Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Gibson welcomes forest funding for Dunnet

News release
Immediate release

North SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed Scottish Government funding for Dunnet Forest Trust to facilitate closer involvement between the community and the forest.

Mr Gibson was speaking following an announcement from Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham. The award is for £41,509 for a project to strengthen local community involvement with the forest through volunteering, events, school and youth activities.

Mr Gibson said…

"This is great news. Forests play an important role in people's quality of life especially in Caithness where trees are scarce."

"Getting more community involvement across the age spectrum is something worth perusing. It leads to a common sense of ownership and belonging as well as promoting healthier living for people. and I am happy to see that the Dunnett Forest Trust has secured the funding from the Scottish Government to this end."

"I look forward to seeing the outcomes that the funding will make."



The grants are from Forestry Commission Scotland’s Woods In and Around Towns initiative and Forest for People challenge funds. These funds are designed to help woodland owners revitalise existing woodlands for the benefit of local people and support community-based health and education activities.

Amongst the projects receiving grants are:

· Dunnet Forest Trust: awarded £41, 509 for a project to strengthen local community involvement with the forest through volunteering, events, school and youth activities.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Gibson queries rheumatology figures

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP has written to NHS Highland querying the figures used to justify the cutting of beds at the Rheumatology unit in Dingwall.

The unit closed four beds till the next financial year following claims from NHS Highland that beds occupancy was running at just 70% of capacity. That depends on how you calculate the days available to patients, many of whom spend 11 days in the unit.

Mr Gibson has written to Mid Highland CHP General Manger Gill McVicar asking for clarification over the accuracy of their figures.

Mr Gibson said…

"It is important that the statistics used by the Mid Highland CHP to justify the temporary cutting of beds are explained. I have two contrasting figures regarding occupancy so it would good to find out which one is correct 68% as alleged by the CHP or 90% as calculated by patients."

It is important that the rheumatology unit is retained. It is used by people from throughout the Highlands and Islands. I am convinced that it could run at a higher capacity that is needed. It is a unique unit in Scotland and would be unacceptable to the public if it was to be downgraded."


Friday, 22 January 2010

Gibson meets Cabinet Secretary over Dornoch abattoir

News release
Immediate release

Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands discussed the future of the Dornoch abattoir when he met Richard Lochhead the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture in Parliament.

Mr Gibson has been working closely with efforts by local producers and HIE to find a solution to the closure notice signalled by ANM group of Inveraray.

He said after the meeting on Thursday afternoon,

"I discussed ways to save threatened rural abattoirs at Dornoch and Forres. There are niche markets to serve and since lamb production is seasonal other EU countries must have cracked this problem. Richard Lochhead agreed that an understanding of how other EU states coped with seasonality and fluctuating markets for lambs must be established."

"Issues such as the excessive costs of the meat hygiene regime and vets requiring a presence at the time of slaughter are an issue that needs revisited."

" Meanwhile a consortium of local producers who can guarantee throughput for Dornoch [Premier Scottish Meats] and Forres [Highland Country Foods] would seem the best outcome. We can also study how the Stornoway abattoir works and gain valuable knowledge to help save the Dornoch and Forres plants.


Thursday, 21 January 2010

Gibson welcomes law review

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed news that consultation on the laws of succession is to be started.

Mr Gibson received the assurance from Communities safety Minister Fergus Ewing during question in the Scottish Parliament.

The minister responded that proposed changes would be put to Parliament following the consultation however said that that was not likely to happen until after the 2011 Scottish Elections.

Mr Gibson who had introduced a Members Bill on the issue in 2006 said that changes are needed to the law which dates back to the 1960s.

In his Bill Mr Gibson proposed amending the existing law to remove any distinctions between heritable and moveable property, and to equalise the rights of inheritance so that the spouse, civil partners, co-habitees and heirs can succeed to heritable property in the same manner as to moveable property.

