Monday, 28 February 2011



News release
For immediate use 28th February 2011


Highlands and Islands MSP Rob Gibson has today welcomed a Scottish Government announcement that £1,148,875 is to be awarded to the Caithness Chamber of Commerce to support the retraining and redeployment of the Dounreay workforce and wider community.

The cash boost comes as part of a £5 million round of funding for various Highland charities  and agencies . The funds will go towards the Chamber of Commerce "Make the Right Connections" support programme.

The cash has been awarded after the recently passed Scottish budget, which aims to protect and create jobs to drive economic recovery in the Highlands.

Speaking on the Caithness cash boost, Mr Gibson said:-

“This will come as welcome news to participants in the admirable ‘making the right connections’ scheme, which carries out important work in retraining and redeploying Dounraey workers.

“As well as concentrating on Dounraey employees, past and present, there is a community element to this scheme, so many more folk in North Sutherland and Caithness will benefit from this cash boost.

“We must do everything we can to minimise the ‘Dounraey impact’ here in Caithness, and support schemes such as this go a long way to ensuring this area is not left with the waste in the wake of the nuclear station's decommissioning 

“The recent SNP budget had jobs, training and skills at its heart. We believe that driving economic recovery in the Far North requires us to keep up a skilled workforce. That is why we have increased Highland apprenticeships by 53% since 2007, and will continue to make Highland jobs a priority if re-elected this year.”



For skills, training and education, the Scottish Government's budget will:

* Invest a further £11.5 million to create 25,000 modern apprenticeship places - a record high for Scotland

* Provide 7,000 flexible training opportunities for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) - 2,000 more than originally planned in the draft Budget

* Protect the total number of core university places and invest £8 million for an extra 1,200 college places

* Invest an additional £15 million across 2010-11 and 2011-12 in funding for college bursaries

* Maintain the educational grants for pupils and college students most in need (Educational Maintenance Allowances (EMAs)) which were cut south of the border

* Invest £10m to deliver the Community Jobs Scotland programme in partnership with the Third Sector, providing new support for 2,000 unemployed people across Scotland

* Provide additional investment of £5m to support the extension of the Employer Recruitment Incentive to deliver up to 5,000 new jobs for individuals aged 18+, who have been unemployed for 6 months or more and who are participating in the Training for Work programme.

Successful round table meeting on heating issues at Strathpeffer.

Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands congratulated Ulladale residents who met officials from SSE and Albyn Housing Society to seek an end to huge heating bills for their modern 'affordable' houses.

Mr Gibson offered to set up a round table meeting after residents spoke out to the Ross-shire Journal. They approached his colleague Cllr Jean Urquhart when there electricity bills went sky high. Calum Macaulay chief executive of Albyn and Greg Clarke and his team from Scottish and Southern Energy met with eight residents last Monday 28th February who were able to attend to discuss a way out of spirally debt that has plagued many of them and several of their neighbours.

Rob said,

"I offered to set up this meeting. It was a frank exchange of views. Albyn learned a lot about the residents' concerns and about the flaws in their wet electric heating system that was also installed in Strathpeffer, Ft Augustus and Kiltarlity and perhaps by other housing associations across Scotland just three years ago.

"SSE promised to work with residents to ensure new meters were installed to replace faulty ones, to offer advice and help to heat their homes more efficiently. SSE has already pledged to plan longer smaller payments to cover arrears.

"I hope that this is the start of a new chapter for Ulladale Crescent. I will be keeping in touch with the residents and the agencies to see that progress is made. I will also inform the Housing Minister Alex Neil of the wider problems that have emerged for affordable homes. They may be affordable to build but must also be affordable to heat."

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Gibson calls for time table changes to be postponed

News release
immediate release

SNP MSP Rob Gibson has called for the management of Stagecoach
Highland to postpone proposed bus time changes and provide the
traveling public with full data on service costs and usage.

Evanton main bus stop
Mr Gibson said the public deserves answers….

"Constituents in Wick, Tain, Evanton an Ullapool have each
complained of Stagecoach Highland services failing to meet
travel needs."

"Bus users want to know why services are being altered to suit
the management's whims, not the needs of the traveling public"

"Stagecoach Highland must come clean. It must detail the huge
bus pass subsidies received from Scottish Government. What is
it doing to introduce more passenger friendly and eco friendly
buses? How much the soaring price of diesel an impact and how
will it consult customers to encourage more bus use."

"A successful international bus company will have more and less
profitable routes in its portfolio, here across the Highlands
and Islands Stagecoach has a role of essential passenger
carrier. Their managers need to enter true dialogue based on
full facts with their customers. The March timetable change
must be postponed immediately."

