Thursday, 20 May 2010

Gibson welcomes John O'Groats award

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed an announcement from the Scottish Government for funding for a biomass boiler in John O'Groats.

John O'Gara's Leisure Ltd have received £51,808 from the Scottish Biomass Heat Scheme.

Rob Gibson said…

"This is good environmental and economic news. I am glad that John O'Groats have befitted from the Scottish Government funding. It will make a positive difference for the area."

"The Scotland wide scheme is vital in making a viable renewable heat network and a low carbon economy a reality. It creates green jobs and gives new ways of working for the forestry Commission making the economy more sustainable."



Background of Scheme

The Scottish Biomass Heat Scheme is Scotland-wide, with funding of 3.3 million pounds over 2 years from April 2009 to March 2011. The Scheme is managed in partnership between Scottish Government and Forestry Commission Scotland and is targeted at businesses, specifically small and medium sized enterprises. The scheme also encourages the development of district heating demonstrators from private developers. The maximum grant available is 100,000 pounds, although additional support for district heating projects may be considered on a case-by-case basis.


John O'Groats Leisure Ltd - Caberfeidh House/Seaview Hotel
Redevelopment, John O'Groats - 51,808 pounds;

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Gibson welcomes bogging good news!

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed news that the Scottish Government have confirmed that peatlands are to play a vital role in cutting Scotland's green house emissions.

In letter to the convener of the Transport Infrastructure and Climate Change Minister Committee The TICC Minister Stewart Stevenson said that he had decided to increase Scotland's target for cutting green house emissions from 0.5% to 1.0%. He also said that the restoration of peatlands would play an important role in meeting those targets.

A long time champion of the importance of Scotland's Peatlands, some of which have been christened the Amazon rain forest of the Northern Hemisphere (because of the amount of carbon they hold) Mr Gibson said....

Rob Gibson said,

"This is great news for Scotland in particular which contains 80% of the UK's peatland. And it's not just the Highlands and Islands but many lowland and border areas have deep peat which must not be allowed to dry out. The Flow Country in Caithness and Sutherland is the biggest blanket bog of all and deserves World Heritage status."

" Many jobs can be created to restore peat moors which have dried out due to economic activity. Already Scottish Water spend huge sums removing peat from drinking water sources. Much of this is due to run off. Blocking the drains in peatlands can help clean our water. Also the Forestry Commission and many wind farm developers are saving deep peat."

"I am delighted that one of Scotland's great natural resources can help stem climate change by keeping peat lands wet and in addition maintaining biodiversity that is threatened by warmer longer summers. For relatively small sums of money a full quarter of Scotland's reduction target in Green House Gasses can be achieved through peat conservation. This is bogging good news."


Gibson welcomes exchange upgrade

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP has welcomed news that internet provision for communities that are served by Gillock and Lyth Telephone exchanges are to be improved this summer. Mr Gibson was commenting after he was contacted by Bower Community Council about the poor quality of internet provision in the areas which are served by the telephone exchanges of Gillock and Lyth.

Mr Gibson emailed the head of Scottish Affairs at BT Ian Shanks regarding the issue. Mr shanks emailed back saying that the Scottish Government had scheduled upgrade work to increase the speed of broadband at the two exchanges this summer.

Mr Gibson said that he had raised the issue of rural broadband with the Enterprise Minister Jim Mather in last year following his survey into broadband speeds in parts of the Highlands.

"It became clear to me during my consultation last year that lack of Broadband in rural areas of the Highlands is a major issue. However the Scottish Government have been working to rectify this problem. Unfortunately upgrading telephone exchanges takes time, however it is a process which the Scottish Government is committed to and due to the inaction of the past there is much work to do."

"I am glad that the people who are served by Gillock and Lyth will see considerable improvements in their provision. I presented the findings of my consultation to the Enterprise Minister Jim Mather. It shows that action can happen to improve the situation."



For immediate use: Wednesday 19th May 2010

A new report, released today in Aberdeen, shows that there is enough offshore renewable energy resource to generate the energy equivalent of a billion barrels of oil a year – exporting energy to the rest of the EU, and that this could generate the equivalent of £2700 per person by 2050.

SNP MSPs today called for this potential to be backed up with the release of the fossil fuel levy, changes to the transmission charging regime and the continued development of a North Sea grid.

Commenting SNP MSP Rob Gibson said:

“Scotland has truly won the off-shore energy lottery. This report shows that as well as the continued oil resources under the North Sea there is enormous renewable energy potential that can truly power Scotland’s future.

