Brendan O’Hara Presents Petition On Behalf Of The People Of Bute

As I promised to do, I presented a petition on behalf of the people of Bute.

Ten years ago the people of this community along with other UK taxpayers bailed out RBS to the tune of £50 billon and now without any consultation, they have decided that the Bute branch will close.

I am genuinely amazed at the number of people who have signed this petition and only serves to show the strength of feeling that the community has that the Bute branch must remain open for business.

My thanks to the local community for taking the time to sign the petition and all the businesses and shops that displayed it on their counters.

They can be assured that I will continue to work with the community to make case for this bank to remain open for business. We are not giving up.

11 Brexit promises the government quietly dropped

Leaving aside the £350m for the NHS, Brexit has promised quick and easy trade deals with the EU and the rest of the world, an end to ECJ jurisdiction and free movement, and British control of North Sea fishing. None of this has come to pass. Here are 11 key abandoned claims

Source: 11 Brexit promises the government quietly dropped

Click here For Full Article 

How Much Data Are You Sharing?

This is something everyone who uses the internet needs to consider.
As a website and app developer it does worry me when I see friends and family sharing third-party apps and freely giving their data away for access to them.
You wouldn’t give your date of birth, pets names and mothers maiden name to a stranger in the street, but many do so over and over again online, leaving themselves open to identity theft and fraud.
As a Mother, I  would often google my (now adult) children and let them know how much I found and would warn them about their security.
As teenagers, they hated it, but now young adults, they understand why I “stalked” them online.
I found the thread  below by Dylan Curran on Twitter.
Dylan goes through his Google footprint in great detail.
But first, it may be pure coincidence that this also appeared in my feed at the same time?
Angus Robertson raised concerns about the storage of personal information online on BBC Questiontime.

