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: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Education/Schools/Buildings/commitments.

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: www.ordinancesurvey.co.uk/freemapsfor11yearolds 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.

Gibson lodges motion on 5,000 year old find

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating the EASE Archeological dig on Westray which unearthed a 5,000 Neolithic figure.

The figure which is though to be a representation of a Goddess is the oldest such figure to be discovered in Scotland which has caused a stir around the world.

Mr Gibson said….

"This is a major find which enhances Orkney's reputation as an archeological treasure trove. It places another piece in the jigsaw of neolithic Northern Europe history and shows that there is still more to be discovered."

"I am glad that Historic Scotland decided to extend the dig. Understanding our past is important to the present and future. That is why archeological digs such as the one on Westray are important."


Note copy of motion:
S3M-04789 Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party): Neolithic Orcadian Figure— That the Parliament notes the major find of a 5,000-year-old neolithic figure, thought to be a representation of a goddess, at the Noltland dig on the island of Westray; asserts that this is a major world-wide find that enhances Orkney’s reputation as an archaeological treasure trove; praises the expertise and dedication of the EASE Archaeology team that is carrying out the excavation on behalf of Historic Scotland; applauds the decision to extend the dig on Orkney, and looks forward with anticipation to the next find.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

£15m masterplan for John O’Groats

Good first impressions’ over bid to tempt tourists to stay for longer than 15 minutes
By Iain Grant
Published: 10/09/2009

MAKEOVER: The John O’Groats House Hotel would be refurbished in the first phase of the plans

A £15million plan that would double the number of visitors to rundown John O’Groats by creating a new village was launched yesterday.

The area attracts 112,000 visitors a year – but many linger no more than 10 to 15 minutes.

Spread over 12.4 acres, the proposals include creating a focal point artwork or sculpture, a harbour square, and the restoration of coastal paths to Duncansby Head and to the John O'Groats Mill.

The first phase costing £3-5million will involve refurbishment of derelict John O’Groats House Hotel.

The hotel, with its distinctive north-facing towers, has continued to deteriorate.

Consultants behind the blueprint set out plans for the area which is famous as the start or end point for charity marathons to and from Lands End.

An arched gateway feature over the start/finish line is planned as well as a harbour square and children’s play area with commercial units.

New self-catering lodges are also proposed to the west of the village, as well as new coastal paths.
This is due to be followed over the next 20 years with a new central retail area, visitor centre, improved car parking and toilets, and a new hotel.

Public development officials in the far north are confident their blueprint can succeed where a series of others over the past 20 years have failed. They are now looking for private investment to kick-start phase one.

Local community representatives have generally welcomed the plans to transform the famous end-of-the-road area, overlooking the harbour.

The plans were revealed by consultants GVA Grimley, hired by Highlands and Islands Enterprise to draw up the masterplan.

GVA’s Richard Slipper said the design was to encourage people to spend more time at Groats after a survey showed the average visitor stays no more than 10 to 15 minutes.

A questionnaire prepared as part of the £40,000 study found only a third of those questioned had a positive first impression of the place.

Mr Slipper said: “On a conservative estimate, John O’Groats attracts about 112,000 visitors per year.

“We believe that can be doubled over the longer term and, through making the place more attractive, we think we can increase the tourist expenditure by a factor of two to three.”

HIE envisages phase one being completed in two to three years.

HIE’s Carol Gunn said: “This masterplan gives John O’Groats the opportunity to offer visitor facilities which will match its iconic status.

“This for the first time gives a plan for the whole site rather than piecemeal development ideas.”

Ms Gunn said HIE is talking to prospective private-sector investors, and added: “It is, of course, going to be very challenging in the current climate.

“We are however working with colleagues from Scottish Development International to move forward and get investment interest.

“There is investor interest out there despite the recession.”

Ms Gunn said HIE is sure the new plan will be good news for employment, although the agency has not made any specific projection of the number of jobs which could be created.

The plans were given a cautious welcome by of Dunnet and Canisbay Community Council chairman John Green. He said: “First impressions are very favourable. It’s quite well laid out and there’s loads of good ideas.

