David Stewart MSP

Archive for November 2008

MSPs call for Crofter Solidarity to Oppose Ending Historic Bull Scheme

11 November 2008

MSPs call for Crofter Solidarity to Oppose Ending Historic Bull Scheme

Labour Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant, together with colleagues Peter Peacock and David Stewart, has called for crofters to stand together, shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, to win a reversal of the SNP government’s proposals to end the historic bull hire scheme which improves the quality and price of cattle in the crofting counties.

The Bull Hire scheme allows networks of crofters and townships to join together to hire a bull for their cattle, even in remote areas, at a lower price of hiring a bull privately.

The MSPs have written to the croft grazings clerks on the issues and have revealed a series of Parliamentary questions they have tabled.

Rhoda Grant, herself the daughter of a Wester Ross crofter and who is Labour’s acting spokesperson on rural affairs said:

“There is widespread dismay across the crofting counties about the government actually proceeding to end this very valuable scheme.

“The government will need to hear the voice of crofters loud and clear in order to secure a reversal of this damaging decision.

“The Bull Hire Scheme has been around for years and years and improves the ability of crofters to keep cattle economically in remote areas and improve the health and quality of stock.

“That ensures better incomes for crofters, but also keeping cattle also has major environmental benefits. The scheme also ensures all the bulls are over-wintered properly and in safe conditions.

“Bulls are large and potentially dangerous animals and they need special care, particularly in the harsh winters we have in the north.

“Many crofting communities don’t have the facilities needed to keep a bull all year round and the bull scheme made perfect sense.

“Ending this scheme could lead to a reduction in quality and top health status and spell the end to cattle breeding in some of our communities after generations of success, and that would be a tragedy.”

The MSPs have urged crofters to indicate their concern about the government proposals and are pledged to make representations to Ministers to back the crofters concerns.

They have set up a postcard campaign which is circulating among crofters and an e petition for those with internet access.

Mrs Grant continued:

“We would like to hear from crofters if they share our concern and to help us gauge support to have the government’s policy reversed.

“The government have so far failed to spell out the details of what might replace the scheme.

“There are many practical, quality, health and cost concerns crofters have which the government don’t seem to understand.

“There are no guarantees that in future crofters will get a bull when they need one.

“The Minister is trying to entice crofters into asking to take on a bull with vague promises that they might get financial support from the rural development programme, but there are no guarantees of that.

“The government are not clear about what will happen when the rural development programme ends, or when a bull needs to be replaced.

“In any event just about every crofter knows it is virtually impossible to get any access to the rural development programme because the government have made that such a mess of the application process.

“The actions we are taking in writing to crofters representatives across the area and in tabling questions are the first steps in trying to build a case to get the Scottish government to think again.”

Written by davidstewart

November 11, 2008 at 11:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

MSP calls for action on Ferry Fares

10 November 2008

David Stewart, Highlands and Islands regional Labour MSP, has spoken up in favour of the petition calling for lower ferry fares to west coast islands and Orkney and Shetland.

The Public Petitions Committee agreed unanimously on Tuesday to ask the Scottish Government to consider local people’s calls for a 40% discount in ferry fares.

Mr Stewart spoke at the Committee in support of the petition set up by Joan Richardson of Jura Community Council on behalf of a consortium of interested parties from Orkney, Shetland and the west coast islands. He has been involved with the group since the launch of the campaign.

He commented after the meeting: “As a Highlands and Islands MSP I am only too aware that transport links are absolutely crucial to every aspect of island life.

“On the smaller islands the very viability of the community will rely on its transport links. In the interests of fairness it is vital that this inequality is addressed.

“The introduction of the RET pilot to the Western Isles will have a corresponding detrimental effect on the other island groups.

“Monitoring the impact of a discount scheme over three years can not be acceptable if it also means sitting back and watching the decline of those communities not participating in it.”

He added: “We need to look at a long term and sustainable solution for all ferry services to ensure an equitable and affordable service.

“The ferry inquiry which I instigated at the Scottish Parliament identified the need for a national ferries strategy which will fully meet the personal and economic needs of those living on and travelling to our island communities.

“What came through in all the evidence was the need for better integration between transport services; an active strategy to develop more routes; a need to ensure faster and more frequent routes and ways to ensure better utilisation of Cal Mac vessels,” said Mr Stewart.

“I am also very disappointed the Government is resisting calls to add ferries to the remit of Transport Scotland. I would support a call for a more joined up strategy in terms of transport planning and that Transport Scotland creates a maritime division to look at how all our services can link together better.

“Ferries are a lifeline service and a key ingredient in the sustainability of our fragile island communities.

“I hope the review already being carried out by the Scottish Government takes action to resolve the concerns of local people expressed in this petition.”

Written by davidstewart

November 10, 2008 at 9:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Parliamentary Support for Historic Gainsborough

 07 November 2008

 

David Stewart, Highlands and Islands regional Labour MSP, has gained Parliamentary support for a call to bring a Gainsborough portrait of a famous Highland family back to the area as part of the year of Homecoming celebrations next year.

Mr Stewart raised the issue at Question Time today in the Scottish Parliament when he suggested the painting of the controversial Baillie family from Dochfour, who owned a number of Highland estates and had two generations of MPs at Westminster, could form an artistic focal point to the celebrations.

“The Year of Homecoming will provide an opportunity for people from all over the world to visit Scotland and it will provide a major boost to tourism in the Highlands and Islands.

“A formal bid has now been made to the Tate to bring the Baillie portrait to Inverness.

“I am delighted the Minister for tourism supported the proposal and I look forward to hearing if this fascinating historic Gainsborough can be brought to the area,” he said.

Written by davidstewart

November 7, 2008 at 2:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized