Monday, 28 June 2010

Gibson argues for safeguarding of good crofting land

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP has highlighted a planning dispute in Easter Ross over a threat to good crofting land.

Later this week the Scottish Parliament will be debating the final stage of the Crofting Bill and Mr Gibson said that productive crofting land must be protected for the use of agriculture.

He said a case in point is the attempt to build a large commercial potato store and house at Arabella (near Nigg Station) on crofting land which the Crofters Commission has deemed as good agricultural land.

The applicant has already had a previous application knocked back for housing to be built on the land. However the latest proposal would see the erection of a potato storage building and weighbridge as well as the formation of access road and concrete aprons.

Mr Gibson said that the good crofting land such as that at Arabella should put to crofting uses…

"The primary purpose of this land is for crofting. It has been described as good inbye land by the Crofters Commission therefore it is unacceptable to lose it."

"Building on unproductive crofting land is fine by me. I have seen how this works in crofting communities in Shetland where poor common grazing land was given over to housing. However if it is good land then we really need to grow crops on it for future generations. This land is excellent in crofting terms, therefore the planning application should be rejected."

"I will be arguing this type of case during the Crofting Bill debate this week. It is incumbent on all politicians to work together to keep productive crofting land. The Bill moves away from the current presumption when planning is approved for decrofting to follow. We are moving towards new safeguards to protect productive croft land."

"In Easter Ross the aluminium smelter was built on grade 1 agricultural land. Crofting land is not that good, but the premise still holds true that the loss of good land should not be allowed to happen. Especially as there is local interest to use the plot in question, as well as a significant level of local objections which is being lodged."


Gibson demands Council action on blue badges and disabled parking bays

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP has written to Lib Dem leader of the Highland Council administration regarding the issue of blue badges and disabled parking areas.

Mr Gibson wrote to Mr Foxley after he was contacted by constituent who raised concerns regarding the fact that Highland Council has begun charging for Blue Badges and the reduction in disabled parking spaces in Inverness.

Mr Gibson said….

"I understand that this new charge agreed by the Highland Council was in response to people abusing the Blue Badge system. However I would like to know what action the Council has taken to root out these abuses since the decision was made last year to charge for this essential service. I hope that the legitimate badge holders are not being penalised because alleged abusers of the system have not been identified and dealt with."

"I have asked Michael Foxley what measures are proposed to ensure disabled drivers who actually need the Blue Badges can get the proper support."

" I am led to believe that the new layout in Inverness has led to a reduced amount of disabled parking spaces in and around the city. Also Rose Street Multi - Storey Car Par disabled bays on the ground floor now have a barrier to negotiate for those leaving the car park. This is unacceptable and should be dealt with."

"I hope that the Council are actively pursuing these matters which were raised by my constituents. Disabled and blue badge holders deserve to be supported.


Thursday, 24 June 2010

Gibson welcomes funding for Easter Ross cheese makers

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed a Scottish Government grant to cheese makers in Easter Ross. Mr Gibson was commenting after it was announced that Tain based Highland Fine Cheeses, received a Food Processing, Marketing and Co-Operative (FPMC) Grants totaling £150,046.

Mr Gibson said….

"Highland fine cheeses rightly have a reputation for excellence, and this grant from the Scottish Government is a recognition of that excellence. The company is part of a highly regarded network of producers in the Highlands and Islands which produces some of the best food and drink in the world."

"I congratulate the family run firm on their success so far and hope that this money will help them go from strength to strength."

"Small producers such as highland fine cheeses are what helps makes the area unique. I am glad that the SNP Scottish Government have recognised this and are backing up our small rural producers in this way."

Mr Gibson also welcomed figures which show that retail sales of Scottish food and drink brands across Scotland, Englandand Wales have increased by a massive 30 per cent during the past three years, increasing the value of sales by £425 million.

In Scotland, sales of Scottish food and drink brands increased 22 percent over the same period (May 2007 - May 2010), demonstrating Scotland's strength as a food and drink retailer in a highly competitive market.

He said that the figures were testament to the positive work that the Scottish Government are doing in supporting Scottish food and drink producers across the country.


Notes to editor

Statistics: This is the second year the Scottish Government Rural and Environment Research and Analysis Directorate (RERAD) has purchased and analysed sales data on Scottish Food and Drink brands from Kantar Worldpanel. This data shows retail sales of all Scottish food and drink brands significant enough to be registered with Kantar, the leading provider of consumer panels into shoppers' purchase and usage behaviour.

May 2007 to May 2010:
In Great Britain, sales of Scottish food and drink brands over the period May 2007 to May 2010 grew by 30%, an increase of #425m. In Scotland, sales of Scottish food and drink brands over the period May 2007 to May 2010 grew by 22%, an increase of #99m.

