Monday, 30 March 2009

Support conventional plant breeding

News Release: Immediate use

Rob Gibson SNP MSP has secured a member's debate in Parliament on Wednesday 1st April. It calls for support for conventional plant breeding from our world class Scottish research institutes.

Mr Gibson will be addressing the need to secure supplies of blight resistant potatoes and non GM animal feed for Scottish farmers and crofters so that produce from Scotland can maintain our reputation for producing healthy, tasty food that consumers want to buy.

He said, "We must make best use of bodies like the Scottish Crop Research Institute near Dundee to develop conventional crops both for human and animal consumption. Far too much animal feed is imported, some of which is GM soya from Brazil and Argentina. The backlash from growers in those countries and consumer concerns point to European authorities seeking locally grown alternatives such as lupines to replace soya. Far too much research time has been paid for by GM companies like Monsanto with precious few acceptable results."

"Regarding soya for animal feed, I have opened discussions with NFUS on the work of Dr John Fagan who has conducted experiments that show non-GM soya is both more productive and cheaper for farmers. Such experiments need to be replicated in Scottish conditions."

" I will highlight conventional means to develop the strains of blight resistant potatoes to fit Scottish conditions. The Sárvári Research project at Bangor in North Wales uses Hungarian potato strains that were trialled in the Black Isle in Ross-shire. We need more application of these Sarpo varieties in quantities that commercial growers can use."

"My debate will allow Parliament to discuss the issues surrounding enhanced research and grasp the fruits of strong trends across Europe and worldwide to adopt conventional plant breeding to meet our burgeoning food needs on this crowded planet."



S3M-03205# Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party): Supporting Conventional Plant Breeding— That the Parliament welcomes a growing body of evidence that Scottish farmers, crofters and growers can benefit from the results of successful experiments to produce home-grown food for both animals and humans that does not rely on transgenic modification of plant material; also welcomes the recent work of the Scottish Crop Research Institute in producing highly nutritious purple-pigmented potatoes; applauds the Sárvári Research Trust based at Bangor University that confirms that blight-resistant Sárpo potatoes, which were successfully trialed in the Black Isle, are suitable for Scottish conditions; recalls that the Scottish Agricultural College has backed an international research collaboration on the Green Pig project, which plans to use home-grown legume varieties to reduce reliance on imported and expensive soya bean meal and so reduce costs for Scottish livestock producers; notes the scientific analysis of Dr John Fagan of Global ID Group, which shows that, although non-GM pig feed costs a bit more than GM feed because of feed-to-meat conversion efficiency, when using non-GM feed the actual cost per animal is lower, and therefore believes that a conventional plant breeding policy is an essential basis for the Scottish national food and drink policy, which itself dovetails with the conclusions of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development that small-scale farming and ecological methods provide the way forward to avert the current world food crisis.
Supported by: Kenneth Gibson, Michael Matheson, Dr Alasdair Allan, Bill Kidd, Jamie Hepburn, Brian Adam, Dr Bill Wilson, Robin Harper, Joe FitzPatrick, Roseanna Cunningham, Gil Paterson, Christina McKelvie, Aileen Campbell, Bashir Ahmad, Hugh Henry, Dave Thompson, Stuart McMillan
Lodged on Monday, January 12, 2009; Current

Thursday, 26 March 2009


For Immediate Release
Thursday 26th March 2009

Highland & Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson – a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Climate Change & Energy Committees – has welcomed today’s announcement by the First Minister today (Thursday) which will secure 85 jobs in Argyll and create at least 250 more.

The SNP Government, Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Scottish Development International (SDI) have been working together for some months to secure a long term future at the Vestas turbine manufacturing plant near Campbeltown, which will now be taken over by Danish firm Skykon.

Its future is now secure and offers long-term employment.

The £45 million investment will see a three fold expansion of the plant saving the present 85 jobs, creating 250 more, and 150 indirect spin-off jobs.

Mr Gibson said:

“This is very good news for Argyll and the Highlands & Islands. Due to the hard work of the Scottish Government, HIE and SDI the people of Campbeltown can now not only feel more secure but look forward to even more jobs.

“That is not only good news but shows how renewables offer us a means to stave off the economic difficulties that many people are facing.

