Friday, 27 August 2010

North MSP suggests key outcomes for Pentland Firth services needed from Scottish Government Ferries Review

Following recent discussions on Orkney and in the Caithness Transport Forum about Pentland Firth services Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands offered some pointers for consideration to the Caithness body on Pentland Firth services. The Ferries review closes on 30th September.

He said,

"Both publicly subsidised and private ferries must be included in the definition of 'lifeline' services. Analysis of the cargoes carried by the Pentalina such as LPG, sheep and caravans identify lifeline items. Therefore reality suggests a new perspective.

"Collaboration between all ferry providers is essential if islanders are to feel they have the best possible services to suit their needs. The definition 'Lifeline' cannot just be presented as applying to publicly provided boats alone. An agreement by operators is needed. This is particularly so since the Scrabster- Stromness service faces the full force of the Atlantic and is much more prone to cancellation or delay in heavy weather."

"The design and running costs of ferries require a major review. Future leases or purchases due with the next ferry tender in four year's time should be focused on modern ship designs that ply similar routes in the world. The public wants speedy ferries, not luxury ferries. The travelling public between Caithness and Orkney should not be asked to bear an unfair burden on CO2 reduction when news this week reveals that city commuters can't even leave their cars and use the buses. Fair shares in reducing greenhouse gas emission should not penalise the islands.

"Short sea routes are most economical as my colleague Alasdair Allan MSP for the Western Isles has highlighted. What is to prevent Orkney Islands Council from agreeing to make Burwick harbour in South Ronaldsay available at least for summer crossings for Andrew Banks' ferry?

"Scrabster and Stromness infrastructure for Northlink cost the tax payer many millions of pounds. Continued ferry services between these ports is desirable. However, the new tenders should specify modern designs of ships, run more economically, that need much less fuel as the Pentalina does, and also require far fewer crew as a consequence. Savings can best be made by improving services, not going slower. Of course new vessels can't be commissioned till the new tender period, but these specifications should be insisted on."


Friday, 20 August 2010


For immediate use: Friday 20th August 2010


SNP MSP Rob Gibson has called for the devolution of the Crown Estate after reports in the Herald show it had sold Scottish property at a loss to fund shopping malls in England.

The Crown Estate also currently administers and receives revenues from the Scottish seabed - an area of huge potential with the development of offshore renewable energy.

Mr Gibson argued that fully devolving the Crown Estate would allow it to focus properly on Scottish priorities and to generate investment for Scotland.

“Devolving the Crown Estate is long overdue and the current coalition’s plans to allow Scotland to appoint one Commissioner are seriously deficient.

“Selling Scottish property at a loss to fund shopping malls in England instead of holding onto the property to make the best return for further investment in Scotland is not acceptable with what are major assets.

“It raises serious questions about the Crown Estates stewardship of their resources in Scotland. With the Crown Estate currently responsible for and receiving revenues from Scotland’s seabed which is set to become one of our most valuable resources this state of affairs in unacceptable.

"We must be sure that the lands and seabed owned by the Crown Estate are, as Scotland's national resources, being put to the best use for Scotland's national interest. Devolving the Crown Estate in Scotland to Scottish control will ensure that is the case.

“The UK Government must act to fully devolve control of all elements of the Crown Estate and I am calling on the Lib Dems, who well know the benefit that could be derived for the North of Scotland, to ensure the coalition delivers that devolution as soon as possible.

“With other powers due to be transferred by the coalition there is perfect opportunity to resolve this issue for good."


Wednesday, 18 August 2010


For immediate use: Wednesday 18th August 2010

Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney has given his support to Highlands MSP Rob Gibson's call for a new Green Investment Bank (GIB) to be based in Scotland.

Mr Gibson, Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament's Economy & Energy Committee, wrote to Mr Swinney and UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne to argue that any UK bank which is designed to channel public and private sector investment into energy infrastructure should be located at the heart of the industry the funds would benefit. Known as the Saudi Arabia of renewable resources, Mr Gibson appealed for the Scottish Government's support in ensuring the UK Government located GIB HQ in Scotland.