Below is the full thread By Dylan Curran

Want to freak yourself out? I’m gonna show just how much of your information the likes of Facebook and Google store about you without you even realising it
1.… Google stores your location (if you have it turned on) every time you turn on your phone, and you can see a timeline from the first day you started using Google on your phone
2. This is every place I have been in the last twelve months in Ireland, going in so far as the time of day I was in the location and how long it took me to get to that location from my previous one
3. Google stores search history across all your devices on a separate database, so even if you delete your search history and phone history, Google STILL stores everything until you go in and delete everything, and you have to do this on all devices
4. Google creates an advertisement profile based on your information, including your location, gender, age, hobbies, career, interests, relationship status, possible weight (need to lose 10lbs in one day?) and income
5. Google stores information on every app and extension you use, how often you use them, where you use them, and who you use them to interact with (who do you talk to on facebook, what countries are you speaking with, what time you go to sleep at)…
6.… Google stores ALL of your YouTube history, so they know whether you’re going to be a parent soon, if you’re a conservative, if you’re a progressive, if you’re Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, if you’re feeling depressed or suicidal, if you’re anorexic…
7. Google offers an option to download all of the data it stores about you, I’ve requested to download it and the file is 5.5GB BIG, which is roughly 3 MILLION Word documents
8. This link includes your bookmarks, emails, contacts, your Google Drive files, all of the above information, your YouTube videos, the photos you’ve taken on your phone, the businesses you’ve bought from, the products you’ve bought through Google…
9. Your calendar, your Google hangout sessions, your location history, the music you listen to, the Google books you’ve purchased, the Google groups you’re in, the websites you’ve created, the phones you’ve owned, the pages you’ve shared, how many steps you walk in a day…
10. Facebook offers a similar option to download all your information, mine was roughly 600mb, which is roughly 400,000 Word documents
11. This includes every message you’ve ever sent or been sent, every file you’ve ever sent or been sent, all the contacts in your phone, and all the audio messages you’ve ever sent or been sent
12. Facebook also stores what it think you might be interested in based off the things you’ve liked and what you and your friends talk about (I apparently like the topic ‘Girl’)
13. Somewhat pointlessly, they also store all the stickers you’ve ever sent on Facebook (I have no idea why they do this, it’s just a joke at this stage)
14. They also store every time you log into Facebook, where you logged in from, what time, and from what device
15. And they store all the applications you’ve ever had connected to your Facebook account, so they can guess I’m interested in politics and web and graphic design, that I was single between X and Y period with the installation of Tinder, and I got a HTC phone in November…
16. Side-note, if you have Windows 10 installed, this is a picture of JUST the privacy options with 16 different sub-menus, which have all of the options enabled by default when you install Windows 10
17. This includes tracking where you are, what applications you have installed, when you use them, what you use them for, access to your webcam and microphone at any time, your contacts, your e-mails, your calendar, your call history, the messages you send and receive…
18. The files you download, the games you play, your photos and videos, your music, your search history, your browsing history, even what RADIO stations you listen to
19. This is one of the craziest things about the modern age, we would never let the government or a corporation put cameras/microphones in our homes or location trackers on us, but we just went ahead and did it ourselves because fuck it I want to watch cute dog videos
20. I got the Google Takeout document with all my information, and this is a breakdown of all the different ways they get your information
21. Here’s the search history document, which has 90,000 different entries, even showing the images I downloaded and the websites I accessed (I showed ThePirateBay section to show much damage this information can do)
22. Here’s my Google Calendar broken down, showing all the events I’ve ever added, whether I actually attended them, and what time I attended them at (this part is what I went for an interview for a Marketing job, and what time I arrived at)
23. This is my Google Drive, which includes files I EXPLICITLY deleted including my resume, my monthly budget, and all the code, files, and websites I’ve ever made, and even my PGP private key, which I deleted, which I use to encrypt e-mails
24. This is my Google Fit, which shows all of the steps I’ve ever taken, any time I walked anywhere, and all the times I’ve recorded any meditation/yoga/workouts I’ve done (I deleted this information and revoked Google Fit’s permissions)
25. This is all the photos ever taken with my phone, broken down by year, and includes metadata of when and where I took the photos
26. Every e-mail I’ve ever sent, that’s been sent to me, including the ones I deleted or were categorised as spam
27. And now my Google Activity, this has thousands of files, so I’ll just do a short summary of what they have
28. Firstly every Google Ad I’ve ever viewed or clicked on, every app I’ve ever launched or used and when I did it, every website I’ve ever visited and what time I did it at, and every app I’ve ever installed or searched for
29. Every image I’ve ever searched for and saved, every location I’ve ever searched for or clicked on, every news article I’ve ever searched for or read, and EVERY SINGLE google search I’ve made since 2009
30. And then finally, every YouTube video I’ve ever searched for or viewed, since 2008
31. I’m probably on an FBI watch-list now, so if I die in the next few months IT WASN’T AN ACCIDENT, IT WAS A SET-UP
32. This information has millions of nefarious uses and violates multiple human rights, you’re not a terrorist? Then how come you were googling ISIS? Work at Google and you’re suspicious of your wife? Perfect, just look up her location and search history for the last ten years
33. Manage to gain access to someone’s Google account? Perfect, you have a chronological diary of everything that person has done for the last ten years


From 3 April Scotland’s new £96m devolved employment support schemes begin work.

How will the SNP Scottish Government use powers over employment support services?

In April 2017, new transitional employment support services, Work First Scotland and Work Able Scotland, were put in place ahead of the full roll-out next year. In the first six months, almost 3,500 people joined the new transitional employability services which support individuals with disabilities and health conditions.

Devolved, Powers, Sanctions
From 3 April Scotland’s new £96m devolved employment support schemes begin work.

An additional £20 million of funding for the services will ensure up to 4,800 disabled people and people with health conditions will receive help to get into work.

From April 2018 a new £96 million Fair Start Scotland will replace these temporary schemes, aiming to help at least 38,000 people find work. The scheme, like the transitional services, will be voluntary so participants will not face the threat of Tory benefit sanctions if they are using our services.


Scottish Renewables Annual Conference

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon


Thank you, Matthieu, and thanks also to Claire.

In the last year, Scottish Renewables has of course gained both a new Chair and a new Chief Executive. I want to thank the previous postholders – Patricia Hawthorn and Niall Stuart – for their contribution to the renewables sector in recent years. And I also want to wish Rob Forrest and Claire well in their new posts. I look forward to working with both of you in the months and years ahead.

It’s a pleasure to speak at this conference – an exciting time for renewables in Scotland. The renewables sector now generates more than half of Scotland’s total electricity demand. You employ tens of thousands of people across the country and  contribute to our country’s energy security, our climate change targets and our economic growth.

So you have become a major Scottish success story.

It follows that the key message I want to get across to you this afternoon is simply this. The Scottish Government recognises and values the contribution all of you make to Scotland. We want the renewables sector to be even more successful in the future, than it has been in the recent past. And we are determined to work with you to achieve that aim.