“This announcement shows how renewables can transform the economy of some of the remotest parts of Scotland, particularly in these harsh economic times.

“Investment in renewables shows us the way forward and shows how they can create jobs. That is why the SNP is focussing on renewable energy as the future for Scotland.

“That is why we have seen the SNP Government determine 26 energy applications since May 2007, including consenting 20 renewables projects, totalling over 1.5 GW. That equals one a month - more than during the entire previous 4 years of the previous Labour/LibDem Executive added together.”


Gibson lodges Knoydart motion

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament celebrating the 10th anniversary of Knoydart's land buy out.

The Peninsula which was cleared of crofters in the 19th Century and witnessed an unsuccessful land raid by the seven men of Knoydart in 1948 achieved community ownership in 1999.

Mr Gibson who attended the buy out 'independence day' celebrations ten years ago said…

"There are many stories of oppressive landlords and land raids in the Highland & Islands and Knoydart is certainly one of the most notorious. So it is a pleasure to witness and mark the 10th anniversary of successful community ownership."

"The work and ideas which were galvanised by the buyout is testament that land owned by the community works. The population has doubled and the community is self sustaining. That cannot be said of previous private Knoydart estates in the past or many other private estates today in the Highlands and Islands."

"This was once one for the most deprived areas of rural Scotland. The same cannot be said now. It is also an example of how remote and rural communities can become self sufficient in energy. They are progressing with increased green energy practices which will wean them off diesel generators. As happened with the hydro scheme."

"It is unfortunate that the incorporated membership structure model of community ownership which was used in Knoydart, Eigg and Assynt was not the one adopted by the Scottish Executive in their Land Reform Bill. I think there should be post legislative scrutiny of land reform to adopt a range of models such as the successful one which serves Knoydart."

"It has become clear that there is little if any money left in the Big Lottery fund to help communities follow the lead of other communities buy outs. However I am not convinced that the money which is being taken away form land buyouts to fund the London Olympics will deliver as long lasting and radical change for communities in the Highlands and Islands."

Copy of Rob's motion

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of Knoydart's land by out

That the Parliament congratulates the Knoydart Foundation on the 10th anniversary of the successful buy out; notes that the community buy out model adopted for Knoydart provided expert outside support incorporated in the membership structure; recalls that Knoydart along with Assynt and Eigg applied community models that were not adopted in the land reform legislation subsequently passed in the Scottish Parliament; celebrates the progress in developing sustainable services such as the hydro scheme to serve the peninsula's population; recognises the significant and well-deserved application of public support to aid the development of a severely disadvantaged community which had suffered severe decline under the whims of private landlords; and offers fulsome praise for the recovery of one of the most deprived rural communities in Scotland.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Gibson welcomes crofting change

News release
Immediate release


SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed the announcement that Highlands and Islands Enterprise is to take control of crofting community development on the 1st of April.

HIE will take over socio economic development from the Crofting Commission as well as ensuring integration throughout the crofting counties.

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham also said that £175,000 fund had been transferred from the crofting assistance budget to HIE for crofting development.

Rob said….

"This transfer will enhance the roles of both the Crofting Commission and HIE which will ultimately benefit crofting communities. It will allow the Crofting Commission to focus upon improving business regulation whilst HIE can look to developing communities."

"The decision from the Government makes a great deal of sense. The dual roles of regulating and development in the Crofting Commission was one which could no longer be sustained. Indeed often regulation took precedence over development."

"These changes will allow positive future for crofting communities, with more focus given to community developments there will increased chances for people developed social enterprises or micro - businesses."

"The transfer of money will allow for this to happen. The announcement is a positive step for crofting and will mark a new start for it."


'Victory for Consumer Rights' - Gibson

25 March 2009

The European Parliament yesterday overwhelmingly backed new EU rules on 'novel foods', nanotechnology, genetically-modified products and meat from cloned animals. In a crucial vote, MEPs supported strict safety testing to authorise nanotech food and compulsory labelling for both nanotech food and that originating from GM-fed animals.

The European Parliament had also backed calls from the Greens/European Free Alliance (EFA), to which the SNP is aligned, to withhold authorisation for foods produced with the aid of nanotechnologies until adequate test methods are available. This means a moratorium on nano-foods and therefore a call to the food industry to take existing affected products off the market until their safety is assured.