“What most people in John O’Groats view as the number one priority is getting the hotel back in business.”

Far north 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.”

Mr Gibson has in the past backed plans for a community buyout of the derelict hotel and the adjoining land.

He believes this option should be kept open.

He said: “I fear we will not see immediate progress if there is no compulsion on the owners of John O’Groats Hotel to modernise it.”

Among those at yesterday’s launch was a retired lighthouse keeper John Groat, 87, who can trace his family back to the 15th-century ferryman Jan de Grot after whom John O’Groats is said to have been named.

Mr Groat, of 16 Provost Sinclair Road, Thurso, said: “I was quite impressed with what is being proposed.”

Slainte Blas

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament praising the latest Blas Festival which will end this weekend.

Mr Gibson's motion comes on the back of strong ticket sales for the festival which has also seen around 4,000 school children attend concerts.

The festival takes place the length and breath of the Highlands. The opening weekend saw the premier of Blair Douglas's Gaelic Mass in St Andrew's Cathedral and a host of other gigs from Caithness & Sutherland to Skye and Lochaber. Artists from Nova Scotia and the rest of the UK and Ireland also played during the festival

Mr Gibson who attended a gig in Resolis village hall last Saturday said...

"Blas festival is truly orientated towards the grassroots and community. The way in which it makes uses of village hall as well as bigger venues and other spaces makes it perfect for the Highlands."

"The emphasis on Gaelic and local participation, as was evident with the Kilteran fiddlers at the Michael Marra gig on the Black Isle, is great. The local connection offers a taste of traditional Highland culture as well as show casing music from throughout Scotland and beyond."

"The organisers and participants deserve huge credit for the festival. The inclusion of 4,000 tickets for school children is a master stroke it will help them engage with great quality music both local and beyond, as well as getting them involved with community events. It is to the next generation to carry on the terrific musical culture of the Highlands and Scotland so early exposure to some of the best is a great way to make sure it happens."

"The strong ticket sales shows that there is an appetite for music in the Highlands and that should be recognised and promoted more by our tourism bodies. Blas is great taste of what we have on our door step. That rich culture is something that resonates around the world. It is up to Visitscotland to recognise this and promote it more vigorously than it does at the moment as genuine attraction which is integral to Scotland's and the Highland's identity."

"Similarly the strong sales indicate that this festival is not adversely affected by the recession as well as bringing communities closer together. Funding for this excellent event has to continue to satisfy audiences across the region and beyond."


Note copy of motion lodged in parliament.

S3M-04809 Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party): Slainte Blas— That the Parliament applauds the start of the fifth Blas Festival, taking place throughout the Highlands from 4 to 12 September 2009; notes the contribution that the festival makes to cultural and community life in the region and the emphasis placed on the Gaelic language; recognises the variety of venues used, ranging from Eilean Donan Castle to community venues such as village halls the length and breadth of the Highlands, making it a truly local and grassroots festival that offers a unique taste of Highland and traditional culture; congratulates the organisers and participants, including artists from Nova Scotia, for an excellent opening weekend, which saw the premier of Blair Douglas’s Gaelic mass at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Inverness, as well as a host of concerts in a range of venues across the region; recognises the importance of this festival in the annual cultural patchwork of Scotland, and encourages further support from funders and satisfied audiences for the future of Blas.
Lodged on Tuesday, September 08, 2009; Current

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Gibson welcomes dentist figures

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed a substantial percentage increase in NHS dentists in Orkney.

New figures released from the Scottish Government show that from March 2006 till March 2009 the amount of NHS dentists has risen by 56%

Separate figures show that the number of 3 to 5 year olds (between December 2007 and March 2009) who are were register with NHS dentists has risen 22.6%.

Mr Gibson said…

"These are great figures which shows the hard work being carried out by the Scottish Government to increase access throughout the country and make the NHS an attractive place to work.

The increase in children from 3 to 5 who are registered with an NHS dentists is great to see. It is well known that children who get into good oral health habits early on are much more likely to continue these into later life.

"According to the latest National Dental Inspection Programme survey Children's oral health is improving and the most recent survey shows that the dental health of primary one pupils in Scotland has reached the highest levels ever recorded.