“Renewables in Scotland are now a serious business and there is major development taking place.

“As a key priority the new UK Government must back the SNP’s ambitions for our renewables industry and act to release the £250 million fossil fuel levy for investment in renewables and take immediate action to ensure transmission charges imposed from London do not discriminate against Scotland’s huge renewables potential.”

SNP MSP for the North East Maureen Watt added her voice to calls for investment in Scotland’s energy future as she urged the new government to support SNP efforts to deliver a North Sea grid.

“The North East has reaped the benefits of the offshore oil industry which has provided skilled employment to so many people and we now have a real opportunity to be at the cutting edge of offshore renewables development.

“However, if this industry is to live up to its potential success, then it is vital that the infrastructure to export the electricity we produce to our European neighbours is in place. As the Offshore Valuation Study recognises, the construction of a European super-grid is absolutely essential to the economic future of the North East, the Scottish Government has played a key role in the early development of that grid and the UK Government must make it a priority.”


1.The Offshore Valuation Study report can be found at:

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Gibson promotes map system for crofting future

News release
Immediate release

Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands has highlighted the importance that a legally valid mapping system has to promoting a positive future for crofting communities during a debate in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Gibson's argued that such a system would root out absenteeism and give crofters greater security.

Mr Gibson also welcomed the vote which passed the first stage of the Governments Bill on Crofting reforms was passed in the Scottish Parliament with out amendment. He said that the amendment proposed by the Labor Party (which was voted down) would have kept crofting in the 19th Century. He said that the Bill had the potential to take crofting into the 21st century.

Responding to Labour and LibDem MSPs who oppose a map based croft register, he said:

" Previous governments before and after devolution have failed to instruct the Crofters Commission to root out neglect and deal with absenteeism. In the 21st century the mapping of all land holdings is seen as key to plan land use and give individual land holders secure, legally binding title.

"Crofters who sell part of their crofts pay for registration, in around 500 cases a year, this SNP Government welcomes agreement by MSPs that a community based croft mapping scheme is acceptable. But ultimately boundary disputes and individual crofters responsibilities will be best served by a legally-binding map based register."

Mr Gibson welcomed the passage of the first stage of the Crofting Bill saying.....

"I am delighted that the Labour amendment was defeated tonight. This would hold back crofting regulation into a pattern more suited to the 19th century. I hope to see the new Crofting Commission draw up crofting development plans. These will help planners and crofters to build a bright future."

"I also hope to introduce an amendment to the bill at the next stage to introduce simple annual reports by Grazing Committees as to the uses and misuses of crofting land. This should act as a spur to the Crofting Commission to priorities the removal of the worst examples of neglect and help crofters make far better use of the available land."


Gibson disappointed by waste decision

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has reacted with disappointment to news that, following an appeal, a waste to energy plant has been given the go-ahead for Invergordon after it was blocked by Councillors earlier this year.

Mr Gibson was commenting after an successful appeal against the council's initial decision to refuse the application for one to be built in the Easter Ross town.

Mr Gibson said…

"The huge carbon footprint of gathering waste for such a plant should be spurring us to reuse, repair, recycle as these are our best weapons against any economic case for such a waste to power plant."

"We should be looking to produce less waste not more so that they can power waste to energy incinerators. This is a retrograde step which will not be welcomed by the vast majority of people in Invergordon and surrounding area. "

Mr Gibson said it was disingenuous to blame the SNP Scottish Government for the decision. He pointed out that the reporter was independent of the SNP and the decision was not party political.

Mr Gibson who was speaking following a zero waste debate on Wednesday in the Scottish Parliament in which he took part said…

"The LibDem administration has no cause to lash out. Along with SNP Cllr Maxine Smith we have been strong and consistent opponents of the scheme and will continue to be. However now we see the Lib Dem led Highland Council administration in their true light. If they oppose incinerators, why was there no amendment by their MSPs in the Zero Waste debate in Parliament to that effect? Or are they merely as divided as ever when it comes to the crunch?"


Gibson welcomes assurance on GM

News release
Immediate release

Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands has been assured by Roseanna Cunningham Scottish Government Environment minister that she welcomes the EU Parliament idea to label foodstuffs with an indicator of the GM contents.

Mr Gibson drew attention to the EU Parliament Environment Committee 2nd reading debate last week. Overwhelmingly members agreed that products produced from animal feed with genetically modified feeding stuffs must be labeled with the words "produced from animals fed with genetically modified feeding stuffs".