May 2009 to May 2010:
In Great Britain, sales of Scottish food and drink brands over the period May 2009 to May 2010 grew by 8%, an increase of #128m. In Scotland, sales of Scottish food and drink brands over the period May 2009 to May 2010 grew by less than 1%, an increase of #2m.

FPMC: The Food Processing, Marketing and Co-operation (FPMC) Grant Scheme was launched in March 2008. The scheme is part of Scotland's Rural Development Programme and will run until 2013. The scheme is competitive and includes three elements:

Capital Grants: Provides for assistance towards the construction of buildings and purchase of plant and equipment.

Non-capital Grants: Provides for assistance with a range of projects including market research and consultancy, product development and consumer education material.

Co-operation Grants: Provides for support to aid co-operation, collaboration and development within the food chain.

Gibson comments on care homes protest

News release
Immediate release

Commenting on the protests against the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Independent council administration proposals to shelve a promise to build five replacement care homes for the elderly in the Highlands including one In Tain, Highlands and Islands SNP.

MSP Rob Gibson said...

"The value of council owned and run care homes is deeply felt. I welcome the huge response to a petition to save Duthac House in Tain. It already boasts far more signatures than at the last emergency in 2006."

"The Care commission has given a score of 5 out of 6 to the existing home. Only lack of en suite rooms and some minor paint issues stopped top marks. On that basis people in Easter Ross want a guarantee from the council that it will invest when appropriate and provide security for the residents as a council owned facility with wide community support."


Gibson and Farlow question lib dem centralising proposal

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson and SNP Sutherland Councillor George Farlow have questioned a proposal from the Liberal Democrats Council leaders to centralise community benefit derived from windfarms.

The idea proposed by Council leader Lib Dem Leader Michael Foxley would see a Pan-Highland Community Benefit Fund which would be distributed centrally from Council HQ in Inverness.

Mr Gibson and Mr Farlow said that the idea raises a lot of questions and risks.

Mr Gibson said...

"I am uneasy about the proposal, it seem that in the future that decisions on who gets the benefit from wind farm money will be decided centrally in Inverness. The Highlands is too large and diverse a place for that to happen. Local decisions taken from the communities where these windfarms are cited has to be the democratic action."

"I too am unsure how such a scheme would differentiate between private land owners and community land owners. Does the plan say that family investments of a few turbines on their land will have to put money to Inverness?"

"Areas such as Caithness, Sutherland and Ross-shire house a large number of windfarms and some communities such as Watten have seen the monetary potential that they offer by purchasing a turbine. I see no reason why communities where wind turbines are situated, should not benefit completely from them. It would seem unfair if the Highland Council came in and took a vast chunk of that money away to Inverness to distribute it somewhere else. How will provision be made to tap the wealth of offshore renewable potential for coastal communities? The proposals of Highland Council leaders are so far holed below the waterline."

Cllr Farlow said…

"Windfarms are contentious enough but community benefit is something that is mostly welcomed by those that live nearby. The proposal as it stands places a question mark over that benefit and obviously Highland Council Administration fails to understand "community". There should be a way for the LibDem led Council to deliver benefit without splitting communities, for example by doubling the size of benefit from the energy companies. Into the bargain Highland Council already gains millions of pounds in business rates from existing windfarms and from all future ones. They haven't thought this through and need to consult more."


Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Remember the 51st, remember St Valery

For immediate use
13 June 2010

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has supported calls for the history and heroic bravery of the 51st Highland Division to be better known.

The division who were ordered by Churchill to fight (along with the French) a regard action against elite German Divisions to defend the retreat of the British Forces at Dunkirk 70 years ago has been marked this weekend at ceremonies in the Normandy town of St Valery En Caux.

Mr Gibson has supported a parliamentary motion from Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for the Western Isles. It praises those of the 51st who deserve greater credit than they have been afforded.

"Their selfness at helping the French defend the retreat and slow up the German advance allowed 100,000 others to get back over the channel at Dunkirk."

"The Scots and in particular the Highlanders have had a long and proud military history, but the story of St Valéry is one of the most heroic and heart breaking that there is. For many there was only capture and a death march across Europe or hiding in the nearby countryside."

"In France their heroism is well known but I fear that the story needs to be taught in schools. I visited the poignant memorial on the cliffs above St Valery several years ago. The plaque in French, Gaelic and English is very moving. The Highland Division took in soldiers from Caithness to the Western Isles and beyond. Just like the under recognition for the brave seamen on the Arctic convoys, the men of the 51st should be honoured, not forgotten."

Note: Rob will join the Reviewing Officer at the Tain 'Help for Heroes' ceremony on 19th June to honour present day soldiers wounded in action in today's wars.