" I have written today to the Highland manager with these
demands for disclosure and action. "

Monday, 21 February 2011

Gibson calls for sensible investment of dome money

News release
immediate release

Rob Gibson has called for the NDA to invest the money it was due to spend on the Dounreay Dome in the Caithness renewables industry.

Mr Gibson welcomed the news that the NDA had performed a U-turn on the decision to spend in the region of £1 million pounds on repainting and sprucing up the dome even though it is due to be demolished.

Mr Gibson said that the money should instead go to creating renewable jobs in Caithness and more investment. Mr Gibson said that further investment in the development of Scrabster harbour would be a logical solution.

He said…

"The NDA's decision to reverse the investment in the Dome makes total sense. However the best they could do with the money would be to increase investment in Scrabster Harbour so that it could help equip the Port for the marine renewables revolution which will play a vital part in regenerating the Caithness economy."

"The NDA has pledged to invest £2 million in Scrabster a further sum would help deliver a viable and sustainable future for the entire Caithness economy and benefit the community. An improved Scrabster Harbour would provide top quality long and short tem employment. This is a future worth investing in."

"I hope that the NDA can build on their pledges to the redevelopment of Scrabster Harbour the use of this money would be a great gesture."


Sunday, 20 February 2011

A Scots speaker? Find out on new site

Published Date: 20 February 2011

By Emma Cowing

DO YOU speak Scots? Well now you can find out.

A new website, entitled Aye Can, has been launched to tell people whether or not their dialect is Scots.

It was created to help answer a set of questions about the Scots language in the 2011 Census.

Although questions about Gaelic have been part of the Census for the last century, this is the first time questions about Scots have been included.

The results will determine how many people in the country speak Scots.

"We're trying to raise people's awareness of the questions in the Census and what they mean," said Michael Hance, director of the Scots Language Resource Centre, who helped formulate the Census questions.

"Our theory has always been that when you talk about Scots people generally struggle to understand what you're talking about, but if you hear the language you instantly recognise what it is and it gives a name to something that is often around us but we don't know how to describe."

Questions posed on the site include "do people in Glasgow speak Scots?" and "is the Doric of north-east Scotland part of Scots?" - the answer to both of which is yes.

The questions also aim to clarify some of the regional differences in Scots and reassure speakers that even if they don't know all the words used, it still means they speak Scots.

Rob Gibson MSP said: "The Census will ask the basic questions of whether people speak, read, write and understand the language.

"In Caithness for example, people are aware they speak in a Caithness dialect, but this will help them understand that they also speak a dialect of Scots."

He added: "We need to have a fundamental understanding of people who feel they speak Scots, and this will help in a huge way. It's a basic tool that we can then apply to education and in all sorts of ways."

The 2011 Census is due to take place on 27 March."

Wednesday, 16 February 2011



For immediate use 16th February 2011


Commenting on the recent Ipsos MORI poll for the Times, which shows the SNP in the lead against Labour and the Lib Dems at a miserable 10%, SNP Caithness Sutherland and Ross candidate Rob Gibson MSP said:

"This is an encouraging poll for the SNP, especially in the Highlands, but we're taking nothing for granted up here. We'll work harder than ever to promote the SNP's positive record in the North, and our optimistic vision for the Highlands.

"With Alex Salmond as out First Minister, we can keep on winning for the North."

Monday, 14 February 2011


Today (14/2/11) SNP MSP Rob Gibson and his colleague SNP Councillor Maxine Smith visited Global’s newest asset at Invergordon service base to see first hand the work that the new fabrication shed has attracted. They saw a huge fitting for an oil rig and discussed other work by Global working on contracts from BP and Eon.

Speaking after the visit the local Ward Councillor, Maxine Smith, said, “I was impressed with the capacity of the shed to handle large jobs side by side when the time comes and saw one of the 20 tonne remote control cranes, which are part of the internal structure of the shed, in operation.”

“Global staff said that once things are up and running in Nigg, when the purchase is complete this shed will form an integral part of their operations which will begin taking shape in a year or so. “

 “They are attracting work from both national and international markets, as far away as China and the USA. This will see Easter Ross, once again booming, with locals able to come back from working in Angola, and European countries. These individuals have worked away from home as the job prospects were much greater for many years, but many would dearly love to come back and work for decent money in their home town. “

Rob with Maxine, Stan and some Global workers
“It is clear that Roy MacGregor and his team are managing to strike a good balance between being on the international economic stage, but still keeping a family feel to the business, employing hundreds of local men and women long term. They have also given a reassurance that they are keen to work with local firms, large and small, when the time comes in the multi-user facility at Nigg.”