Mr Gibson sought support from the Scottish minister to help Scottish shoppers to benefit from the widespread wish in Europe to allow consumers to have a clear view of the GM content in animal feed that is used to produce food for human consumption.

Ms Cunningham pointed to technical difficulties in detecting GM material in food products such as meat, milk and eggs from livestock that have been fed on GM feed.

Mr Gibson commented afterwards that consumers have a right to know.

"I can see in Germany and other countries that labelling food that is GM free and GM animal feed free has a premium. I hope that the EU Commission in its review of GM regulations will implement the EU Parliament decisions. This would be good for Scottish producers and welcomed by consumers just like many our European neighbours."


Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Gibson marks VE day

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP marked the 65th Anniversary of VE day by placing flowers on the arctic convoy memorial at Rudha an t'Sasain on the south shore of Loch Ewe.

Mr Gibson said that he had paid his respects to some of those who made the victory possible.

Recently he spoke on behalf of the Scottish Government and Parliament at a ceremony in Edinburgh where 30 survivors of the convoys received medals from the Russian Consul General Sergey Krutikov for the 65th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War as the Russians call it.

This year also saw the Welsh guards parade in Moscow to commemorate the ending of the second world war in Europe.

Mr Gibson said...

"Just like the Russians we in Scotland respect our veterans and remember those who set out on the convoys never to return. It is a fitting link with Russia which is becoming an important partner in trade, education and cultural exchanges. I will be encouraging the Consul General to put Wester Ross as a place of interest for tourists and families of Russian veterans of these indescribably tough times."

Mr Gibson also said that the site should be better advertised by the Council.

"I hope that Highland Council can refresh the Naval Trail that was inaugurated in the days of Ross & Cromarty District Council to include a better signpost the Convoy Memorial at Rudha an t'Sasain at the end of the road beyond Cove on the south side of Loch Ewe."



Picture taken on 9th May at the Convoy Club memorial.

Gibson and Farlow express concern over Raptor find

News release
Immediate release

SNP MSP Rob Gibson and SNP Sutherland Councilor George Farlow have reacted with concern to news that three Golden eagles and other birds of prey have been found dead in East Sutherland in the past week.

Northern Constabulary have confirmed that the birds were found though a cause of death has not as yet been ascertained.

However Mr Gibson and Farlow believe that the find is worrying…

Mr Gibson said…

"I am deeply troubled by the fact that so many raptors have been found dead in such a limited area. An incident like this looks like poisoning and if it is proved to be so it is a worrying turn of events."

"East Sutherland area is attractive to many visitors. This incident has the potential to be a stain on our area. I hope the police investigation is speedy, thorough and successful."

Cllr Farlow said…

"The wildlife of Sutherland such as the iconic Golden Eagles are a major draw to the area. They are important for environmental and economic reasons. I am deeply concerned by the find. "

"We do not know the outcome of the forensic analysis however if foul play is involved then it is a worrying development. If they are found to be poisoned then it suggests that there could be a concerted campaign against birds of Prey in East Sutherland. This needs to be stamped out before it spreads."

Both Mr Gibson and Cllr Farlow urged anyone with any information to contact the Police.


Thursday, 6 May 2010


For immediate use
6 May 2010

A briefing note sent to Councillors from Planning Director, Stuart Black has highlighted the fact that valuable time has been wasted in getting Nigg back to work by not pursuing Compulsory purchase more vigorously.

The note highlights work that has to be done and revisits timescales for action first discussed in 2007. The report refers to a forthcoming Strategic Planning Committee in May but has been sent ahead of an SNP motion to Highland Council next week to urge the Council to

Former Strategic Planning Chair and SNP Council Group Finance spokesman, Councillor Drew Hendry said

“The briefing note restates what Councillors were told previously and it is a huge disappointment that the document seems to indicate a further significant period of time to get things going. We were given outline times of 18 months to 2 years for the process to obtain a “back to back” agreement and work required for a CPO in 2007 and in 2008. Consultants have produced a Masterplan for Nigg, but what we have here is a clear sign that work has effectively stopped whilst KBR were, ultimately, wasting time. Any background work should have been done alongside the fruitless waiting around for KBR” He added “It is vital for Highland that we finally get this thing by the scruff of the neck and get a move on, every additional delay pushes our ability to take advantage of new jobs further away. I believe that we could have a World leading renewable industry here and that will only be achieved if those in control start showing some urgency”

