changes which put viable communites at risk."


Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Gibson hosts event on hydrogen future

News release
For Immediate Use
Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has hailed the potential of a hydrogen future in Scotland.

Mr Gibson was speaking before he hosted a reception in Parliament for key industry players which coincided with the Scotland's Hydrogen Future Conference (taking place at the Scottish Government's Victoria Quay HQ).

Among the issues being discussed is a proposal from Findhorn based CIFAL (the United Nations Institute for Training and Research affiliated training centre for Northern Europe) for a 'Hydrogen Corridor' which would run from Aberdeen to Inverness via Findhorn. The corridor would consist of diversity of renewable energy solutions in different locations, with hydrogen refueling stations placed at strategic locations along the route. These stations would service, public transport and local authority vehicles, Royal Mail vans with an ultimate goal of private vehicles.

"The hydrogen corridor is a revolutionary and ground breaking plan which could put Scotland in the forefront of the providing for the future of motorised travel. Credit has to go to those that who are pushing forward this hydrogen corridor which will make it easier for hydrogen vehicles to travel. It shows that the North and East are ahead of the game when it comes to preparing for the future."

"Royal Mail are already in early stages of developing a van which will run on hydrogen and hope to roll the designs out to the rest of Europe. The message from the conference is that a hydrogen future will be here sooner rather than later."

Mr Gibson also said that he was encouraged by the a letter of understanding by major car firms, Daimler, Ford, Renault/Nissan, GM/Opel, Honda, Toyota and Hyndia/Kia to oil companies calling for a greater hydrogen infrastructure by 2015 (starting In Europe and consisting of hydrogen corridors) to help complement the increase in hydrogen vehicles which the companies are promising.

"It is clear that in the near future there will be far more cars powered by hydrogen. So as the first petrol cars needed petrol station hydrogen cars will need hydrogen filling stations. So these corridors will be the petrol station of tomorrow. It is good to see the letter of understanding between such big names in the industry setting out to the oil companies what is needed. It is also good to see Scotland wanting to be part of it."

He continued…

"The conference and reception is a chance to get some of the major hydrogen players together and help map out the future. Hydrogen development can make a real difference to many people at a local community level. The Pure project on Unst is one example."

"Hydrogen is likely to be a mainstay in the world energy markets. It is an exciting future which will shape our lives."




For immediate use; Wednesday 15th September 2009


Commenting on a range of publications that indicate some encouraging factors in the Scottish economy SNP MSP Rob Gibson – a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee – said the statistics were grounds for hope and confidence that Scotland was well placed to come out the recession.

The following has been reported today by a range of organisations:

* According to the latest survey data from Lloyds TSB, Scottish businesses are showing signs of coming out of recession by the end of the year. Whilst the private sector may still be shrinking, it is doing so at a slower pace, the bank's quarterly business monitor has found, and business bosses' expectations of activity over the next six months could move the economy back into growth.

* A survey by the Scottish Retail Consortium found that Scotland’s retail sales continued to climb during August, with total sales increasing by 5.7%. This compares with total UK sales only up 3% compared to Scotland's 5.7%.

* New Business Start-up Statistics from the Committee of Scottish Clearing Bankers show that the number of businesses opening up new accounts has actually increased from the previous quarter. This is following falls in the previous three quarters.

Commenting Mr Gibson said:

“Whilst the news on unemployment is something that obviously cannot be welcomed these indicators coming are something that can be welcomed and offers real hope that Scotland can weather this recession and come out stronger.

“I am convinced that the Scottish Government's recovery plan to support 15,000 jobs is adding to this confidence as is the fact we have higher employment, lower unemployment and higher rates of economic activity compared to the UK.

"Accelerating major infrastructure investment was vital in ensuring that Scotland is able to weather the recession.

“In essence these latest economic indicators show Scotland has what it takes to come out of this recession stronger.

"What is important is that no action is taken to disrupt recovery. That is why we are urging the UK government to use their pre-Budget report to ensure a further acceleration of capital spending into 2010-11, just as was done this year. It is vital to ensure the support for thousands of jobs across Scotland."



1. More information on the Lloyds TSB quarterly business monitor can be read here:

2. More information on Scottish Retail Consortium retail sales survey the can be read here:

3. New Business Start-up Statistics from the Committee of Scottish Clearing Bankers can be read here:

They are:

QUARTER No. new accounts Change

Q2/2008 5,465

Q3/2008 4,598 -867

Q4/2008 4,415 -183

Q1/2009 4,166 -249

Q2/2009 4,383 217

Friday, 11 September 2009

£15m price tag for Groats vision

by Jean Gunn
Published 11/9/09

THE owners of the John O'Groats House Hotel have welcomed news of a masterplan for the area which, if completed in its entirety, could cost in the region of £15 million.

Speaking to the John O'Groat Journal following the unveiling of the blueprint, Allan Leech, chief executive of Heritage Great Britain Plc, stressed that if the development was to work everyone involved needed to "stand shoulder to shoulder".

He said: "You have to see complete solidarity – everyone has to get behind it."