The Greens/EFA demand for mandatory labelling of nanomaterial ingredients was also supported by the European Parliament by a large majority. This should ensure that progress is made towards closing the GMO-labelling gap with regard to animal products. It also means that food from animals fed with GMOs – whether, meat, milk or eggs – must now be labelled as such.

Speaking from Strasbourg, SNP MEP Alyn Smith said:

"Consumers must not be guinea pigs for new forms of food. I therefore welcome the European Parliament's vote for stronger standards of scrutiny with regards the use of nanotechnology in food. Today, foods containing nanomaterials have already been allowed onto the EU market without any controls or safeguards, even though the potential risks are yet to be adequately assessed."

Speaking from Edinburgh, SNP MSP Rob Gibson said:

"Scotland can benefit hugely from this very positive European Parliament vote. This is a real victory for consumer rights and choice."


Friday, 20 March 2009

Gibson comments on forestry debate

News release
Immediate release


Parties lacking imagination and unable to suggest early means for tree planting was how Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson summed up Labour and Lib Dem contributions to the forestry debate in parliament this week (Thursday 19/03)

Following a backward looking debate Mr Gibson said….

"Yet again the Labour and Lib Dem speakers offered no new solutions to find money for planting trees in the next five years. What we got from most of their speakers were petty and puerile attacks on Mike Russell and Roseanna Cunningham."

"However once the opposition has got their ire out of their system the fact remains that there is still a problem regarding finding the money to help meet reforesting targets it is time for them to be constructive."

During the debate he said….

"The debate on the forestry provisions was an attempt to get people's ideas about how we can achieve such regeneration., but it has broadly focused on one proposal in the consultation which genuinely sought to get money which would allow us to kick start an early stage our attempts to curb climate change through the work of the Forestry Commission. The gap in cash income before joint venture renewable schemes get up and running still has to be filled."

He also said that other ways of gaining money from sell-off forestry land faced difficulties.

"If the Labour party want communities to buy forestry land, they have to ask whether the money from the Big Lottery fund will be available. Much of that money has been sequestered for the Olympics in the east of London. The SNP Government intends to expand public and private forestry plantings to achieve 25% tree cover by or before 2050. We are seeking cross party support for the best means to do so."


Gibson calls for more 'green energy' planners

News release
Immediate release


Rob Gibson SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands has called for an all-Scottish push to train planners and public agency staff in the skills needed to speed up the processing of renewable energy projects.

Speaking after Wednesday's Energy, Economy and Tourism Committee meeting in the Scottish Parliament which focused on the planning process, he said,

" The Committee heard evidence from developers who justifiably complain that the growth of renewable energy production hits too many bottlenecks in the planning system for clean green power to meet our national targets."

"There are too few Skilled planners, Council budgets don't boost training in planning skills, agencies like SEPA and SNH do not respond as quickly as they should and councillors also lack training to deal with complex renewable energy proposals."

"The investment climate we need to make Scotland the green energy capital of Europe relies of every council in the land and all public agencies pulling together. Therefore I was amazed that on the day the Parliamentary Committee heard this evidence that Highland council planning committee was cutting its staff. All councils need to boost planning budgets so that the clean energy revolution can have every chance to lead our country out of recession."


Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Gibson backs call for ex pat Scots to vote in Scots election

News release
Immediate release


A call from the Institute for Public Policy research for the right of Scots abroad to vote in elections to the Scottish Parliament has been backed by SNP MSP Rob Gibson.

At present expats of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are allowed to vote in UK and European Elections however they are barred from elections to devolved bodies and local elections. The IPPR says that this should be changed and ex pats should be allowed to vote in devolved elections.

The Highlands and Islands member has lodged a motion in Parliament calling for the recommendations to be adopted.

Mr Gibson said…..

"I fully back the recommendation to allows Scots abroad to have a vote in the Scottish Elections. The ability to vote will help Scots keep a positive and active interest in the present and future of their country. This link might help them return one day."

"Much as Homecoming 2009 is encouraging the as and historic Scot's Diaspora to come home. Then I feel that it would be a symbolic positive gesture to say to those that have just left that they still have a stake in the country if they choose to use it."