I hope that that message has already come through clearly in recent months, with the publication of our Climate Change Plan and our new Energy Strategy. We are very grateful to everyone here who contributed to the consultation process for those documents.

The Energy Strategy sets out targets, not simply for electricity use, but for energy as a whole – including transport and heating. At the moment, 18% of our overall energy use comes from renewable sources. By 2030, we are determined that will be at least 50%.

As all of you will know, that’s hugely ambitious.  It will require major changes to heating and to transport. It involves an ongoing investment in energy efficiency. It will mean more use of battery storage and of technologies such as hydrogen fuel. And it will also, of course, involve a further very significant expansion of renewable energy.

But although our proposals are unashamedly ambitious, they will also be hugely beneficial – to our environment, our economy and our society.

Renewable energy use means that we will meet our climate change targets.  Developing and adopting new processes and new technologies will create possibly tens of thousands of jobs. Businesses in all sectors can improve their energy efficiency and lower their costs. And people across Scotland will live in warmer homes and breathe cleaner air. We will become a greener, healthier, more prosperous country.

The renewables sector will be absolutely at the heart of achieving that vision.  So this afternoon, I want to set out some of the ways in which the Scottish Government is working with you to promote the sector. I’ll then say a bit more about how we will work with you to deliver some of those wider benefits from clean energy.

But before I do that, I do just want to touch – fairly briefly – upon the subject of Brexit. It is, after all, directly relevant to this sector.

If the UK Government decides – not just to leave the EU, but also to leave the single market, which is their stated position at the moment – it is likely to hinder our supply chain and reduce our skills base.

If we find ourselves outside the internal energy market – although I have been encouraged by some of the Prime Minister’s rhetoric on this particular subject – it could affect our influence on issues such as energy regulation and cross-border energy flows.

And we could also lose access to EU funding which none of us want to see happen. It is worth remembering that just last year, Scotland benefited from one of the biggest investments ever made by the European Investment Bank – the half billion pounds of funding they provided for the Beatrice offshore windfarm.

It is fair to say that Scotland has also done disproportionately well from EU support for research and innovation in the renewables sector. We want that to continue.

So we want to see the UK Government provide clarity on these issues. Although the overall outlook for this sector is hugely positive, Brexit could potentially harm our supply chain and skills base; diminish our influence on issues such as regulation and energy flows; and reduce our access to funding.

That’s why the Scottish Government believes that, if the UK has to leave the EU, it should still say in the customs union, the single market, and the internal energy market.

In my view, if not the best future, then would be the least damaging outcome for Brexit. One that would certainly help jobs and prosperity, not just here in Scotland but right across the whole of the UK.

The other point worth making about Brexit is that, if anything, it increases the importance of getting on with all of our other efforts to develop the low carbon sector.

That’s exactly what we’re determined to do. We’re spending half a billion pounds on energy efficiency measures over the course of this parliament. We’ve set up programmes such as the low carbon innovation fund – it’s currently seeking applications for projects which contribute to our ambitions for low carbon heat, integrated energy systems, and ultra-low emission vehicles.

We continue to support the world leading research on renewable energy and low carbon technology which is undertaken here in Scotland.

We’re also trying – in fairly uncertain times – to provide as much certainty for businesses. Our climate change targets; our energy strategy targets; our commitment to remove the need for new diesel and petrol cars by 2032; all of these are intended to provide companies with a very clear direction of travel.

They show that that Scotland is committed to pioneering a low carbon future; and as a result, mark us out as a centre for low carbon investment.

And of course, as part of that aim of making Scotland a low carbon hub, we specifically want to encourage investment in the different renewable energy sectors.

Inevitably, we need to do that in different ways for different sectors, according to the particular powers we have here in Scotland.

In relation to solar, for example, we will look at the energy standards we set for building regulations – something which can affect the adoption of solar technology. Ministers are also, incidentally, currently considering the first large scale solar power application.

If you take Hydro power, that’s been very important to Scotland for generations now. In fact a couple of weeks ago, I met the Chief Executive of Liberty House. We discussed the huge investment that they’ve made in the Fort William aluminium works.

That investment could create around 2,000 jobs directly and indirectly.  It is potentially transformational for the Lochaber area. And it is to a large extent based on the availability of large scale hydroelectricity.

So we definitely want to sustain and encourage hydropower. We’re currently looking at business rates for the sector. In fact from next week, a 60 per cent relief for smaller hydro schemes comes into effect.