Referring to the new summit visitor centre at Snowdon, where the firm runs the mountain railway, Mr Leech told those at Wednesday's public meeting that the Welsh venture went ahead after all the interested parties joined forces. He said the finished development had brought huge benefits.

He confirmed that Heritage GB's next step would be to meet with staff of HIE Caithness and Sutherland to discuss preliminary ideas, which include self-catering accommodation. Mr Leech explained that this type of service had a much stronger existing UK market and was less of a risk.

Mr Leech added: "The good news is, it really is possible – we have a target." He felt consultants had understood the project and had provided a plan which had lots of character.

Richard Slipper, planning consultancy director for GVA Grimley, the company which was commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to develop the masterplan, pointed out that if the improvements were completed, visitor numbers at John O'Groats had the potential to double.

Presently 112,000 visitors are recorded at the local attraction every year. The consultant added that the aim was for a development like the House of Bruar, but on a smaller scale.

Shaped by the views of residents, businesspeople, tourists and public agencies, the masterplan has various design options.However, they all feature the creation of a destination focal point which will help draw visitors into the area. The start and finish point for "end to enders" is likely to be marked by an archway.

Four development phases have been identified, with phase one described as the "most critical" and costing in the region of £3 million to £5m. The first stage of the plan incorporates the restoration or replacement of the hotel, a new harbour square, refurbishment of the Last House Museum and improvements to coastal paths to Duncansby Head and the John O'Groats mill.

The preferred option involves the formation of a market street with retail outlets built along each side, and a main square, with car parking arranged around the periphery. Additional phases would see the possible relocation of the craft village and the building of a new hotel.

Carol Gunn, of HIE, said: "This masterplan gives John O'Groats the opportunity to offer visitor facilities that will match its iconic status, a transformation it has long deserved. It is an important step forward – for the first time there is a plan for the whole site rather than piecemeal development ideas. The potential of this shared vision will be key in attracting private investors.

"One of the aims we had in creating this masterplan was to look to the future of the community, but not to lose sight of its past. We have a masterplan that can allow us to retain a local identity but also respond to the various needs of the community, our visitors and potential investors."

GVA Grimley consultants have prepared a detailed plan of how the five-hectare site at John O'Groats can be developed, incorporating good-quality building design from locally-sourced natural materials.

GVA Grimley's planning consultancy director Richard Slipper said the agency had tried to address the key issues across the wide range of interested parties to create a long-term plan.

He stated: "This has been a healthy challenge for our planners, designers and tourism and energy specialists. We have focused in on the key requests, to address the core harbour area and on a physical masterplan for a new spatial layout which addresses realistic long-term market and business capacity.

"Many hours of people's time have contributed to a 12-week consultation process and we have been greatly encouraged by the level of enthusiasm from consultees and the many good ideas which have helped to shape the masterplan."

Mr Slipper added: "We are positive about our final proposed masterplan which is shaped to maximise the tourist and visitor experience and to be supported by tourism and business interests, and also to provide for positive local impacts."

On the whole, comments from those present at the meeting, including local residents and business owners, were favourable. However, the planners took on board concerns expressed about access to the harbour for heavy goods vehicles.

Chairman of Dunnet and Canisbay Community Council John Green questioned how the plan would be taken forward and was told that some form of partnership would probably need to be set up between individual property owners, HIE and the Highland Council.

On Wednesday night, HIE attended a meeting of the local community council to discuss the new masterplan.

Also present at the unveiling of the plans was John Groat (87), who can trace his ancestry back to Jan de Groot, the 15th-century ferryman, who John O'Groats is said to be named after. Born in Orkney, Mr Groat served in the navy and then worked in the lighthouse service before taking up employment at Dounreay.

Mr Groat, who now lives in Thurso, thought the plans were good and said he would be pleased to see the area improved as he felt some places were an "eyesore" at the moment. Mr Groat would particularly like to see the eight-sided design of the hotel retained.

Welcoming the masterplan, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said: "The proposals put forward are a huge step forward in the redevelopment of the village.

"John O'Groats is one of the North's most recognised villages, and we should be proud of that.

"There's still a long way to go before any bricks are laid but, hopefully, many local people and businesses will be actively involved and will engage in the process."

North SNP MSP Rob Gibson said: "This third attempt to get a viable plan for John O'Groats seems acceptable but ambitious. I believe that step by step its recommendations can be developed.

"However, I fear we will not see immediate progress if there is no compulsion on the owners of John O'Groats House Hotel to modernise it.

"The council and HIE need to act in the interests of the local community by placing developments into local and committed hands."

In 1989, Michael Courtney sold John O'Groats House Hotel to tycoon Peter de Savary, who already owned Land's End at the time.

But his plan to spend £4.5m on redeveloping the Caithness site came to nothing and both properties were sold in 1991 to a New Zealand company, City Realties of Auckland.

In 1992, HIE pledged £800,000 for a project forecast to create up to 100 jobs. Plans for a £2.7m revamp of the Caithness landmark were frozen in 1995 after legal action taken in the USA against the owners of the John O'Groats House Hotel.