"The report suggests that Scots ex pats would almost prefer to vote in the Scottish Elections than UK one's. I know of at least one person originally from Alness who has moved to the US who was desperate to vote in the 2007 elections and is itching to vote in 2011. I see no plausible reason why he and others should not get that chance.

"I hope that this call Is heeded by the London UK Government who have full powers over elections in Scotland. However I have a feeling that the plea will fall on deaf ears. I suspect that not until Scotland has full powers over elections will there be any movement on the issue.



Copy of Motion
S3M-3729 Rob Gibson: Allow Expatriates Scottish Voting Rights—That the Parliament welcomes the recommendation by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) calling for UK expatriates to be given the right to vote in devolved elections; notes that UK citizens living abroad are able to vote in UK general and European Parliament elections but are not entitled to vote in local council or devolved parliament elections; further notes the IPPR’s findings in 2006 that around 5.5 million UK citizens lived outside Britain; agrees with the IPPR that the freedom to vote would provide Scottish migrants with a way of maintaining a positive link with Scotland and encourage their remigration in the future; hails the Homecoming Scotland 2009 events, which are making efforts to engage with the diaspora of Scots living abroad, and finally calls on the UK Government to transfer the control of Scottish Parliament elections to Scotland so that Scottish expatriates will be given the opportunity to have a say in their country’s future.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Gibson questions planning cuts

News release
Immediate release


SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands Rob Gibson has questioned the large savings in staff costs being reported to Highland Councils Planning Committee which could prejudice renewable energy and housing projects that should lead us out of recession.

He spoke out ahead of the Scottish Parliament Energy Enquiry hearing on planning issues which coincides with Highland Council Planning and development meeting tomorrow (Wed 18th)

Mr Gibson said,

"Both written and oral evidence to the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee enquiry show significant problems with the speed and clarity of the planning system and that the culture change embodied in the Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006 has yet to be felt in planning authorities across Scotland."

"At a time when we need speedy, thorough proposals from planning officials Highland Council is being asked to endorse £433,000 cost savings at the expense of planning staff cuts."

"The 2006 Act should have seen more resources allocated to planning authorities. Therefore we need to know how planning officials hope to deliver recession-busting developments in renewable energy and housing."

"How can SNP Government targets for sustainable economic growth be met when deep cuts in planning staff are proposed?"


Gibson lambasts Royal Mail for axeing of bus service

News release
Immediate release


Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has lambasted Royal Mail for the removal of the postbus service in the North and West.

Mr Gibson was commenting after news that busses which run in Caithness, Sutherland and Wester Ross are to be axed by Royal Mail after the 16th of April .

Speaking after the announcement MR Gibson said…

"This is a crass announcement from the Royal Mail which was carried out unilaterally and without any consultation with the public. This will further isolate already remote communities and hit the elderly in particularly.

"I find I t galling that the royal mail would take this decision without any consultation. Is this how they are practicing for their private future? Surely it is time for a rethink."

"It is vitally important therefore that Highland Council continue to fund rural transport and that new ways are looked at for providing transport to people in remote and rural areas."


Monday, 16 March 2009


News release

Immediate release


SNP MSP Rob Gibson has publicly backed WWF’s Earth Hour initiative and urged constituents, local businesses and organisations to also sign-up to the big switch off later this month.

On Saturday 28 March at 8.30pm individuals, businesses and public authorities in over 930 cities across 80 countries will turn off their lights for one hour in a graphic show of support for decisive action on climate change.

Across the world landmarks taking part include Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Table Mountain in Cape Town, Nelson’s Column in London and Christ the Redeemer statute in Rio de Janeiro. Here in Scotland, iconic landmarks already committed to switching off include the Forth Bridge, Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish Parliament.

2009 is a crucial year for climate change with world leaders meeting in Copenhagen in December to agree a new international climate deal that will come into force when the first phase of the Kyoto treaty expires in 2012. The Scottish Climate Change Bill is also currently making its way through Parliament.

Rob said….

"Every home, every shop, every community facility, every business can show we care wherever we live. We share the planet so Scots can show we care to cut greenhouse gases and save energy."

Dr Richard Dixon, Director of WWF Scotland said:

"WWF’s Earth Hour is a simple way for people to show their support for strong action on climate change. We very much welcome the support of MSPs and the participation of the Scottish Parliament itself. It promises to be the biggest show of support ever, involving communities from around the world in a dramatic hour of action on climate change.”