We have now started to review how things such as plant and machinery are assessed when business rates are set for hydro schemes – we know that’s a very genuine concern.

The third technology I want to talk about is wind power. Onshore wind is, and in my view will continue to be, central to Scotland’s energy mix.

However UK Government policies, at present, effectively stop new developments from having a route to market. That strikes us as being incredibly counter-productive.

So we agree with many people, across the sector, that the UK Government should allow onshore wind to compete in contract auctions against other energy technologies. It’s an approach which would be good for consumers and obviously good for the onshore wind sector.

It’s maybe also worth saying something about our Planning Bill – I know that quite a few people here will have an interest in it. Our hope and intention is that the Bill will help us to streamline planning procedures, introducing greater flexibility while also encouraging better and earlier discussion and engagement with communities at the start of the process. We believe that this approach can make the planning system work better for everyone. Of course we continue to welcome input into that ongoing work.

Offshore wind has seen some really exciting developments in the last year.  In October, I had the huge honour of opening Statoil’s Hywind Scotland windfarm – the world’s first floating windfarm. It’s a genuinely extraordinary set of structures.

One of the reasons why Hywind is based here in Scotland, is that the Scottish Government used our previous powers under the Renewables Obligation. We offered higher levels of support for floating wind than the rest of the UK.

That sort of incentive is unfortunately no longer an option – the UK Government has now ended the Renewables Obligation. We will however, continue to do everything we can to encourage offshore development in Scotland – whether that’s through our use of our planning and licensing powers, or by working with the industry to promote innovation and drive down costs.

And as part of that, we will of course work with the UK Government. For example we want to ensure that its sector deal for offshore wind takes proper account of Scotland’s huge resources and potential.

There is no reason for it not to do that. If you look back again to last autumn, the Moray East offshore windfarm gained a contract to produce energy for under two thirds of the price of new nuclear power. Its price was less than £60 per megawatt hour; of course Hinkley Point’s was more than £90.

It was a further sign that offshore wind in Scotland is becoming increasingly competitive. We are determined to work with the sector to maintain that trend and to maintain that momentum.

The final technology I want to mention is wave and tidal energy. It’s an area where Scotland is a global pioneer.

In recent months, Atlantis Resources has been setting world records through their tidal power turbines in the Pentland Firth. They announced last week that they have now delivered over 5 Gigawatt hours of electricity to the grid.

Scotrenewables is currently testing the world’s largest tidal turbine at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney – a location which has tested more wave and tidal devices than any other single site anywhere in the world.

Projects like that are of course primarily due to the ingenuity and enterprise of businesses and researchers. But they have also been made possible by sustained Scottish Government support. For example, our Wave Energy Scotland programme has supported over 60 projects.

We know that commercial development of marine technology takes time; and that not every venture will go smoothly. But we also understand the potential that wave and tidal power has for Scotland and indeed the wider world. Having gained a position of global leadership in this field, we are determined not to let that go.

Now we’re doing all of this partly because for Scotland – as for all countries – moving to a low carbon future is an overwhelming moral imperative.

However it is also a massive opportunity. I always think it’s important to stress that fact; and perhaps even more importantly, to persuade people that a low carbon economy will directly benefit them.

And there are two sides to that I want to touch on this afternoon.

The first is that we need to ensure that consumers and the public get a fair deal. That’s one reason why we have pledged to establish a publicly owned energy company – we believe it will benefit consumers. It’s also why our energy strategy places a strong emphasis on consumer protection.

In addition, we have encouraged the growth of community benefit schemes and community ownership of renewable energy – we believe it is important and desirable that communities benefit from their own natural resources.

And we have also established a Just Transition Commission to provide advice to the Government. We’re determined that the shift to a low carbon economy won’t just make Scotland a wealthier country, it will also make us a fairer one.

And secondly – and this is of course inextricably linked to the wider issue of public benefits – we need to maximise the impact of renewables on skilled jobs and sustainable growth.

One hugely important part of doing that is to improve our supply chain capabilities.

With a relatively new industry, that’s not always going to be straightforward. The situation at Bifab demonstrates that very clearly, although I am optimistic about a good outcome being reached.

But we are already seeing a growing supply chain in Scotland for renewable energy, demonstrated by businesses such as Balfour Beatty, CS Wind at Machrahanish, Global Energy at Nigg, and many more.  For some marine energy projects – such as Nova’s tidal array in Shetland – more than four fifths of the supply chain is based in Scotland.