In his reply, Mr Swinney outlined the reasons behind his support, saying:

"We have already identified the need for investment in renewables through the National Renewables Infrastructure Plan, and highlighted the benefits this can bring to Scotland and the UK as a whole. This, coupled with our outstanding reputation in financial services, means that we would welcome the GIB being located in Scotland."

Commenting, Mr Gibson said:

"It is crucial that Scotland's contribution to the renewable energy sector is recognised, and I am pleased to see John Swinney's unequivocal recognition of Scotland's ideal position in putting a new GIB to good use.

"Scotland has the energy industry, the financial sector and the green potential to make this the perfect location for a new green investment bank.

"These elements - particularly the proximity to companies and individuals actually working at the front line of decarbonising our economy cannot be accessed anywhere else.

"I am still awaiting a reply from the UK Energy Secretary, Scottish Secretary and Chief Secretary to the Treasury and can only hope they will see the obvious benefits of this business case.


John Swinney's reply is attached. Mr Gibson is awaiting a response from the UK Government

Rob Gibson's motion calling for the GIB to be based in Scotland is below:

S3M-06785 Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party): A Green Investment Bank in Scotland— That the Parliament notes the UK Government’s proposal for a green investment bank (GIB), which would channel public and private sector investment into energy infrastructure; considers that Scotland has enormous potential to develop on and offshore renewable energy with wave and tidal power resources in areas such as the Pentland Firth, and therefore urges the UK Government to base the GIB in Scotland near the companies and individuals working at the frontline of decarbonising the economy, which, along with opening up access to Scotland’s Fossil Fuel Levy and introducing a fair transmission charging regime, would demonstrate the UK Government’s understanding of and commitment to Scotland’s renewables potential.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Gibson honoured to stand for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross

News release
Immediate release


Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson says he is honoured to represent the SNP for the new seat of Caithness, Sutherland and Ross for the 2011 Scottish Election.

Mr Gibson beat off a challenge from Wester Ross Councillor Jean Urquhart to secure the nomination.

Mr Gibson who has had his office in Wick since being elected on the Highlands and Islands List in 2003 says that he has always been convinced that the north of the country will be vitally important to the future of Scotland as well as Europe.

Rob said…

"It is a great honour to contest the new seat of Caithness Sutherland and Ross. However the potential of the area is more and more important and obvious to a lot of people. As a member for the Highlands and Islands I have continually spoken out for the remote and rural communities in the west and North. I look forward to making the case for the new seat."

" We stand on cusp of something life changing in the North and West harnessing the powers of the seas and oceans will drive this country and the continent forward. We already see beginnings of it. However we need to constantly talk up the potential so that as many high quality jobs can come to the area and help stimulate the area."

Rob continued….

"There are other great opportunities in the Caithness, Sutherland and Ross from tourism, agriculture, and our general quality of life is a huge incentive to make things even better here. Following the resignation of the sitting MSP, and the SNP’s strong second place in the 2007 elections, the party is now in a key position to win the trust of local voters.”


Monday, 16 August 2010

Gibson warns against 21st century Beeching cut

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has lodge a motion condemning a report which called for the axing of train routes between the Highlands/North East and London.

Mr Gibson said that the suggestion contained in the intercity express programme review (carried out by Sir Andrew Foster) that long distance trains from London to Inverness, as well as Aberdeen, could be scrapped would do untold damage to the economy, environment and quality of life in the Highlands/North East.

He also said that the idea smacked of a modern day Beeching cut

Lodging the motion in Parliament Mr Gibson said,

"If this was allowed to happen then it would do more damage than the Beeching cuts. The train crews on East Coast provide an excellent service. The public does not expect to have to change trains at Edinburgh before embarking for London. The problems for families or the disabled would be considerable."

"The suggestion to cut the service from Inverness and Aberdeen to London is ludicrous. To server the link would only make the respective areas remote and detached. The Tourism industry would take a hammering, and the wider economy would suffer as well. It's viability and sustainability would come under increasing pressures if trains began and ended their journeys in the Central belt."

"In the climate change era when we are encouraging people to use trains as an green alternative then it would be ridiculous to then start cutting long distance train services. Forcing people into their cars or planes is not the way anyone should be thinking or acting."

"What is needed is increased services and improvements to the existing lines not cuts to it. If the Co-alition UK Government allow this to happen then I think that the Lib Dems and Tories deserve to suffer a huge backlash against them, especially in the Highlands."