Editor’s Notes

Picture of Rob outside Scottish Parliament with WWF earth hour board.

WWF's Earth Hour – 8.30pm, Saturday 28 March 2009

*Sign up and switch off to show you want action on climate change.*

WWF's Earth Hour lights-out initiative began in Sydney, Australia in 2007 as an awareness-raising exercise. In 2008, it went spectacularly global when more than 50 million people in more than 270 cities in over 35 countries turned off their lights for one hour in March. This year Earth Hour will be even bigger with towns and cities signing up across Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For more information visit:

Planning keeps countryside out of bounds for housing - Gibson

News release
Immediate release

Rob Gibson SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands has called for a radical rethink to promote local housing instead of planners closing off possible house sites outside towns and villages.

He was speaking ahead of the Highland Council Planning meeting on Wednesday 18th March which is set to agree planning guidelines agreed in principle before the credit crunch hit large house builders and mortgages.

He said….

"Highland planners say they are taking a more flexible approach to housing in the countryside. In response to Scottish Government National And Local planning policy guidelines, they show little sympathy for small builders or families seeking agreement with willing site sellers. "

"Hinterland policy that penalises areas as far from Inverness as Easter Ross has to be revised. It is obvious in credit crunch times that big builders are laying off staff and large projects put on ice. Yet small developments in rural and remote areas are still applied for. I believe there is a whole untapped market for individual and small groups of homes to be built for local people. But I see no willingness by Highland planners to break their bad habits of forcing people into village envelopes. Too often these involve good agricultural land whether around towns and villages or remote crofting settlements."

"It is scandalous that last September the Council agreed that the housing design in the countryside document was a matter of urgency, yet the papers for the Committee on Wednesday show this is still outstanding. That sums up the lack of flair in planning. We need sympathetic designs but eco-friendly one must be positively encouraged."

"I am urging councillors to end the complacency, recognise that house building will lead us out of recession. Take steps to relax hinterland policy and put a rocket through planning from top to bottom to open up the Highlands for people to live in."


Friday, 13 March 2009


News release
Immediate release

News that the Forestry Commission will be able to pursue joint ventures on it’s land to develop renewable energy has been welcomed by Highlands and Islands MSP and Climate Change committee member Rob Gibson.

SNP MSP and member of the Rural Affairs Committee Alasdair Morgan also welcomed the Government’s decision to adopt the Committee’s recommendations on the role of forestry in tackling climate change.

Mr Gibson said;

“Using forestry land for renewable energy development - such as wind turbines, biomass or mini hydro schemes will help Scotland meet its target of 31% of electricity from renewable energy by 2011 and 50% by 2020.

“We must ensure our forest resources play their part in tackling climate change and joint ventures for energy will make a major contribution.

“It’s now time to look at how we ensure we can meet our forest planting targets that will help capture carbon and reduce Scotland’s climate change impact.

“There has been much inaccurate and inappropriate scaremongering in recent months over the future of Scotland’s forests. I hope today’s decisions will put an end to the ridiculous smear tactics employed by the opposition parties on this issue.”

Alasdair Morgan, MSP for the South of Scotland and a member of the Rural Affairs Committee said;

“I believe this is right for Galloway in particular, as a very heavily afforested part of Scotland.

“The SNP Government has listened and unlike our predecessors is responding to the wishes of the people as we try to tackle the serious climate change challenge we face.

“I have to say however, that the process was not assisted in the slightest by the thoroughly shameful scaremongering tactics of Labour and Liberal MSPs and MPs in particular. They added nothing to the debate other than to alarm and misinform.

“The proposal to lease forests would have funded a major increase in tree planting as part of our response to climate change. That requirement still exists and it is now for people to put forward ideas on how to fund that aim.”


Gibson welcomes health board vote

News release
Immediate release

Everyone over the age of 16 will have the right to vote in elections to the health board after the Scottish Government policy was unanimously passed by the Parliament.

The vote will see a number of members elected to health boards around the country.

It will be the first time that people can seek election to the board which will spend over £8 billion in the next year.

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson said….