So renewable energy is already providing significant levels of skilled employment – often in relatively rural or remote areas. I think it’s fair to say all of us want the supply chain to develop further.

I’m confident that can and will happen. If you look at the oil and gas supply chain, that sector’s success wasn’t immediate. But that supply chain is now globally renowned. It employs more than 100,000 people in Scotland, and it exports to countries across the world.

We now want to create – as rapidly as possible – a similar success story for renewable energy.

That’s why we’re investing in infrastructure, supporting ambitious growth companies, promoting research and development, and ensuring that people have the right skills.   We want our renewable resources to provide skilled employment, as well as sustainable energy, for communities across the country.

And the final point I want to make is that achieving this aim fits perfectly with the our wider economic mission as a country.

I’ve said on several occasions that we must see Scotland’s economic future as being founded on innovation. It is often said that Scotland invented the world that we live in today. We must take the opportunity of being a country that is similarly shaping and inventing a world that our children and grandchildren will inherit. That means we must aspire to develop, design and manufacture the technologies and products of the future – not just be content to be a country that uses these technologies.

That’s why, in the Programme for Government last year, we put such a strong emphasis, not just on protecting the environment, but also on innovation. Because in my view the two can go absolutely hand in hand.

Our support for innovation includes an increase of 70% in government support for business research and development.

We are also establishing a new national manufacturing institute for Scotland – to enable research and encourage collaboration in advanced manufacturing. The renewables sector is one of several sectors that could benefit from that.

And last month, the implementation plan for the new Scottish National Investment Bank was published.

I know that the bank has aroused great interest. I know Scottish Renewables have been particularly interested about the potential for the Investment Bank.

We are making almost £500 million available over the next three years for the Bank.

Now I can’t give guarantees about what projects the bank will support – it depends on what ideas businesses propose.

But we have made it very clear that the National Investment Bank will be mission-led. It will provide patient finance for companies, innovations and infrastructure which meet the key challenges our country faces. There’s no doubt whatsoever that one of those key challenges is the move to a low carbon economy.

So I believe there are good grounds for hoping that the Bank will become a cornerstone of the low carbon, high tech economy that all of us want to create.

If we succeed in that mission, as I believe we can, it will of course be hugely beneficial for our country’s future. However it will also in many senses be in keeping with our past.

We led the world into the industrial revolution. Through inventions such as James Watt’s improvements to the steam engine and many others, we helped to create the carbon economy.

My hope, and our collective ambition, is that we can once again use our capacity for innovation, to help lead the world out of the carbon economy into the low carbon age.

Few countries are better placed to fulfil that role. We have vast renewable energy resources; an international reputation for engineering excellence; a world class research base; and a completely committed public sector.

So, if we build on those strengths, I believe we can achieve the ambitions set out in our energy strategy. We can harness and develop clean technologies for the future. And in the process we can create jobs and prosperity in every part of the country.

The work all of you are already doing – and the progress you have already made – provides some idea of just how much is possible. So I look forward to working with you so we can achieve even more in the months and years to come. There’s no doubt in my mind that is within our grasp.

SNP Councillors In Argyll & Bute Call On HSCP Integration Joint Board To Abandon Plans For Damaging Healthcare Cuts

SNP Councillors In Argyll & Bute Call On HSCP Integration Joint Board To Abandon Plans For Damaging Healthcare Cuts.

Ahead of a meeting of the Integration Joint Board of the Health and Social Care Partnership scheduled to take place at Kilmory on Wednesday and following their group meeting on Monday, The SNP Group on Argyll and Bute Council has voiced strong opposition to the damaging and ill conceived cuts currently proposed for local healthcare services.

The eleven SNP Councillors, who together represent every ward in Argyll and Bute, are calling on the Integration Joint Board to consult with staff and communities, and put a stop to the proposals, which will decimate local jobs and frontline healthcare services. They are also urging the IJB to accept the offer of practical support and assistance from the Scottish Government, that is currently on the table.

Commenting SNP Group Leader Sandy Taylor said:

“In the new Integration Joint Board we all saw a real opportunity for the development of new heath and social care services in Argyll and Bute, improved through innovation, transformation and collaborative working. Instead we are now faced with an unsustainable and damaging reduction in service provision that will detrimentally affect every community in the area and hit the most vulnerable the hardest. The IJB should not lose sight of that initial ambition and must not proceed with current proposals. Any future service redesign should seek to fully involve the staff and communities which the board was set up to serve”.