Copy of Rob's Motion:

Keep Inverness to London rail services:
That the Parliament notes the Review of the Intercity Express Programme by Sir Andrew Foster, in which he suggests that the long-distance routes between London and Inverness could stop being served by through trains; believes this to be an unacceptable approach to rail services within the United Kingdom which would have far-reaching effects on travellers forced to change trains unnecessarily, raises serious concern for increased greenhouse gas emission, threatens the promotion of tourism and attacks the quality of life, connectivity and sustainable economy of the Highlands & Islands and finally supports motion S3M-06790 in the name of Brian Adam in calling on the Secretary of State for Transport to reject Sir Andrew Foster’s proposals.

Gibson welcomes health figures

News release
Immediate release

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed recent figures which show that staff at Caithness General Hospital dealing well with efforts to reduce the risk of infection among patients, visitors.

Mr Gibson's comments come following the publication of the Healthcare Environment Inspectorate report, which stated that the overall standard of cleanliness was high, the infection control nurse was well-informed and that communication with staff was good.

Praising the efforts of staff Mr Gibson said...

"I am glad that Caithness General Hospital is measuring up to the ongoing improvements to infection control. It is testament to the good practices of the staff at the hospital that the rates are coming down and I look forward to improving results"

Talking about recent report regarding health services in Caithness Mr Gibson said…

"I have wider concerns about the facilities for patients needing respite in Caithness in the CGH and I hope to have positive responses from the NHCHP to show they care and are ready to meet the demands of Caithness residents for a full service for all ages in CGH and The Dunbar in Thurso."

"As for private dental practice issues, I hope that the Murray family can ensure their clients at Smile Solutions have a continuing service not an end to the service provided by their predecessor and initially by the Murray's themselves."

"The Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon is well informed, unfortunately the conduct of private businesses in dentistry add further complications to the service to clients that is under threat."


Sunday, 15 August 2010

French Atlantic isle seeks Scottish partner

News Release
Immediate release

An island challenge has been set by residents of Ouessant, on the Atlantic coast of Brittany, NW France. They are seeking to twin with a Scots island that has its own tartan like them .

Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands, who is also vice-president of the Brittany Scotland Association was present at the launch of the new Ouessant tartan in the port of Brest last Monday.
He said,

“Ouessant, the isle known as Eusa in Breton and Ushant in English wants to strengthen its links with the Scottish islands that were forged in 2007 when writers from Shetland to Skye attended the 9th annual islands literature festival on Ouessant in August 2007 that featured our Scottish isles.

“Serge Cariou from the Ouessant supporters has designed the new Eusa tartan and posed us a challenge. ‘Find us a Scottish island to twin with , if possible one with its own tartan and if it had a nearby distillery that would be a big bonus,’ he said mischievously.

Rob went on...

“On returning to Scotland from Brest I began to think of islands that could fit the twinning bill. What about Gigha, Raasay, Eigg or Barra? Or what about a bigger island like Arran, Islay, Mull, Skye or Harris which might be interested?

“Then I thought, maybe one of our northern isles could be a first by adopting a Norse tartan! Just as Ouessant is the first Breton isle to create a tartan of its own . Both Orkney and Shetland already have distilleries, why not their own tartan?

“I will contact community councils and activists around our Scots isles to seek a possible partner for Ouessant. I look forward to helping these Atlantic isles to build new bonds of friendship.



Rob (left) and Jean-Yves Cozan, Breton Regional Councillor for Ouessant who authorised the tartan design locally.

Over 10,000 tartans are now listed in the Scottish Register of Tartans. Eusa, the Ouessant tartan is number 10,236. The 2010 edition of Salon du Livre Insulaire starts this week on Ouessant. In 2007 writers and poets from Shetland, Fair Isle, Orkney, Lewis, Skye and Raasay came to the Breton isle to display our native writing talents.

The Brittany Scotland Association exists to promote economic and cultural links between our lands.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Access removed from Torr Achilty Dam

News Release – Immediate Use
Wednesday 11 August

Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands has received assurances that over 70 dams owned by SSE in the highlands have public access but not those housing flood control gear, such as Torr Achilty on the River Conon.