"Whilst these figures are encouraging it is important not to get complacent the Scottish Government will be as committed as ever to increase the amount of NHS dentist whilst implementing programmes to improve children's oral health."



1. The following information shows, by health board area, the number of children aged three to five registered with an NHS dentist as at March 2009 and in brackets the percentage increase since December 2007.

Orkney: 342 (22.5 per cent)

2. The following information shows the number of NHS dentists in each health board area in Scotland as at March 2009 and in brackets the percentage increase since March 2006.

Orkney: 17 (54.5 per cent)

Monday, 7 September 2009


News Release
Issued Monday 7 September
For immediate use

Rob Gibson, SNP MSP for the Highlands & Islands, lodged a motion in Parliament highlighting the reported £1billion thrown away by Scots families every year on food waste and encouraging people to wise up with their waste.

Rob said:

"This shocking level of waste is completely avoidable. It equates to £550 a year thrown in the bin by the average family in Scotland because we aren't planning our meals properly and storing food appropriately.

"I am pleased to highlight the good work of Golspie Recycling and Environmental Action Network (GREAN) who would like to expand and recycle food waste in a similar manner to New Deer's Keenan Recycling - they process over 60,000 tons of green and food waste each year, but their efforts only further highlight the gargantuan amounts being diverted from landfill.

"It's great that the Scottish Government is including measures in its draft zero waste plan encouraging better use of food and personal measures that will reduce this kind of food waste, but it's up to every individual to become proactive in their practice.



Copy of Rob Gibson's motion:
S3M-04783 Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party): Waste Aware Scotland-wide— That the Parliament expresses concern at the reported £1 billion worth of food thrown away in Scotland each year, equating to an average of £550 per year thrown out by each household; notes that over two thirds of what is binned could have been used if it had been stored properly and if meals had been better planned; highlights the work of Golspie Recycling and Environmental Action Network, a community-based social enterprise recycling firm in Sutherland, and other good examples around Scotland that set a benchmark to promote positive community awareness on waste minimisation, and encourages Scottish families and households to be wiser with their waste, one of the many simple ways to reduce their carbon footprints and save money.

For more information on GREAN or Keenan Recycling see:

Friday, 4 September 2009

Climate change cash for OCA

Friday, 4 September, 2009

ENERGY services provided by a Caithness community organisation are to be expanded thanks to Scottish Government funding to the tune of £72,200.

Ormlie Community Association will be putting some of the money towards a new thermal imaging service, designed to reduce carbon emissions, which is to be launched later this month. It is expected that the funding will help remove 2619 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere.

Welcoming the announcement, Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson said:

"This a great award, it will make a real difference to people throughout Caithness. I have long advocated the increased use of thermal cameras for housing to see where heat is being lost. This initiative will help raise awareness of actions people can take to prevent energy loss and save money.

"The Scottish Government is committed to cutting carbon and increasing living standards in every part of the country, their climate-change fund is an example of this and I look forward to the changes it will bring."

Manager of Ormlie Community Association Lorna Simpson was she was "absolutely delighted" with the award, explaining that the funding would go towards the expansion of Caithness Energy Advice, an offshoot of the association.

The local advice service is presently in the process of employing new recruits - in total the energy project will involve four members of staff.

Mrs Simpson said: "People are far more aware of their heating costs and we can give them help and advice on how to reduce their fuel bills."

She added that CEA was seeing more people suffering from fuel poverty.

The local project is one of 37 across Scotland to make a successful application to the Scottish Government Climate Challenge Fund.

In Orkney, the Eday Partnership received £46,851 to help islanders increase sustainability and reduce carbon emissions.

Gibson encourages youth groups to cash in

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has urged youth groups across the region to help put ill gotten gains to good use.

He was speaking following the opening of the latest round of funding of the Scottish Governments cashback to communities scheme.

The £1 million pound pot of funding has been taken from assets of criminals to reinvest in youth schemes across the country.

The fund is being administered by YouthLink Scotland. Any youth project interested in applying for funding can find guidance and application forms at www.youthlinkscotland.org

Mr Gibson said that groups across the Highlands and Islands should apply....

