Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Gibson welcomes marine spatial planning

News release
Immediate release


Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed as a massive step forward an announcement from the Scottish Government that it has commissioned a Marine Spatial Plan for the Pentland Firth and waters around Orkney.

The Marine Spatial Plan will set out opportunities for main marine energy resource area and act as a planning tool for developers, regulators and existing users of the marine environment.

This spring a Marine Bill will be brought forward by the Scottish Government in which Marine Spatial Planning will be a key component.

Mr Gibson said...

"This is a huge step forward marine development in the Pentland Firth and Orkney which will have positive ramifications for the economies on both sides of the Firth."

"Marine Spatial Planning and the Marine Bill means that it should be perfectly possible to allow development whilst protecting the environment and current practices such as fishing and shipping around the North coast and Orkney."

"This news makes the future of marine renewables development in the Pentland Firth all the closer. 2009 will be a momentous year for renewables in Caithness and Orkney. It is vital therefore that the issue of upgrading the electricity transmission grid from Dounreay to Beauty and on southwards to markets is addressed as so as possible. The economies of Caithness and Orkney rely on speedy development."


Note to editor

A draft planning framework will be available by April and will develop this into an initial marine plan, through extensive consultation, over the next 12 months. The plan will fit with the outcomes of the Marine Bill process.

Initial discussions on the plan have taken place with the Scottish Renewables Forum, The Crown Estate, SNH, HIE, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Power, Highland Council and Orkney Islands Council and the Pentland Firth Tidal Energy Project Board

This support and strategic planning for wave and tidal power is part of a wider Renewable Energy Action plan for Scotland, due to be published by the Scottish Government in the summer.

The Scottish Government will bring forward a Marine Bill this spring that will ensure sustainable seas around Scotland. The Marine Spatial Plan will be a key part of the future management of the Pentland Firth and waters around Orkney. More details can be found here:

The Crown Estate announced in September last year an application process for commercial sea bed lease options in the Pentland Firth and surrounding area for marine energy devices. It is the first marine power location to be made available for commercial development anywhere in the UK.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Gibson backs borrowing calls

News release
Immediate release


Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has backed a call to allow borrowing powers for the Scottish Parliament as a way to kick start transport infrastructure projects in the North and West.

Mr Gibson has signed a motion from Ochil SNP MSP Keith Brown which calls on the UK Government to give the Scottish Parliament the same powers as the Northern Island Assembly.

At present the Northern Ireland Assembly is allowed to borrow (up to £2 billion) however the Scottish Parliament is barred from any borrowing.

Mr Gibson says that it is time for that to change.

"The current economic circumstances means that different actions are needed to deal with the faltering economy, that means an ability to borrow and bring forward public works programmes which will stimulate the economy is key."

"A Scottish Parliament with borrowing powers could have real and positive benefits to the Highlands and Islands. Increased money could allow transport projects to be started. This would improve safety as well as giving a much needed boost to the construction industry."

"A continued bar on borrowing would be unfair and counter productive. There is a strong will in the Scottish Parliament and the wider country for this to happen it is up to Westminster to listen and act. It is time for the UK Government to give Scotland a chance to emerge from the downturn in a strong and competitive position by allowing its Parliament borrowing powers."

"Indeed given the flat refusal from the UK Government to bring forward the funding for a new Forth Bridge then it could be argued that it is imperative that the Scottish Parliament is given powers which could kick start the economy."

Copy of Motion
S3M-03270 Keith Brown (Ochil) (Scottish National Party): Borrowing Powers for the Scottish Parliament— That the Parliament recognises that one of the major aims of any government is to facilitate sustainable economic growth; acknowledges that the current lack of fiscal powers limits the Scottish Government’s ability to react to changing conditions in a way that is attuned to Scotland’s distinct circumstances; notes that the Northern Ireland Assembly can borrow up to £2 billion, and calls on the UK Government to listen and respond to the growing demands from both inside the Scottish Parliament and beyond for borrowing powers and to take any action necessary to put those powers into place so that Scotland can emerge from the current economic downturn in a strong, competitive position.
Lodged on Wednesday, January 21, 2009; Current

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Gibson welcomes rail freight opening

News release
Immediate release


Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed the opening of a rail freight terminal in Inverness which will serve Tesco stores in the Highlands.