Local MSP Rob Gibson who is deputy convener of the Economy, Energy and Tourism committee at Holyrood welcomed the developments by Global at Invergordon and all the associated company activity at five sites between Nigg and Evanton. He said after the visit,

“The Global family of companies are an impressive group who now have a worldwide reach and a firm local base. The sites at Evanton Deephaven, Evanton industrial estate, Invergordon service base, the smelter site and Nigg all add up to make global a key employer for the future of the Cromarty Firth oil and renewables manufacturing and service hub.”

“The promise of bringing Nigg on line is key to gaining offshore renewables contracts around our shores but all the bases in the Global group will play a part to bring prosperity and cutting edge production facilities to Easter Ross. That’s nothing but a good news story for the Highlands as the renewables revolution builds on the skills they inherit from the oil and gas story around Scottish shores.”

Thursday, 10 February 2011


News Release

For Immediate Use 10th February 2011

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has today welcomed a delay in slashing classroom assistants, but warned the Highland Council that their delay in finding alternative funding solutions would cost jobs.

Administration councillors have voted to delay the deeply unpopular cut until after the 2012 local elections in the Highlands. The move had attracted widespread condemnation and anger from politicians and parents alike.

The SNP had previously suggested that saving could be made in electricity budgets for schools, council offices and it systems, however this has been dismissed by the administration.

Commenting, Mr Gibson said:-

“I share in the classroom assistants’ relief that – for now – their jobs are secure. They play a key role in our children’s education, and Highland parents are united in opposition to their removal.

“The Council’s delay in finding a funding solution following this u-turn will cost jobs. The SNP has put forward a number of suggestions as to how the council might look to save money and keep our education system intact, but the administration councillors have brushed SNP proposals aside and delayed savings till June.

“There is undoubtedly a party-political motivation behind this delay, which extends beyond the local government election next year. Administration councillors are swinging from one extreme to the other on this issue, as opposed to looking for sensible solutions to funding shortfalls.

“Education is obviously not a priority for the Lib Dems and Labour in the Highlands. The SNP want to protect jobs in education so that our children get the most out of their schooling.”


News release

Immediate release


Highlands and Island SNP MSP Rob Gibson has warmly welcomed an announcement from the Scottish Government which is good news for Crofters.

Mr Gibson said that the decision to target the Crofting Counties Agricultural Grant Scheme (CCAGS) exclusively towards Scotland's crofters, with non-crofters no longer eligible to
apply, is great news for crofters and crofting communities.

As from the 1st of April 2011All crofters, whether tenants or owner-occupiers, will now be treated equally with the removal of the Economic Status Test (EST).

The move was first announced in 2008 in response to the Shucksmith Committee of Inquiry on Crofting, which sought to secure a sustainable future for crofting communities.

It is part of a wider package of changes due to come into effect on April 1, which include:

* extending CCAGS to the whole of the Highlands and Islands

Enterprise area;

* providing a 10 per cent uplift to support new entrants to crofting; and

* enabling CCAGS support for the new category of crofting tenant under a short lease of an owner-occupied croft, introduced by the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010.

Farmers with a similar economic status to crofters who wish to apply for CCAGS funding have until February 28, 2011 to submit an EST before the change is introduced. They are still eligible
to apply for funding under alternative schemes, including Rural Priorities.

"The specific targeting of CAGS to crofters will make a real and positive difference to the crofters and those in the communities. this is a welcome move from the SNP Scottish

Government which shows that it cares for the future well being of crofting and crofting communities."

"it will make sure that the money goes to the people who need it the most."

"The package announced today is a good deal for crofters. crofters play a vital role in shaping much of the rural and remote areas of the Highlands and Islands. The removal of Economic Status Test (EST) from the scheme means that all crofters, whether tenant or owner-occupier crofters, will be treated equally."

"Non-crofters will still be able to access capital grants to improve their holdings under Rural Priorities, and they also have the option to retain access to both CCAGS and Rural Priorities by converting their landholdings to crofting tenure."

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


News release

Immediate release


Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed the passing of the SNP Scottish Governments budget. Whilst condemning the Labour party who voted against it.

Mr Gibson said that in the tough times Finance Secretary John Swinney had delivered a fair deal which will see a freeze in Council Tax, the axing of prescription charges and funding for
a record number of apprentices.

Mr Gibson also said that the key aspects of the deal include a £2m boost for the freight facilities grant, a further £15 million for college bursaries as well as an extra £8 million

in funding to support an additional 1200 places.