At the moment when a person dies intestate (without a will) any land or heritable property (see below) is passed to the eldest child regardless of how many children are in the family or the marital status of the deceased. Mr Gibson wants that changed so that

• Where a person dies intestate survived by a spouse, but no children, the spouse should inherit the whole of the estate

• If the deceased had no spouse, but left children, then the children should wholly inherit

* If the deceased left a spouse and children, than his estate should be split in an agreed proportion between the two groups

• If legal shares are to be paid out on agricultural property, provisions could be made for them to be paid out over no more than 10 years

He said changes along those lines would make practical uses to areas such as farming and other land ownership …

"The announcement from the Minister is very welcome. It shows that the SNP Government sees the importance making this law fit for purpose in the 21st century. This consultation will be a good exercise in fleshing out arguments and to make change that is needed."

"The law must to be fairer to families and therefore to society in general. I look forward to the consultation and the changes that will come form it."


Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Ross-shire world leader to be eaten at Parliament

News release
Immediate release

A Ross-shire first world champion is to be eaten during a celebration in Parliament next week.

For the 3rd consecutive year Cockburn's haggis from Dingwall (which won the honour as the First World champion Haggis Maker) will be served at the Scottish Parliament Burns night celebrations.

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson, who secured the reappearance of the Haggis, said that Cockburn's continued to show the way in haggis making.

Mr Gibson who will be singing at the event also said…

"Cockburn's haggis is the chieftain of the haggis race. I've yet to taste a better. It goes down extremely well at Parliament and it was not too difficult to get the organisers to agree to serve it again."

"Great credit goes to the butchers at Cockburn's in Dingwall. The Scottish Government food policy is about promoting and recognising the healthy and sustainable and excellent produces from right across Scotland. In the Highlands and Islands we are spoilt for choice."

"Produce such as Cockburn's are key to this policy and will confirm Scotland as a land of food. I am looking forward to raising a glass to the bard and the haggis next week."


Monday, 18 January 2010

Gibson questions Minster on Dingwall Unit

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has gained an assurance that the fate of the rheumatology unit has not been sealed following the temporary cutting of beds.

Mr Gibson gained the assurance in a question to Health cabinet Secretary Nicola Sturgeon during themed questions last week.

Ms Sturgeon said that she was aware of the situation at the Dingwall unit and said that NHS Highland were carrying out a review into it and no decision had been taken as to the future.

Ms Sturgeon further confirmed that a decision to cut the number of beds from 14 to 10 was a temporary move till the end of the financial year and did not pre pre-empt the review which is at an early stage.

Mr Gibson said…

"I am reassured by the Minister's response. I was perturbed to hear about the cutting of beds earlier this week. However the fact remains that the review is ongoing and it no decision has been made on the unit.

"This unit is well used and loved by people across the Highlands and Islands and it would be short sighted and wrong to close it. It offers rest-bite and peace of mind to those that use it. The expertise that are available there is without parallel in Scotland."

"I fully back the campaign to keep the unit open. If it goes it will be a backward step for the Highlands and Islands I hope that those carrying out the review will listen to the campaign and see that it makes sense to keep it open."



Copy of Q & A (14/01/10)

1. Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what progress has been made in discussions with NHS Highland to ensure the provision of a seven-day rheumatology service in Dingwall providing specialist facilities to the whole national health service board area. (S3O-9079)

The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing (Nicola Sturgeon): I apologise to members for my rapidly disappearing voice. You will be pleased to note, Presiding Officer, that that will lead to shorter answers than normal today.

A review of the rheumatology service across Highland, which includes the Highland rheumatology unit at Dingwall, is currently under way. The review is at an early stage and no decisions have been made. The issue was raised with me at the board's annual review on 7 December, and I have asked the board to keep me informed of progress.

Rob Gibson: Does the cabinet secretary agree that NHS Highland is indulging in sharp practice in using an efficiency savings drive in the mid-Highland community health partnership to remove four of the 14 beds at the Dingwall rheumatology unit while conducting a whole health board review of the service that may take longer than this financial year? Does she also agree that NHS Highland should clarify what efforts it is making to offer relief to as many patients as possible who want to use that well-loved unit, which has welcomed patients from all over the Highlands and the Western Isles?