Brendan O’Hara MP Presents RBS Petition To The House of Commons

Mr O’Hara said,

“As I promised to do, I presented a petition on behalf of the people of Campbeltown and the Kintyre peninsula. Ten years ago the people of this community along with other UK taxpayers bailed out RBS to the tune of £50 billon and now without any consultation, they have decided that the Campbeltown branch will close.

Brendan O’Hara MP Presents RBS Petition To The House of Commons

This petition is yet another clear message to RBS that this decision is vehemently opposed by the community. Thank you to everyone who took the time to sign the petition and they can be assured that I will continue to work with the community to make case for this bank to remain open for business. We are not giving up.”

The fight to save the Campbeltown branch of RBS from closure moved on to the floor of the House of Commons this week when local MP Brendan O’Hara presented a petition to parliament. (Thursday 22 Ma…

Source: Brendan O’Hara MP Presents RBS Petition To The House of Commons

‘Facebook should be regulated like the BBC’, says SNP’s top MP

In the wake of the scandal surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, centred on the mass harvesting of personal data and the manipulation of voting, Brendan O’Hara, the SNP MP at the heart of the Westminster probe into fake news, said a radical shake-up of the internet was needed to protect the public from the “lawless Wild West” of social media.

Read the full article here

He added: “We have a situation where Facebook can no longer pretend to be this benign fun place where people stick up a photo of their dog and then get followed with a pet food advert as a sort of quid pro quo. There’s now a malicious situation. Facebook can no longer argue it is just a host site. They are publishers and there has to be legislation. We cannot have a Wild West approach…They have to be held responsible.”

FACEBOOK should be subjected to a strict regulation regime similar to that which covers broadcast media such as the BBC, according to one of the…

Source: ‘Facebook should be regulated like the BBC’, says SNP’s top MP

Russell calls for fundamental change at Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership

Russell calls for fundamental change at Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership as plans for yet more savage cuts emerge

Local Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has called for major changes to the management and governance of the Argyll & Bute Health & Social Care Partnership after plans for the consideration – in secret – of yet more savage cuts to health and social care provision were leaked to newspapers.

Mr Russell said:

“Across the country Health & Social Care Partnerships have faced up to the challenge of change and worked with communities to ensure that services do so too. As a result in most places the integration of Health and Social care has produced better outcomes and more effective use of resources.

But here in Argyll & Bute too much centralised bureaucracy, ineffective, confusing consultations and misguided, and often futile, attempts to force through unacceptable closures – like that of Struan Lodge in Dunoon – have resulted in an ever worsening financial position.

So despite their spin to the contrary the reality is that the recurring financial problems facing the senior management and board of the Argyll & Bute Health and Social Care Partnership are in substantial part the result of their own shortcomings. They arise directly from their failure to successfully change and develop what their organisation does in order to match changing need in the area. This is compounded by the failure of the organisation to implement effective budgetary control year after year.

I know from my constituency work that local people and hardworking health and care staff are utterly fed up with this situation and with the constant pressures on services.

Now – to make it even worse – many of those in the front line face losing their jobs as a result of a new set of cuts being drawn up a fact to which the trade union Unison has drawn attention in its open letter published last week.

To make matters worse the Partnership is not being open about what it are planning. Whilst they will put a few things on the table next week at their open meeting, they have now admitted to keeping secret a document which they intend to discuss later in private and which details a terrifying further range of options for more cost cutting.

These are believed to include the complete privatisation of all elderly care, the closure of all day centres, a reduction in the number of midwives and other essential staff and yet more pressure on the most vulnerable such as further reduction of the help available for sleepovers.

Yet the Partnership, by its own admission, hasn’t even met its current targets for cost savings, for example on the reduction in the use of prescription drugs.

In addition some of the items in the leaked documents appear to suggest cuts that even those in charge realise can’t work and which they know will be subject to massive opposition. Some may actually be against the law.

To put it bluntly the previous programmes of cuts haven’t worked. Some of the cuts they are now planning can’t work. Yet the senior management’s only answer is to do again what they have done before in the desperate hope it might produce a different result this time.

It won’t. Even if these cuts happened we would be back again next year in the same position. It is the people who are running the show who are the problem because they have the wrong solutions. That needs to change, and change now.