"This is very welcome move and a great boost to local democracy. It has long been a gripe that health boards were unrepresentative and a closed shop. Now the SNP Government has opened it up and made health boards more accountable to the people they serve."

"This change could be most keenly felt in areas which feel marginalised. For example it became clear in Caithness during the campaign to keep the maternity unit open that there was the health Board had no representation from the County. The SNP's plans will now allow for a greater chance for boards to have a greater geographic make up."

"It will also make sure that the board cannot ride rough shod over community opinion. It will help reenergize public participation in local democracy. In the past successive Governments have shrunk local Government and centralised it this step from the SNP is a reversal of that trend instead of taking power away from local communities it is giving power back. That is a step in the right direction."

"It is also a first for 16 and 17 year olds as they will have the chance to vote in these elections. This will give them an early start in the democratic process and a stake in their communities. Hopefully this early engagement will help take a greater interest in both local and national democracy."


Monday, 9 March 2009




Following International Women's Day (Sunday 8 March), SNP MSP Rob Gibson has announced he will be hosting an event in the Scottish Parliament, Voices of Congolese Women, in partnership with The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

The Minister for External Affairs, Michael Russell, will open the event. Other speakers will include Marie-Claire Saray, an activist from western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as two other Congolese women from diasporas around the UK.

The event will be held on April 28th, the 94th anniversary of WILPF, which was founded at an International Congress of Women at The
Hague, Netherlands. One of the founders was Chrystal Macmillan, a suffragette from Scotland.

Commenting on the announcement, Rob said:

"I am delighted to be able to host this event and very much look forward to the evening. Our aim is to raise international awareness of the dire state of affairs Congolese women are dealing with.

"The situation in the DRC has never been worse. Women are being horribly abused and killed every day. Those that live through it still have to cope with famine, war and disease. The situation is critical.

"In many African countries women represent the majority of the population and are responsible for the daily survival of their communities, yet are frequently ignored or barred from the decision making process. That must change if progress is to be made.

Spokesperson for the Scottish Section of WILPF, Helen Kay, said:

'In 1915 Chrystal Macmillan helped to organise an International Women's Congress, out of which grew the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom.

"The seminar at Holyrood will provide a link between the origins of the organisation and current WILPF work with women from Democratic Republic of the Congo - it will provide an opportunity in 2009 for us to listen to the voices of African women and learn how we can work with them to improve the future of Africa.



To find out more about WILPF:

To find out more about the DRC visit:

To find out more about International Women's Day:

DRC motions lodged by Rob Gibson MSP:

S3M-02964 Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party): Women's Welfare in the Democratic Republic of Congo— That the Parliament condemns the state of women’s welfare in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the widespread systematic rape and sexual violence against women and young girls; notes the indiscriminate nature of the crime with rape victims as young as infants or as old as 80-year-old grandmothers, with many being raped by groups of soldiers and others held as sex slaves; highlights the reported 40,000 victims of sexual violence that were treated in UN and partnered medical centres in 2007 and notes that experts believe this to be only a fraction of the actual number of victims; applauds campaigns such as the Enough Project, which aims to empower Congolese women and girls to put an end to assaults of sexual violence; calls for an end to rape being used as a weapon of war by all armed groups, and finally hails the courageous women of the DRC who are making their voices heard by the international community and demonstrating against this ongoing campaign of physical, psychological and social assault.

S3M-02952 Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party): DR Congo Conflict— That the Parliament expresses its dismay that an estimated 250,000 civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have had to flee their homes and are living in desperate conditions following the latest outbreak of violence in eastern DRC; notes that these refugees are joining more than one million civilians already displaced in the region; commends the aim of the world's largest UN peacekeeping force of 17,000, which is attempting to secure an end to the DRC’s lengthy civil war and ultimately disarm and re-integrate rebel forces into a joint defence force for the region; further notes that the civil war has already caused more than three million deaths, mainly due to starvation and disease, with around 1,200 people dying each day as a direct or indirect result of the conflict; applauds the Disasters Emergency Committee Democratic Republic of Congo appeal, which brings together a unique alliance of the international aid, corporate, public and broadcasting sectors to rally funds and ensure that they go to delivering life-saving food, water, shelter and emergency medical supplies to those affected, and, finally, highlights the critical scale of the crisis, signalling that much more is needed from the international community in order to end the conflict and rebuild the DRC.