Mr Gibson said the move is a step in the right direction, but said that potentially more could be done in future to utilize freight rail in the North and West.

"This is a welcome news which will take and estimated 13,000 lorries off the A9. Anything that will lessen the pressure on the road is a positive move."

"However I hope that this does not signal an end to the use of freight on the railways North of Inverness. This service could be expanded to the stores in Caithness. The Georgemas junction used to handle goods from Safeways I hope in future that it could again handle goods from other supermarkets.

"This would have the added benefit of upping the usage of the Far North line whilst further decreasing the amount of lorries on the A9 north of Inverness."



Copy of photo

A Tesco Lorries rounds a bend on the A9 at the Ord of Caithness

Monday, 19 January 2009

Gibson welcomes dental expansion

News release
Immediate release


Thurso is to receive an expanded dental service thanks to funding from the Scottish Government.

The funding package announced by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon sees £1.3 million being allocated to Thurso.

The funding means that the existing dental facility at Dunbar Hospital will be extended. The extension will provide a minimum of 4,000 extra places.

Speaking after the announcement Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson said....

"This is welcome funding which will go some way to easing the dental crisis in Caithness. It shows that the Scottish Government is following up on it's promise to improve dental services in throughout the country.

"This news makes it a win win situation for dental patients in Caithness . The Scottish Government's commitment to the Lochshell Dental practice in Wick and now the news of investment in Thurso will allow for more spaces thus reducing waiting list's and waiting times in the county."

"Given the tight financial situation capital build projects are important to help stimulate the economy. So this announcement will also benefit the construction industry of Caithness."


Thursday, 15 January 2009

Conventional plant breeding 'essential' - Gibson

News release
Immediate release


Highlands and Islands SNP MSP has called conventional plant breeding 'essential' to National Food and Drink Policy .

Mr Gibson has lodged a motion for debate in Parliament which welcomes the 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.

The motion gave examples of successful non GM agricultural research both in the development of new varieties and projects which could benefit livestock.

He said…

"There has been great strides made by non GM research recently. Not least the successful trialing of blight resistant potatoes in the Black Isle. The Sapró potato which was developed in Wales was tested on the Black Isle proved to be blight resistant and suited to the Scottish climate. The crop research unit in Dundee has produced a purple pigmented potato which is highly nutritious. While the Scottish Agricultural College has joined the Green Pig Project which seeks use home grown legume varieties to reduce reliance on imported and expensive soya bean meal and so reduce costs for Scottish livestock producers."

" These examples are proof that the non GM technologies are effective and do not pose the risks to the environment that Gmseeds do. It could also provide a key to solving the world food crisis."

"The Scottish Government are developing a national food and drink policy. Conventional research can underpin this policy which in turn will aid producers, consumers and the environment."

"I hope that I can gain enough cross party support in Parliament for a member's debate. It would be an ideal opportunity to air the arguments about what is the best for Scotland. The NFU Scotland have been calling for a debate on GM hopefully this can signal the start of the parliamentary leg of a science based alternative."



Copy of Rob's motion

Short Title: Supporting Conventional Plant Breeding

S3M-03205 Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): 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.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Gibson backs tartan competition

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Mr Gibson was speaking following a competition launched by the Presiding Officer to find an official tartan for the Scottish Parliament. The competition is open to textile students studying at further education colleges throughout Scotland.

Mr Gibson said…

"It is a great opportunity for students in Scotland to contribute to the development of the national parliament. It is a prestigious prize which will be exhibited around the world which is really quite exciting."

He added that it was important that tartan is made in Scotland…

"There is a problem that whilst much of tartan designs come from Scotland the same cannot be said for the garments. A condition of the competition should be it is woven by Scottish mills in Scotland."


Thursday, 8 January 2009

Gibson looks forward to Homecoming

News release
Immediate release


'An opportunity to unite around the theme that Scotland is a great place to come to and that we have something to sell around the world' was how Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson started his contribution to the SNP Government's debate on Homecoming Scotland.

Mr Gibson said that the year, which celebrates the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, was a great opportunity to encourage Scot's from around the world to come home.

He welcomed the multiethnic outward looking parts of the year which will see a Bollywood step dance spectacular, a Jamaican Burns night and the Polish spring event which charts the closeness of the two nations.

He also said that music should be the key to attracting people….