Enough is enough. Regrettably the Partnership has failed to deliver the health services that are required and show no sign of being able to do so. I have therefore written to the Cabinet Secretary for Health asking her to ensure that support and assistance is given to the Partnership in this crisis in order to find a way out and I will be meeting her later this week.

It is essential that some stability is provided, either from within the organisation or from outside intervention so that management and governance changes are made which will produce an organisation fit for purpose, dedicated to supporting those excellent health and care staff across the area who are trying to deliver high quality health and social care and are capable of taking these services forward in a time of great demographic change.

Nobody would say that providing health and social care is easy in current circumstances but here in Argyll & Bute there are many good people on the ground trying their best. The way in which they and the organisation they work for is managed and governed is the problem and that is what must be tackled now in a new and positive spirit.”

Brendan’s Newsletter February 2018

Last Month I invited thirteen local producers to the House of Commons to showcase some of the finest food and drink in Scotland.

Co-hosted with the Duchess of Argyll, we welcomed Loch Fyne Oysters, the Scottish Salmon Company, Bute Brewery, Mull of Kintyre Cheese, the Puffer Restaurant, Lussa Gin, Gigha Halibut, Inverawe Smokehouse, Ritchie’s of Rothesay, and Argyll Hill Lamb.

I didn’t want just another tasting event at the House of Commons so I was delighted that we persuaded a number of UK based food buyers to come along to meet the producers.
Their feedback was fantastic and they all felt that it was worth making the near 1000 mile round trip. Many contacts were made and I hope some orders get on their books. My thanks to Food from Argyll and Highland and Islands Enterprise for their support .

The good folk of the Oban Mountain Rescue team are £5000 better off this month thanks to the Craggy Island Triathlon. The now legendary triathlon, which is held every October was so successful that having covered all their costs, they were still able to make such a significant donation to this hugely worthwhile cause. Back in October I blew the starting horn to begin the event and I can confirm that thus far, I have resisted all attempts to become a competitor in 2018!


On Saturday I was joined by local SNP activists in Inveraray as part of the party’s National Day of Action against the Royal Bank of Scotland’s decision to close
62 local branches, including those in Campbeltown,
Rothesay and Inveraray.

Earlier in the month, I cautiously welcomed the news that the RBS has
given a short-term reprieve to the branch at Inveraray, but promised to continue with the campaign to halt ALL the proposed branch closures
across Argyll & Bute.

Saturday’s Day of Action gathered more signatures for our parliamentary petition; a petition that will be presented on the floor of the House of Commons in the next couple of weeks, alongside dozens more from across Scotland.
The importance of the issue locally was emphasised with
both a BBC Alba news crew and the editor of the Argyllshire Advertiser coming along on to cover the event.

The SNP have opposed this RBS closure issue since day one and I think our fight is being recognised in the communities who will be affected, so I am
extremely grateful to all of the local SNP members who turned out on Saturday to help with this campaign.

It is very rare that a House of Commons Select Committee
refuses to “rubber stamp” a candidate for a government appointed job. But that’s exactly what the DCMS Select Committee did last month when it refused
to sanction the appointment of Baroness Stowell as the new Chair of the Charity Commission for England and Wales.

Baroness Stowell, until recently was the Conservative Leader of the Lords and while she may be the government’s preferred candidate the committee told the government, without experience and vision, that was not enough to secure a top job like this.

You can view the proceedings here:

At a time when we see the rise of bigotry and prejudice against minority communities and religious groups, both in the UK and across the world, the
Holocaust Memorial Day is a poignant reminder to us all that we
have an obligation to challenge this whenever and wherever we see it.
On behalf of the people of Argyll and Bute I again signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment to honour those who were murdered
during the Holocaust and pledged to do all I can to stop it ever happening again.


Far too often in the last couple of years I have had to meet up with Yvonne MacHugh in London, either to join her in delivering a petition to Downing Street or to attend a meeting with the Foreign Office or accompany her to one of the
many public meetings campaigning for the release of her fiancé Billy Irving from
jail in India. So I was absolutely delighted a few weeks ago when she called to say that both she and Billy would be in London for a Human Rights meeting about
protecting British nationals being held abroad.

After so long it was great to finally meet Billy in person and to share a drink with them. Billy and Yvonne are finally getting married later this month and I’m sure everyone will join me in wishing them all the very best for the future.