S3M-03451 Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party): Democratic Republic of Congo's Financial Turmoil— That the Parliament notes the current financial turmoil of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with particular concern for the $9 billion minerals-for-infrastructure contract with the Chinese Government, which is in limbo due to objections from western donors led by the Paris Club of creditors and the International Monetary Fund (IMF); further notes that the DRC is still being torn apart by a civil war, which has claimed an estimated 3 million lives, and at present endures the highest debt levels in its history; acknowledges the concerns of western donors, the IMF and the Chinese Government as well as the DRC regarding the future of this lucrative investment plan, and finally calls urgently for an amicable agreement to be struck between all the parties involved so that the DRC can move forward and make the desperately needed infrastructure investments that are required to help lift this potentially rich country out of a cycle of despair.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Gibson highlights economic figures

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has pointed to the importance the region plays in the Scottish economy following the publication of recent export figures.

The global connections survey published by Scotland's chief statistician focused on exports from Scotland in 2007.

It showed that the Scotland exports, excluding those figures for oil and gas were worth £20.6 billion. With the highest exporting industry as food and beverages at £4.6 billion.

Other figures showed that the main trading partner with Scotland (excluding other parts of the UK) was the USA whilst France was second.

All in all the largest trading block which Scotland exports to is the EU at £9,455 million.

Commenting on the figures Mr Gibson said….

"These figures are encouraging as they show a 1.3 billion increase on 2006. Whilst these figures are pre the economic slump it shows that the Scottish economy was moving in the right direction. It is a shame that a truer value cannot be gleaned from Scotland as these figures do not show the amount of money that is taken in from oil and gas exports."

"Food and especially drink make up a large percentage of Scottish exports. It shows the importance of the agricultural industry is to the overall Scottish economy. That helps make the Highlands and Islands one of the main drivers in the country and with new renewable energy developments it will become all the more important."

He went on…

"However it is vitally important that certain actions are taken to help develop and grow the economy in the North and West. That means a greater emphasis on clean and green food production. GM technologies will not boost our agricultural produce. Also there needs to be the infrastructure to help develop renewable ventures. Production and exportation of energy could radically transform the Highlands and Islands and lead to them been one of the main drivers in the future of Europe."

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Gibson welcomes rural school protection proposals

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed proposed new legislation from the Scottish Government which will grant greater protection to rural schools
The plans unveiled by Fiona Hyslop during a visit to Dalwhinnie Primary School will tighten up council actions to close rural schools.

The measures include greater consultation with teachers and pupils as well as improved clarity from the Council on the closure process.
The Bill will be debated by MSPs.

Mr Gibson said...

"Rural schools which support a small number of pupils are extremely important. They are often the glue that helps keep remote and rural communities together. It allows parents to live in an area to which they contribute financially and socially. Highland Council has been a good example in recent years but others in the islands and across rural Scotland need a benchmark of good practice. "

"This is yet a further example of the Scottish Government's commitment to remote and rural communities. The closure of a school is a sure fire way to stop young families from moving to an area."

" If a council feels that a school should close then the process must be as transparent as possible and there must be exhaustive consultation to make sure that every avenue to keep the school open is used."

"I hope that the safeguarding of small rural schools will be supported by MSPs across the board."


Note to editor.

The new Bill also proposes that the minimum period for consultations must include at least six weeks of term time. These do not need to be consecutive.

Local authorities will be required to prepare a report following their consultation period comprising:

The number of written responses to the consultation.
HMIE's report on the educational aspects of the proposal.

A summary of views expressed in the written responses and at the public meeting, and of the authority's consideration of and response to those.

Where that has involved exploring or investigating matters or suggestions, details of those activities.

The substance of any inaccuracies alleged during the consultation period and the authority's response to them.

The local authority would not be able to take its final decision until at least 3 weeks after the report is published.

The Bill will replace the current system for referring certain local authority decisions to Ministers for consent with a Ministerial power to call in decisions, but only in relation to school closure decisions and where there have apparently been failures in the consultation or decision making processes. The call-in process will provide a reassurance to those affected by any school closure proposal that a safeguard exists in the rare circumstances where it appears that the new statutory duties contained in the Bill have not been properly fulfilled.