Wednesday, 28 October 2009


News Release
For immediate use

28 October 2009

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

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

A historian and former Guidance teacher, Rob said:

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



Scotland's History Online found at:

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

Gibson questions HIE over land unit

News release
Immediate release


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

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

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

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

Speaking after the Committee hearing Rob Gibson said,

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

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

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

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

He said,

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

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


Monday, 26 October 2009

Gibson calls for greater recognition of clearance villages

News release
Immediate release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, 22 October 2009

Gibson calls for debate on Highland Hospice financial loss

News release
Immediate release

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

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

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

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

Mr Gibson said…

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

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

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



Copy of motion for debate

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

Copy of questions to Scottish Government

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

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

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

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Gibson welcomes EC intervention over UK Transmission charges

News release
Immediate release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Copy of Rob's motion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 19 October 2009

SNP backs further progress on Land reform

News release
Immediate release

The SNP Conference voted overwhelmingly to take land reform forward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Monday, 12 October 2009

Gibson echos fears over War games

News release
immediate release

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, 9 October 2009

Gibson seeks Mr Bean the Banker

News release
Immediate release

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

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

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

The Highlands and Islands Members said….

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

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

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


Thursday, 8 October 2009

Gibson calls for rural housing increase

News release
Immediate release

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking after the debate he said….

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


Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Gibson & Farlow demand MoD action

News release
Immediate release

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Gibson added…

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

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

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


Monday, 5 October 2009

Gibson Congratulates Reids of Caithness

News release

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

Mr Gibson said:

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

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

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


Note copy of motion lodged in parliament.

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

Far North Beef Event Success

News release

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

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

He went on…

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

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

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


Thursday, 1 October 2009


News Release


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PM knew of problems with Icelandic banks in March

FSA was warned not to allow Kaupthing to take over Singer

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

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

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

Contact: SNP Holyrood Press Office - 0131 348 5761

MoD exercise blocks Laxford Bridge

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

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

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

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



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