"Groups throughout the region have already benefited from this funding such as Lybster junior football club and Wick Academy FC. So I would encourage more to make applications as soon as possible, so that they can help make a real difference."

"The vast majority of youth are good people however some go bad for many reasons but if there are well resourced groups which give youngsters an outlet for positive activity then it can only help stop anti-social behavior."

"The deadline for a share of the one million pound funding is fast approaching and I would urge interested organisations to apply."



1. It's easy to apply - there is guidance and application forms at www.youthlinkscotland.org

Included in the assessing panel are young people, so funds are allocated by young people for young people

2. This is part of the Cashback for Communities initiative. CashBack For Communities is a programme of young people's activity funded from assets seized through the Proceeds Of Crime Act 2002. Its main objective is to provide a wide range of positive activities for young people between the ages of 10 to 19 across Scotland.

3. There is a funding pot available that can help increase youth work events and activities in all areas of Scotland. If you work or volunteer in this sector your project could be eligible for this additional support.

4. Case studies can showcase the sort of activities that have been supported already. Below are case studies of two projects, one in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh, that have received CashBack for Communities funding.

Greater Easterhouse Arts Company www.puredanceNRG.com

Pure Dance NRG is a series of free dance events for young people aged under 18 who live in Glasgow East. Funded by CashBack for Communities, the scheme brings together the biggest dance acts, DJs & MCs to perform live at 12 events. The aim is to bring together young people from communities across Glasgow East to socialise, and have fun - safely.

Hosted by the Greater Easterhouse Arts Company and run in collaboration with local dance DJs, police and youth groups, Pure Dance NRG nights attract between 250 - 350 young people each month.

The CashBack funding has been crucial in not only securing the acts for each event, putting on transport for young people but also allowing youth workers to attend on a Friday evening without having to compromise on their own programme of activity.

Tickets for Pure Dance NRG gigs are only available through youth clubs or street workers in the area. This ensures the safety and enjoyment of everyone at the events - young people will turn up, with their youth worker, feeling confident and reassured that it'll be a great night and there will be no trouble.

6VT Youth Café, Edinburgh (6 Victoria Terrace, EH1 2JL)www.6vt.info

The 6VT Youth Cafe has been running for over 15 years and during that time has helped over tens of thousands of young people from all over Edinburgh and surrounding areas. 6VT welcomes any young person from 13 -21 years old, but the majority of attendees are 15 - 18 year old.

The Café runs three evening drop in sessions a week, where young people from a range of different cultures and backgrounds hang out with their friends in a safe and friendly environment, try new activities, learn new things and meet new people.

In addition to drop in sessions comprising activities such as breakdancing lessons, fashion shows and cookery classes, 6VT also offers longer term programmes that are designed specifically for vulnerable young people who may be experiencing problems at home or school, or who have been referred to the Café for offending.

Nine months ago, 6VT Youth Café received 15,000 pounds from CashBack for Communities to enable 12 young people referred to 6VT Youth Café from teaching and support staff to take part in a Horse and Stable Management Project. Run in conjunction with Lasswade Riding School and Oatridge College, the project saw the young people learn to ride, care for the horses and learn about running a stable.

Once a week, the group - which consisted of 10 girls and 2 boys, all aged between 14 and 16 - received a riding lesson, took part in group treks and helped out at the Riding School. Their jobs included mucking out stables, feeding and grooming the horses and learning about the care and welfare of the animals.

At the outset of the project, none of the group had ever been near a horse and for many the thought of sitting on one was terrifying. However just two weeks ago, at the project's final session, each of the 6VT riders galloped and raced along John Muir beach watched by family, friends and carers.

5. The closing date for applications for the latest round of funding is October 31, 2009, but youth organisations that have good project ideas are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

Be Waste Aware

S3M-04783 Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party): Waste Aware Scotland-wide — That the Parliament expresses concern at the reported £1 billion worth of food thrown away in Scotland each year, equating to an average of £550 per year thrown out by each household; notes that over two thirds of what is binned could have been used if it had been stored properly and if meals had been better planned; highlights the work of Golspie Recycling and Environmental Action Network, a community-based social enterprise recycling firm in Sutherland, and other good examples around Scotland that set a benchmark to promote positive community awareness on waste minimisation, and encourages Scottish families and households to be wiser with their waste, one of the many simple ways to reduce their carbon footprints and save money.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Gibson calls for reforms to allow active crofting

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP has called for active crofting which will continue into the future to be the outcome of the latest crofting reforms.