Nicola Sturgeon: I can inform Rob Gibson that I have received information on the matter from NHS Highland and reassure him that the decision on beds to which I will return in a second—in no way pre-empts the wider review of the rheumatology service to which I referred.NHS Highland has made a temporary move, until the end of the financial year, to reduce the number of beds from 14 to 10. It has advised me that the beds in Dingwall were underoccupied, with the average occupancy rate being 70 per cent. Because the service operates mostly on the basis of planned admissions, it is possible—indeed, it is the best use of resources—for it to operate at near full capacity. I am also advised that the change allows the operation of a new day-case service for patients who need infusion therapy. Currently, those patients have to travel to Inverness.Members will appreciate that, in the current economic climate, the Government has taken steps to protect the NHS budget into the next financial year. Nevertheless, all NHS boards are required to ensure that they use funds efficiently, which means using funds to deliver the best quality of service to patients. I note the points that Rob Gibson has made and ask him to accept my reassurance that the decisions that have been made in the short term in no way pre-empt the longer-term review.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Gibson raises abattoir issue with First minister

News release
immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has raised the issue of the closure of the Dornoch and Forres abattoirs at First Ministers Question Time.

Mr Gibson asked an emergency constituency question in Parliament following the announcement this week that both abattoirs were to close with the loss of 40 jobs…

Mr Gibson has already written to HIE Chairman Willie Roe regarding the situation and contacted the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochead.

Today he raised the issue with the First Minister asking if the Government could do all it can to try and save jobs at both sites.

The First Minister responded that the Government would and to that end the Cabinet Secretary would be meeting with Rob on the issue.

Speaking after Mr Gibson said….

"It is important to raise these matters at the highest level. I am heartened by the First Minister's response as he said the number of jobs under threat are proportional huge for the small towns concerned. It is important that HIE is working hard to apply the Government's wishes to find the best solution to this problem"

"Both sites are attractive propositions for people to invest in. If they are allowed to close then it would have a detrimental effect on the local economy. Local and organic meat processing could be enhanced in line with the widely acclaimed Scottish Food and Drink Policy."


Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Gibson and Thompson congratulate Eigg on cracking win

News release
Immediate release
Highlands and Islands SNP MSPs Rob Gibson and Dave Thompson have congratulated the isle of Eigg after it was named as one of the winners of the NESTA Big Green Energy challenge.The island will now (along with two other community groups) share in the £1 million prize fund after seeing off 350 competitors. Eigg was named as one of the winners after it managed to slash its CO2 emissions by 32% in the last year by generating renewable electricity and installing insulation and solar panels to producing local food and developing low-carbon community transport schemes.

The community has been awarded £300,000.

Rob Gibson said…

"This is fantastic news for Eigg it is testament to the ingenuity and strength of the community. This a major achievement and shows that what happens on Eigg is among the most exciting developments happening in the UK I congratulate them on their achievement."

"It is also a vindication of what community ownership can achieve. I visited the islands last year and was heartened to see that the community is going from strength to strength. They are an example of what can be achieved. In the climate change era more and more communities will need to follow the lead that Eigg is showing. It is good to see the community be recognised for their forward thinking actions."

Dave Thompson said….

"The rural entrepreneurship of the Eigg is no great surprise. They think in innovative and creative ways to solve their problems and they do them in greener and cleaner ways, which is why they have won this prestigious award."

"I look forward to seeing what the community does next."

Mr Gibson has also lodged a motion in Parliament congratulating Eigg on their win.



NESTA is the largest independent endowment in the UK. Its mission is to support innovation to drive economic recovery and solve some of the UK's major social challenges. NESTA is a world leader in its field and promotes innovation through a blend of practical programmes, policy and research and investment in early-stage companies.