A Tidal Energy platform, with “game-changing” technology built by Scottish company Sustainable Marine Energy, has been going through its final test
underneath the Connel Bridge for the last few months before being taken to the Philippines to be put to work commercially. Before it left Argyll & Bute on its long journey to Asia, I visited the platform with Christoph Harwood of Sustainable Marine Energy, not just to see how the platform works but also to better understand why, despite the abundance of fast flowing water in Argyll &
Bute, this sort of technology wasn’t being utilised and better supported by the UK government to help get its cost down to a commercially viable level.

The importance of the Aquaculture sector to our local economy is undeniable with fishing, fish farming, marine engineering and marine science all making an enormous contribution to Argyll & Bute, bringing jobs, investment and very often, world-wide kudos for the quality of what we produce.

In the wake of my China Business Summit and my Taste of Argyll & Bute event, I have taken the opportunity to visit as many of these important local businesses as I can.

Last month I visited the world-wide fish farm equipment manufacturer Fusion Marine at their Dunstaffnage HQ as well as the Scottish Salmon Company at Cairndow, who invited me to see their new filleting and processing plant in
action. Both companies have ambitious future growth plans and both are equally committed to achieving that growth here in Argyll & Bute. I have often said that we desperately need this type of investment in order to create the long-term employment that will encourage more families to stay and put down roots in this

The so-called Beast From The East that battered most of the UK, apart from western Argyll it seems, prevented me from appearing in person at the launch event of Oban As A University Town. I was due to speak at the event in The Corran Halls to add my voice to the many others who wish to see Oban develop as a centre of educational excellence. The massive snow dump over
London prevented me from flying up but thanks to modern technology and the help of the SNP’s firstclass digital media team here at Westminster, I managed to record my speech and have it relayed to the packed Corran Hall
who by all accounts were enjoying a balmy spring afternoon!

We are extremely fortunate given that we already have the University of Highlands and Islands, SAMS, Ballet West all currently offering degree-level education and with almost 800 students, Oban is already regarded by many as being a university town. It is hoped that this project will attract even more students and investment into the educational infrastructure
already there.
It is a hugely important piece of the jigsaw to encourage as many of our young people to stay in the town and I have pledged to support this campaign in any way I can. You can view my speech here:

Just a few years ago, the idea of me driving from Helensburgh to Oban, to fly to Coll, to spend a day on the island, to then fly back to Oban, to then drive to Glasgow airport in order to catch the last flight to London would have been a bit
far-fetched. Now, being the MP for Argyll & Bute however, it’s just what you do. And so it was a couple of weeks ago I went on a 17-hour planes, trains and automobiles adventure that took me to one of the most beautiful places on the planet, to the bustling streets of London’s East End. And I loved every
minute of it. I hadn’t been to Coll for a wee while and I really wanted to go so with a light-business Monday, I took the opportunity to hold a constituency surgery as well as visit some of my favourite places on this beautiful island, including the wonderful RecyColl Charity Shop…where I found and purchased a brand new SNP Golf umbrella.

During  recess, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee visited New York and Washington to grill the big Tech companies as part of our ‘fake news’ investigation. Senior executives from Google, Facebook and Twitter faced 5 hours of questioning on everything from Russian interference in the US elections and the Brexit referendum, their use of algorithms and their social responsibility towards protecting children online


While I was hosting the Chinese business conference in Oban last year, I on the off chance and carrying a plate of sandwiches, popped into say hello to the
local council members at their monthly Members’ Day who were meeting in an adjacent room. We had a brief but very interesting discussion on what was happening in and around the Oban, Lorn and Isles and what issues were likely to emerge in
he coming months. We all agreed that it was a useful exercise and that a longer discussion would be extremely helpful. As a result, last month I was delighted to accept an invitation to attend a meeting of the Area Committee where we had a
long discussion about a whole range of local issues. So useful was it that I’ll be writing to all the other Area Committees offering to have the same kind of
meeting with them too.

The only upside of being stuck in London because of the snow storm was that I was able to take up a long-standing offer to speak to the Fellows and PhD students at Cambridge University. I had been invited to speak at Robinson College by Baroness Smith of Newnham and I took as my topic, Scotland, Brexit and The Westminster Power-Grab.
It was a fascinating evening of a lecture, a lengthy question and
answer session, followed by dinner and a discussion in the college. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and although it’s often difficult to gauge how these thing are received, I suppose when a politics professor at Cambridge asks for your notes and a copy of your speech, it’s not a bad sign.

Source: Brendan’s Newsletter February 2018