Following complaints about the refusal of access to walkers and cyclists Rob sought clarification from SSE. A spokesman Trevor Williams, Hydro Operations Manager, SSE Renewable Generation at Torr Achilty Power Station, said,

“Scottish Hydro Electric have around 80 dams throughout the North of Scotland, we allow public access across some 90% of these. Some require gates to be overcome but the majority are free access.”

“Of the 80 dams 8 of them house very large flood control gates of which Torr Achilty is one of the dams. The dams are all classed as industrial installations under the access code and as such do not require to be made accessible to the general public. We regularly suffer vandalism at many of these dams.“

SSE has recently carried out in depth process safety risk assessments of the dams that house the flood gates with the assistance of professional experts. At Torr Achilty they have found that the level of protection required to ensure public safety in the prevention of an uncontrolled rise in water level downstream of the dam equates to "Safety Integrity Level 2".

This simply means that they require a much more sophisticated floodgate control system and a higher level of general security at the dam in order to protect the flood gate operation and control system. Work has now commenced installing the new equipment. It is impractical to screen off the equipment and it is also impractical to provide a fenced off public footpath across the dam.

Rob Gibson was told that the public were given adequate notice that SSE would close the access across the dam by our posting of notices on site and by advertisement in the local press. SSE has been visited by a deputation from the Highland Council Access Forum under the leadership of Phil Waite, Ross & Cromarty Access Officer, who listened to these explanations and now understands the reasons that SSE has closed public access over the dam.


Wednesday, 4 August 2010


For immediate use: Wednesday 4th August 2010


Plans for a Green investment bank, to channel public and private sector investment into energy infrastructure should include basing the bank in Scotland.

SNP MSP Rob Gibson, a member of both the Parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Committees who also sat on the recent Scottish Parliament inquiry into banking said today that the new £2 billion public investment bank should be based in Scotland to bring it closer to the industry and to the parts of the country that will contribute most to building a low carbon economy.

Last week further research by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise demonstrated the benefits that could be delivered by improvements in our energy infrastructure and the contribution key Scottish ports could play in building the offshore green energy industry.

Mr Gibson has today written to the UK Energy Minister and the Scottish Secretary urging them to base the bank in Scotland, and to Scottish Energy Minister Jim Mather seeking Scottish Government support for such a move. He has also laid a motion in the Scottish Parliament to gather cross party support for such a move.

Mr Gibson, a Highlands and Islands MSP said:

“There is cross party commitment to a UK wide Green Investment Bank that will help to direct investment to the industries, improvements and key areas that can and will build a new green economy.

“A Green Investment bank must be close to the people and industries it is working with, to understand the needs of the industry and the benefits that can come from key investment in the right places.

“Scotland has the energy industry, the financial sector and the green potential to make this the perfect location. We are leading renewables and particularly off shore energy development. The best way to understand what the industry needs to fulfil its potential is to be amongst that industry.

"These elements - particularly the proximity to companies and individuals actually working at the front line of decarbonising our economy cannot be accessed anywhere else.

“Scotland is widely recognised as having enormous potential to develop on shore and off shore renewable energy with wave and tidal power resources in areas like the Pentland Firth that can truly put Scotland at the forefront of the green economy.

“All parts of the UK have a contribution to make but there can be no denying Scotland’s significant potential and the need for infrastructure investment to bring the offshore energy potential on shore and into use.

“Along with opening up access to Scotland’s Fossil Fuel Levy to support investment in Scotland and introducing a fair transmission charging regime locating the Green Investment Bank within Scotland’s renewable and financial industries would finally show a UK Government that understood Scotland’s renewable potential.”


1.GREEN INVESTMENT BANK: That the Parliament notes the UK Government's proposal for a Green Investment Bank, which would channel public and private sector investment into energy infrastructure; recognises Scotland's enormous potential to develop on shore and off shore renewable energy with wave and tidal power resources in areas like the Pentland Firth and therefore urges the UK Government to base the GIB in Scotland near the companies and individuals working at the front line of decarbonising the economy which, along with opening up access to Scotland's Fossil Fuel Levy and introducing a fair transmission charging regime, would demonstrate the UK Government's understanding of and commitment to Scotland's renewables potential.