About the Big Green Challenge
The Big Green Challenge, launched in October 2007, is NESTA’s £1million challenge prize designed to support community-led responses to climate change. Through the Big Green Challenge, it has been our aim to unlock the potential power of community-led innovation and uncover what support communities need to transform their bright ideas into viable solutions that will improve all of our lives.

In early 2008, 355 groups came forward with a wide range of imaginative and practical ideas for reducing CO2 emissions in their communities. We selected 100 of the most promising groups, who received support from the Big Green Challenge team to develop their ideas into detailed plans. From this group, we shortlisted ten finalists who received funding and support to put their ideas into practice over the course of a year to compete for the £1 million prize. They had until October 2009 to reduce CO2 emissions in their community.

What have we learnt from the Big Green Challenge? When given the right incentives and support, communities are highly adept at coming up with new solutions. The Big Green Challenge received over 355 entries, including over 150 proposals from entirely new groups created in response to the challenge.

§ Nearly 60 per cent of the communities looked to achieve multiple outcomes, rather than the single outcome focus that is more typical of government campaigns.

§ This initiative reached individuals and groups that grant-led initiatives can’t: 40 per cent of the applications were from groups that are not registered charities, companies or public bodies.

§ The Challenge reached new audiences: More than a third of applications came from groups without a previous focus on environmental issues.

§ The process inspired more than just the winners: Over 50 percent of entrants who reached the second stage of the Big Green Challenge are continuing with their work despite not being selected as one of the ten finalists.

The Winners:
Isle of Eigg is an entire island community which is working together to reduce carbon emissions through a wide range of projects, from generating renewable electricity and installing insulation and solar panels to producing local food and developing low-carbon community transport schemes. This has led to a reduction in CO2 emissions of 32 per cent.

The Green Valleys is a community renewable energy scheme in Wales which has reduced carbon emissions by 20 per cent. Reductions were achieved across 155 households and 4 community buildings, including personal and community transport and the installation of a number of hydro schemes.

Household Energy Service (HES) is a free environmental survey service for local households in Shropshire, which has reduced carbon emissions by 10 per cent. Reductions were achieved through the provision of a home energy auditing service carried out by community volunteers and the subsequent energy efficiency actions carried out in 460 participating homes.


Low Carbon West Oxford (LCWO) was highly commended by the panel of judges. It is an environmental project featuring a range of community-owned renewable energy initiatives, which has reduced CO2 emissions by 28 per cent. These reductions were achieved across 55 households, including personal transport and community/ commercial buildings.

Gibson calls for action on Dornoch abattoir

News release
immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has called on HIE to help attract buyers for the Scotch Premier abattoir in Dornoch. Mr Gibson made the call following news of the imminent closure of the site which would see the loss of 29 jobs.

Mr Gibson has written to HIE asking for their help to identify ways that the abattoir can be kept open. He has also contacted rural affairs Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochead to raises his concerns over the closure.

Mr Gibson said that that the abattoir is a vital component for the North Economy.....

"The abattoir is very important. The staff are highly trained and motivated and the site should be viewed as an attractive investment for a new owner. i hope that HIE will act quickly to try and bring in new owners."

"I am shocked by the news the impact of 29 job losses in the Dornoch area will be harshly felt. I hope that a concerted campaign can be started to keep the site in use. to let is close would severely dent the local economy as well the wider
farming community."

"The meat which comes from around Dornoch and the wider Highlands is of the utmost quality a new owner is needed so that this quality is not lost.


Gibson calls for more cycling capacity

News release
Immediate release
Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has called for increased cycling provision to be written into the next Scotrail franchise.

Mr Gibson was commenting after a Transport Committee session focusing on how to increase the cycling and walking participation rates in Scotland.

During the committee session Rob raised the issue of provision for cyclists on FirstScotrail services and how it could be increased.

Some of the witnesses to the committee suggested that increased train services (thus increasing the options for rail users to take their bikes) could be a way of doing it as well as encouraging stations to offer cycle hire.