Local SNP Councillor, Maxine Smith, Cromarty Firth said

“The detail of the report is largely old news, but the admission that we are virtually back to square one is alarming. It is also worrying that officers seem to be briefing with a recommendation ahead of a member’s motion to Council, I think that opens up serious questions about the lack of political leadership on the council, if, once more, officers are trying to “frame” responses to get the results that they want as opposed to the view of the elected members representing their constituents”

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson said

“An early CPO could have led to the area being ready to take advantage of a substantial jobs boost for a large part of Highland. Our fears have always been that there has been a lack of will to get the job done. I think folk in Highland will have to look at this Lib Dem led Council and ask why they are no further forward. If Highland loses out on Nigg’s potential then they will know where to look”



Briefing document follows:


The Council is committed to securing the early release of the Nigg site in line with its approved Masterplan which focuses on the renewable energy potential of the Yard.

A report will be submitted to the PED Committee on the 26th May covering three issues:

a) The announcement by KBR on the 14th April that it would not be proceeding with its plans to re-develop the yard but would be seeking alternatives for the redeployment of the site including the prospective sale of the facility

b) To consider various options for securing the future development of the site including the prospect of promoting a CPO. In essence following a twin track approach by supporting the sale and release of the entire Nigg site whilst keeping the pressure on by undertaking the preparatory work to promote a CPO.

c) The first step in the CPO process is to draft a Back to Back Agreement which would be advertised in the OJEU for interested parties with the aim of securing a ‘preferred bidder’ before the CPO process begins.

The PED Committee will consider a paper to instruct Officers to procure external assistance to prepare the Back to Back Agreement. Thereafter the Draft document would be brought back for approval before advertising in the OJEU.


1. The Nigg Development Masterplan and associated documentation has gone through all necessary stages as has been approved by the Council as ‘supplementary guidance’.

2. This would underpin any CPO process.

3. There has been no direct contact from KBR with the Council since their announcement on the 15th April.

4. DSM has completed the acquisition of the adjacent 800 acre Dow Chemicals Site and are understood to have approached KBR to discuss the Nigg Yard site in which they have an interest. They propose to develop the Dow Chemical land and the Nigg Yard as a Business Park for large scale assembly/fabrication and to use some 20-30 acres of the yard area for decommissioning.

5. It is understood that KBR’s selling agents DTZ are awaiting instructions from their client on whether the sale will be on the open market or whether discussions are to be opened with DSM or other parties who have expressed an interest in the site.

6. The major stumbling point has been a clause in the lease of the Wakelyn Trust land to KBR which requires the lessee to reinstate the land to dunes at the conclusion of the lease in 2031. This would present a major impediment and disincentive to any developer even were the Wakelyn Trust prepared to assign the lease to them.

7. Were the site to be sold it is likely that the Wakelyn Trust would also wish KBR to ‘buy out’ this lease condition which would further complicate matters.


1. The Convener has written to Scottish Ministers urging them to consider bringing the Nigg Yard into Public Ownership.

2. Officers of HIE and the Council have jointly prepared an options appraisal for the Nigg site which considers five scenarios ranging from ’do nothing’ leaving this to the market to dictate and outcome through to a public sector purchase by HIE, a CPO with ‘back to Back Agreement’ by the Highland Council or possibly a public sector/Joint Venture agreement. All options have pros and cons., differing likelihoods of success and timescales.

3. HIE may have difficulty in taking forward a public sector purchase whilst there are indications of private sector interest. They would only intervene where there is market failure.

4. The key decisions for the Council to make to move matters on are:
a) to instruct officers to commence work on the ‘Back to Back Agreement’;
b) in parallel with this to begin preparatory work to promote a CPO.

5. There is a risk of abortive costs in excess of a six figure sum being incurred in preparing a Back to Back Agreement and promoting a CPO if the site were sold before these could be applied.

6. From commencement to completion the estimated timescale for a Back to Back Agreement would be of the order of 15 months.

7. The CPO could not begin in earnest until the Back to Back Agreement nears finalisation with a preferred bidder appointed. It would take a minimum of 10 months thereafter to complete if it was not challenged by the landowners and anything up to 22 months if challenged through the courts.

8. The time frames outlined above represent an optimistic assessment but this clearly demonstrates that a CPO cannot be the only approach given the rapidly closing window of opportunity for entry into the Renewable Energy Market.

Stuart Black, Director of Planning & Development
Geoff Robson, Head of Environment & Development
5 May 2010"