"Bearing in mind out involvement in music and our contacts through the love of music we should recognise the excellent work of the Hebridean Celtic music festival held in Stornoway and other venues in July, which has asked supporters to send e-cards around the world not just to advertise the festival but also remind everyone that it part of the year of home coming."

He also highlighted the success of the Blas festival which was a spin off of the 2007 Highland year of Culture….

"Blas are already attracting visitors from Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, Eire, Australia and France as well as performers to this country."

He argued that certain lessons can be learned from the Year of Highland culture in….

"We should not measure the benefits of homecoming Scotland only in bed nights and tourist dollars. We can be sure, however, that we have an opportunity to set in place a year that we can measure at the end more clearly than the parameters that were set for the Year of Highland Culture 2007. The report on that festival said that it was one of the most ambitious and complex cultural projects ever staged in the UK. Homecoming is more so. We should learn lessons from Highland 2007 and tighten up how we spend the money which is available."

He also stated that Homecoming offered an opportunity for people of Scotland to visit other parts of their own country. And that Homecoming should tap into every connection Scotland has throughout the word, pointing out that the strong historical and cultural links which exist with Russia.

He ended by saying that he was pleased that VisitBritain had given full support to the venture.


Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Go with the Flow for world recognition

News release
Immediate release


Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has called for people power to put Caithness and Sutherland on the World Heritage map.

Photo: Landscape near Forsinard next to the Flow Country.

Mr Gibson call comes in the wake of launch of a consultation from the UK Culture, Media and Sport Department to seek people's views on which areas should be considered for UNESCO world heritage status.

Scotland already boasts five sites including Skara Brae and St Kilda. Now Mr Gibson is calling on people to nominate the Flow Country at Forsinard which straddles Caithness and Sutherland.

The Flow Country is thought to be the largest single area of blanket bog in the world and is already on the tentative list for World Heritage status.

Mr Gibson (who opened a National Nature Reserve there last year) believes that extra support could push that the Flow Country needs to make it a World Heritage Site....

"The Flow Country at Forsinard is truly unique. You will not find a parallel in the world. The habitat allows the rarest of wildlife and vegetation to live. It is important as a natural carbon capture area which cannot be over emphasised in this climate change era. Forsinard can be put on the world map."

"The benefits which would accrue to both Caithness and Sutherland that the status would bring cannot be underestimated. It would bring the area to global attention and stimulate interest and bring visitors. It would be a win win situation."

"I hope that people of Caithness and Sutherland and around Scotland will nominate the flow country."

You can access the consultation to nominate the flow country at which is party of the UK Culture Media and Sport Department Website.



Further details of Flow country

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Gibson backs call for power bill cut

News release
Immediate release


Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has backed a call for the immediate reduction of power bills following the steep decline in wholesale energy prices recently.

The decline has not been passed on to either domestic consumers, businesses or public sector users such as the NHS or local authorities.

The call came in the form of a motion to the Scottish Parliament from Kenneth Gibson MSP.

Rob said….

"When the price for wholesale gas and electricity rises companies electricity and gas companies are waste no time in passing the increases onto consumers. However when the prices fall there is a distinct time lag in a corresponding fall.

"Wholesale prices have fallen by around 40% recently, however people throughout the Highlands and Islands are forced to pay the high tariffs of last summer. This is totally unacceptable."

"In an economic down turn and with the cold weather it is very frustrating that people are being forced to pay over the odds for their electricity and gas."

"Price cuts should be passed on in full by the power companies or the UK Government, which has reserved powers in this area, should make them”



Copy of Motion lodged by Kenneth Gibson

S3M-03157 Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP):

That the Parliament notes that the forward price of gas for delivery in winter 2009 has plummeted from 109p per therm in July to 63.6p per therm in the last days of 2008, a decline of almost 42%; further notes that the forward price of electricity fell from £94.50 per MWhour to £56.65 over the same period, a decrease of over 40%; is concerned that power companies that were so keen to raise prices rapidly and in full during 2008 are much more reluctant to pass on full price cuts quickly, with consumers expected to wait until February or March for probable price cuts of only 5% or 10%, with 20% cuts at best; acknowledges that the wholesale cost of gas and electricity represents about two-thirds of the total cost of supply borne by energy providers, and believes therefore that hard-pressed energy consumers, both domestic and business, should receive full price cuts and swiftly or that energy providers should be compelled by the UK Government to make the cuts.