Mr Gibson's call came during a debate a Holyrood on the Government programme for the next term.

In it he focused on the agricultural sector and particular the issue of crofting reform.

During his speech he pointed to a report from the crofters in the township of Camuscross on Skye which showed why change is needed.

In the township of 39 crofts one third of the crofts are absentees, three-fifths of the township’s crofts show signs of agricultural neglect, slovenly decrofting procedures have left one family without direct vehicular access to their croft, one croft has been absentee occupied for three generations, the Crofters Commission has replaced one absentee tenant in the township with another, despite local interest in the croft, houses built on apportionments in the township are being used as holiday homes one absentee, who has never lived in the village and has no family connection to it, has been using their croft as a holiday home business for more than 20 years –taking around £50,000 gross annually on it. This croft and two holiday letting houses is now on the market for offers over £590,000.

Mr Gibson said that a situation like that is why crofting needs to be reformed.

Speaking after the debate Mr Gibson said….

"The Scottish Government is interested in active crofting. Widening access and improving the experience. To be fair the opposition and crofters want that too. However all summer the opposition has been stirring things up so that the issues of the reform has been lost in a welter of hyperbole. I hope that when they meet with the Environment Minister next week that they are a little more circumspect and less reactionary."

"The future of crofting is too important for it to be sacrificed for short term political gain.

"More crofters will have to take responsibility. Since 1999 a vocal minority have opposed the vast majority of reforms going. This does not help the future of crofting. If inaction is the outcome then there will probably be no crofting in the future. They to have to become more conciliatory. A decade of negativity has produced nothing.

"Crofting has a role to play in the future of Scotland I have no doubt about that however it will need to move on if it is to encourage more people (who are the life blood of crofting) into it."


Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Gibson welcomes climate change funding for Eday

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has warmly welcomed Scottish Government funding for the Eday Partnership in Orkney.

Mr Gibson was speaking following the announcement by Environment Secretary Richard Lochead that nearly £47,000 was to go to the Eday partnership from the £27.6 million climate change fund.

The money will aid it's sustainability as a community as well as reducing carbon emissions by a further 34 tonnes per annum by the end of 2016. The appointment of a full time Carbon Reduction Co-ordinator will assist the community to achieve its goals.

Mr Gibson said….

"This a great award for Eday partnership. I am sure it will make a beneficial difference to the island and community."

"The Scottish Government is committed to cutting carbon and increasing living standards in every part of the country. The climate change fund is an example of this and I look forward to the changes it will bring.

"Eday is an example of how a community can work with renewable energy to help bring about cohesion. This money will help them continue to develop their skills and enhance the community."


Note to editor

Link to info on climate change fund:

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Gibson welcomes high police numbers

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed figures which shows a vast increase in police numbers for the Northern Constabulary area.

Since coming to power the SNP has fulfilled it's election pledge to recruit 1000 police officers throughout Scotland.

In the Northern area 70 extra police have been added in the past two years and a total of 109 have been recruited since 2003.

Mr Gibson said that the it was good news…

"Extra bobbies on the beat is a goal that many people wanted and it has been delivered by the Scottish Government."

"The SNP have delivered on their promise of increased in the Northern Constabulary area in Scotland as a whole. It is a commitment to safer communities and great tribute to the hard work of Justice Sectary Kenny MacAskill and Northern Constabulary to deliver this outcome."

“With more police on the streets, more people in jail than ever before and the lowest ever rates of recorded crime the SNP in Government is making Scotland’s streets safer.

“There is always more to do and that is why the SNP will continue to invest in police training, to offer kids alternatives to a life of crime through our cashback for communities scheme and to reform our criminal justice system to ensure those who should be locked up are locked up.”