Mr Gibson commented after that an transport system had to work for the benefit of cyclists and pedestrians…

"Some interesting suggestions were made in the committee, which bear closer scrutiny. It is important that cyclists are encouraged to take their bikes on a train. I think, not withstanding the current weather, more and more people are wanting to cycle to school or work or for recreation. Therefore we have to have a transport system which is integrated and takes that into account."

"I am interested by the idea that if there were more trains then that increases capacity, having cycle hiring facilities in the station is also one which should be encouraged. Yet I feel that there need to be increased capacity on actual trains to
make sure that more people can take their bikes."

Monday, 11 January 2010

Gibson welcomes funding for Highlands

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed funding to help create jobs for the Highland region.

Mr Gibson was commenting after the First Minister Alex Salmond announced that The Highland local authority area is to benefit from nearly £4 million worth of European funding for projects which will create jobs.

The area will receive over £3.5 million from the European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund following the latest allocation of European structural funding.

The Highlands and Islands region has been allocated a total of £18 million which will support the creation of 170 jobs and provide more than 5,000 individuals with help and support to enter employment.

Mr Gibson said....

"This funding will make a real and positive difference for the Highlands . I welcome the firm steer from the First Minister and the SNP Government to job creation."

"The SNP Government is using all economic levers to protect the existing workforce and take the country out of recession."

"The funding for Highland will deliver vital money for training and job creation. This Government is committed to working with our partners in local authorities, enterprise networks, voluntary sector, business community, unions, colleges and universities to ensure Scotland is an attractive environment for investment, with the skilled workforce and quality infrastructure required for success."



Highland - £1,280,000 from the European Social Fund and £2,441,000 European Regional Development Fund

The funding will be used to assist Community Planning Partnerships (CPPS) ongoing work to support employability in their areas. The 11 CPPs which applied for the latest funding, as well as CPPs in Clackmannanshire and Edinburgh, have already received a share of over £50 million from the 2007-13 European Structural Funds programme.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Gibson welcomes Government funding for the Highlands

News release
Immediate release

SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed the news that the Highlands is to received around £20million from the Scottish Government to boost the economy and help tackle climate change.

Mr Gibson comments come after from Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochead announced the latest recipients of the rural priorities scheme within the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP).

All in all 147 projects in the region will benefit from the funding. Among these is a £435,484 grant for Curdie Farm in Easter Ross to increase yield and cut transport costs. The funding means that they will be able to retain the 11 jobs already there and add part time staff during harvest time.

Also benefiting is Achiltibuie Garden ltd. The garden which was founded in 2008 sells hydroponic growing kits to grow vegetables, salad plants, herbs and fruit will receive £66,000. for a visitors centre.

Other schemes included are money for the diversification of a Nairn farm into free range egg production and species conservation near Grantown-on-Spey

Mr Gibson said…

"This is great news for the Highlands. In harsh economic times this funding will not only benefit the economy but also the local community."

"Rural communities are key in a strong Scotland so it is great to see them getting the support they deserve through this funding. I congratulate all the projects which have been successful in securing funding. It will make a positive difference to each community strengthen them and making them more sustainable. As well as offering employment locally. It is good news for the start of the new decade."

"I congratulate all those who have benefited from the grant it shows the ingenuity and hard work that exists in local business and I hope that they continue to from strength to strength on the back of this funding."


Thursday, 7 January 2010



For Immediate Release
Thursday 7th of January 2010

Commenting after this morning’s statement on the extreme winter conditions that have affected Scotland and the rest of the UK, Highlands & Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson - a member of the Scottish Parliament's Transport Committee - attacked Labour’s attempts to politicise the issue and highlighted their hypocrisy since they had attempted to cut £10 million from the winter roads budget last year.

This morning Labour attempted to make inaccurate claims that there was shortage of funds to tackle the challenging conditions on Scotland’s roads and failed to praise the work of gritting squads who have worked throughout the Christmas and New Year period. Mr Gibson warned that Labour’s plans to cut £10 million a year from winter maintenance would have seriously damaged Scotland’s capacity to deal with the current cold weather.