There was also the announcement of a Post Office diversification scheme. Small businesses will further benefit from Funding to continue the SNP’s flagship Small Business Bonus Scheme, removing 64,000 small businesses from business rates and saving them up to £4,100.

Further key announcements were; Funding to implement a living wage of £7.15 an hour for staff whose pay is controlled by the Scottish Government, and a minimum increase of £250 for staff earning under £21000, £70 million Renewables Infrastructure Fund (over four years) and £10 million support for SME employment creation – focused on new starts, sole traders and small firms to take on new employees by assisting with employment and recruitment costs and assist with exports.

Mr Gibson said

"This is a fair budget in tough economic times that will help people and business at the same time. It will help every part of the Highlands and Islands, on the road to economic
regeneration, whilst cutting the people some slack.."

Jobs and fairness are at the heart of the budget. The SNP's commitment to giving everyone a fair deal is evident."

"The rail freight grant is of special importance as it could see more freight been moved by rail or by sea freeing up trunk road capacity. A fund for a living wage, as well as renewed
investment in the renewables industry, will help people and give a solid future for people in many remote and rural areas."

Commenting on Labour's opposition Mr Gibson said….

"Unfortunately Labour put party politics ahead of fairness and economic regeneration. This budget will see a record 25,000 apprentices, (a record amount for the country) something that
will give hope to young people and those recently struggling to find work and something that the Labour Party used to support.

However I see no reason why they should abandon their principles in such a hypocritical manner. They will have to answer to voters why they voted against measures they supported before."

"Other opposition parties were constructive in their negotiations with the Scottish Government over the budget except the Greens. Compromise sometimes gives the best results, out and out opposition is not always the best or most grown up way of doing things."


Contact rob 0787 967 4335

Note key points o the budget which was passed today

• Invest a further £11.5 million to create 25,000 modern apprenticeship places - a record high for Scotland and 60% more than under Labour’s last year (07/08).

• Continued funding for council tax freeze – by the end of next year the average Band D family will have saved £322 since the SNP introduced the freeze.

• Funding to continue and uplift the SNP’s flagship Small Business Bonus Scheme, removing 64,000 small businesses from business rates and saving them up to £4,100.

• Funding to abolish prescription charges.

• Provide 7,000 flexible training opportunities for SMEs - 2,000 more than originally planned in the draft Budget

• Invest £8 million to provide enough funding for an extra 1,200 college places

• Invest an additional £15 million across 2010-11 and 2011-12 in funding for college bursaries;

• Maintain educational grants for pupils and college students most in need which were cut south of the border;

• Guarantee a probation place for every newly-qualified teacher and provide enough teaching jobs for every post-probationer in 2011-12;

• New Early Years and Early Intervention Fund, with start-up funding of £5 million;

• £10 million support for SME employment creation – focused on new starts, sole traders and small firms to take on new employees by assisting with employment and recruitment costs and assist with exports;

• £2m Freight Facilities Grant;

• £1m Post office Diversification Scheme;

• £12.5 million for Urban Regeneration Companies – increase of £6 million on the Draft budget;

• £16 million further investment in Housing;

• Funding to maintain 1,000 additional police officers;

• The creation of a £70m ‘change fund’ to help local authorities and health boards deal with the rising costs of providing social care. This is a precursor to plans to further integrate the two.

• Continuing our £2.5 billion infrastructure investment programme;

• Infrastructure Commitments such as the new Forth crossing, New South Glasgow Hospitals project and school building programme

• £70 million Renewables Infrastructure Fund – over four years;

• £48 million support for energy assistance package and Home Insulation Scheme.

• Funding to implement a living wage of £7.15 an hour for staff whose pay is controlled by the Scottish Government, and a minimum increase of £250 for staff earning under £21000.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Gibson welcomes UHI Announcement

News release 01/02/11

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed the announcement that the University of the Highlands and Islands has been given official University status.

A long proponent of such an institution Mr Gibson said...

"The idea of the a University for the Highlands and Islands has been in the offing for at least 80 years. But the impetus came in the past few decades when the SNP put the idea in the Regional council manifesto for Highland Council in 1986. It was agreed to set up a Council committee and a deal was struck with the HIDB to match fund the £100,000 put up by Highland
Regional Council."

"This announcement will revolutionise the Highlands and Islands, and will herald the start of a new era. I have visited many of the outstanding achievements of the UHI so far, such as

the Environmental Research Institute in Thurso, the Centre for Remote and Rural Studies, the Fisheries College in Shetland, Sabhal Mor Ostaig, Lewis Castle College and the North Highland college Dornoch campus and hotel school. This announcement means that there will be exciting new academic developments to underpin the health, wealth ,culture and happiness of the whole Highlands and Islands."