As a Transport Committee Report from January 2008 shows Labour attempted to cut £10 million from last year’s budget, a further £10 million this year and another £10 million in the year ahead.

Commenting Mr Gibson said:

"Labour’s attempts at politicising this serious issue are as dodgy as all their claims and also highly hypocritical. It just shows how Labour has simply become the anti-SNP party and will go through the weirdest contortions to attack the SNP.

"At a time when local authorities and the Scottish Government are working together to keep roads clear it would have been Labour’s plans for a £10 million funding cut that would have had a disastrous impact.

“The last few weeks highlight the folly of Labour’s proposal to cut £10 million a year from the winter road maintenance fund.

"Shockingly this move was also backed by MSPs for some of the worst affected areas.

"Labour must make clear that they will not seek to make such inappropriate proposals again when this year’s budget comes to Parliament.

“It is gritting teams that have put a massive amount of effort into keeping the trunk roads clear and we should praise their hard work over the last few weeks.

"The Scottish Government’s increased investment in winter road maintenance has helped keep the network moving.”



Minutes from the Transport Committee Report Jan 08

The Committee notes the Cabinet Secretary’s comments in relation to the winding down of the route development fund and the on-going activity he has highlighted in relation to the promotion of Scotland. However, a majority of the Committee is of the view that steps should be taken to provide alternative and specific support to encourage the development of new air routes.

304 It therefore recommends that the Support for Air Services spend should be increased by £10m per annum and that this should be funded by a transfer from the Routine and Winter Maintenance Level 3 line. (304 Charlie Gordon, Alex Johnstone, Cathy Peattie and David Stewart agreed; Rob Gibson, Patrick Harvie and Shirley-Anne Somerville dissented; Alison McInnes abstained)

Finance Committee Report Jan 08

Elaine Murray proposed the addition of the following text:

The Committee recommends that a Support for Air Services Fund should be created, at a cost of £10m per annum. This will be funded by a transfer from the Routine and Winter Maintenance Level 3 line.

The proposal was disagreed to by division: For: 3 (James Kelly, Tom McCabe, Elaine Murray), Against: 4 (Derek Brownlee, Joe FitzPatrick, Alex Neil, Andrew Welsh), Abstentions: 1 (Liam McArthur).

John Swinney - Budget stage 1 debate

The Labour Party came forward with a range of propositions, none of which was successful in the Parliament's Finance Committee. Those included the bizarre proposition to reduce the winter maintenance budget just as Scotland was in the grip of some of the heaviest snow we had seen in many years—a short-sighted proposition if ever I saw one.

Gibson backs Beauly-Denny upgrade decision

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed the decision to grant planning permission for the upgrade of the existing Beauly to Denny overhead power distribution line.

Mr Gibson said that the decision (announced in Parliament by Economy Minister Jim Mather) was vital for the future of the Highland and Islands economy as well as allowing Scotland to secure energy independence and make a substantial contribution to reducing carbon emissions in Europe.

Mr Gibson asked if Mr Mather if the necessary expansion of the transmission network will eventually include under sea cables at a later date?

Mr Mather responded that the grid would need further strengthen to allow greater capacity to deliver power from Scotland.

Commenting after Mr Gibson said….

"I welcome this decision. As hydro power allowed the green power from the glens to be realised in the 20th century. This decision will allow the green power from the coasts to be realized for the 21st century. "

"This will secure Scotland's energy independence. In time and with care the transmission network has to be expanded to include under sea cables. They can play their part in transporting the power from the coasts around Scotland and beyond. "

"Beauly to Denny has been a highly contentious issue. It is important that communities are listened to. However there cannot be anymore delay in starting the upgrade. Thanks to the actions of the Labour and Liberal Democrat's , who started the lengthy Public Inquiry in 2006, much time has been lost. Further delay will not help either the Highlands and Islands economy or Scotland's carbon emissions targets.

"Beauly to Denny is vital to the role which Scotland can play in cutting carbon and arresting the onset of climate change. Time is of the essence and I hope that the upgrade is completed as soon as possible."