A – A week in the life of the MP…Angus MacNeil
My constituency of Na h-Eileanan an Iar stretches more than 100 miles and includes 15 inhabited islands.
I live on the Isle of Barra and am an active crofter but spend part of most weeks at Westminster, London representing the islands in Parliament.
A typical week begins with a flight from Barra to Glasgow on a Monday morning, before taking another flight to London.
Monday afternoons are spent in meetings; catching up on report reading, emails and letters.
Tuesday – I am the Chair of the House of Commons International Trade Committee which involves weekly meetings including evidence-taking sessions and specific inquiries.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I attend and take part in debates in the House of Commons; attend meetings with Government Ministers; business and service representatives pushing for the best deal for my island constituents; and working with my SNP Group colleagues on a wide variety of issues.
I also spend much of my week assisting constituents with individual cases and making representations on their behalf.
Friday I return to the constituency and spend the weekend there.
B – Broadband
In the last year I have dealt with more than 40 separate constituency cases regarding Broadband. Not surprisingly the roll-out of the superfast broadband programme across the region has brought a much better service for many people but has also raised a lot of issues for those who cannot access it at their home. Exchange Only lines mean a longer wait or in the most frustrating of cases, the situation often arises when the next door neighbour can access but they can’t.
I have regular updates from the Department of Media, Culture and Sport on the roll-out programme nationally and also am briefed by HIE locally and BT for the Highlands and Islands.
I met with BT Scotland, Director, Brendan Dick in May 2016 and he assured me that BT are making major efforts to improve customer service and in light of the recent Ofcom report which concluded BT must overhaul its Openreach division or face a structural split, I would hope to see all island customers receive an improved service and will continue in discussions with the company on a regular basis on this matter.
If any constituent is having issues in regards to a new or existing connection or lack of connection, please contact my office and I will do my best to assist.
For further information on when the roll out will reach your area:
There are also satellite broadband subsidies available to assist with installation costs for those who cannot access broadband at all. More information is available:
C - Constituents
My constituents contact me about a huge variety of different issues.
They contact me by email, by phone, by visiting my office or through social media.
I am happy to help with as many issues as possible and regularly assist constituents with issues from visas and passports to transport to health issues – the list is endless.
I cannot intervene in private disputes with other individuals or in decisions made by courts.
I regularly welcome constituents to Westminster and have assisted many individuals with tours and visits to see the House of Commons in action.
C – Crofting
Fergus Ewing MSP has been appointed as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity. He is now responsible for matters relating to Crofting.
As an active crofter myself I know there have been frustrations over the delays in receiving the Basic Payments. However, the Croft House Grant Scheme has increased support significantly and Mr Ewing has informed me he is aware of difficulties faced by some crofters getting mortgages and that the Scottish Government is looking at options in relation to providing additional support outside of CHGS. I remain in discussions with the Scottish Government over improvements to the CHGS.
The controversy of the role of the Crofting Commission has been an issue of concern for all crofting communities this year with the issues arising between local committees and the Commission. I was contacted by constituents affected and had contact with the Commission on this subject. I hope that lessons have been learned by the Commission in how best to work with rather than against local committees which are made up of volunteers who are key to the management and development of crofting in our communities.
For more information on crofting subsidies etc please visit:
D – Debates
I take part in debates in the House of Commons every week while Parliament sits.
These can cover a huge variety of topics and you can see my contributions at https://www.theyworkforyou.com/search/?pid=12004&pop=1#n4
D – Defence
I have consistently voted against spending on nuclear weapons over the years and together with my SNP colleagues I opposed the replacement of the UK’s ageing nuclear weapons system in a vote in the House of Commons on July 18th. I received many representations from my constituents on this matter and not one of them was in favour of Trident renewal.
It was disappointing that Parliament voted in favour of Trident renewal committing the UK to spend an unthinkable amount of money at a time when the austerity programme looks set to continue for many more years.
Read more https://www.facebook.com/notes/policyfeed/angus-macneil-mp-chilcot-blair-emerges-without-sincerity-courage-or-credibility/621577594663193
E – Europe
Na h-Eileanan an Iar voted to remain part of the EU in the recent referendum as did the rest of Scotland.
At the time of writing, the UK is preparing to trigger Article 50 in the coming months and what is clear is the position of the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, who is striving ahead and exploring the options available to Scotland to remain in the EU. This may lead to a 2nd referendum on independence if this is the only option left on the table to allow Scotland to remain in the single market.
You can find more detail on Scotland’s position here:
E - Energy
I was Chair of the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee (2015-16).
As MP for the Isles I am pushing for the UK Government to support island renewables and have had extensive contact with the relevant department on this issue.
I am extremely disappointed by the recent announcement by the new Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy that Remote Island Wind will not be included in the next round of Contract for Difference (CfDs). This is a major setback for the development of renewables in the region.
I spoke with new Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark MP on this matter and he has committed to visiting the Hebrides.
E - ETV
I have long campaigned for the return of an Emergency Towing Vessel on the west coast of Scotland and will continue to do so until the UK Government reverse this decision which is leaving our coastline and seafarers at risk.
F - Fishing
The fishing industry is vital for the economy of Na h-Eileanan an Iar and I have always been a strong supporter of it.
I will always listen to the views of fishermen as they know their own industry and how to ensure a sustainable industry for future generations.
I have assisted in several individual cases regarding regulation enforcement; vessel registration; recruitment of overseas workers; and environmental concerns and have represented the views of the industry in discussions with the relevant Scottish and UK Government ministers.
Future management of the fisheries around our islands will depend on the outcome of the UK’s Brexit negotiations. I have written to Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, Bertie Armstrong to seek details of how a future model may look.
The fishing industry is currently struggling to recruit skilled workers and have called on the UK Government to support skippers by allowing recruitment from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). My call has been supported by the industry and the Fishing News.
G – Gaelic
I am a native Gaelic speaker and I am a strong supporter of the language and culture. I use the language every day and am an advocate for bilingual education.
Gaelic media is essential for our language and I support calls for more resources to be put into programming. I regularly speak on Gaelic TV and radio.
H – Housing
There is a well documented need for affordable and social housing across Na h-Eileanan an Iar and it is clear from my research that there is also a lot of hidden demand within communities.
I – Independence
I am, of course, in favour of Scotland becoming in an independent country with the freedom to control our own affairs.
I have actively campaigned for this for many years and continue to do so. The outcome of the EU referendum has highlighted strongly how Scotland has its own view which is often different from other parts of the UK.
I think an Independent Scotland is the best possible path to ensure the best future for the people of Scotland.
I - International Trade
I have been appointed as Chair of the House of Commons International Trade Committee at a crucial time for the UK’s economy as the UK Government moves towards Brexit. The International Trade Committee will be a central committee for economic direction of the UK at this stage as we are very uncertain as to what the terms of trade will be for the UK following Brexit.
The Prime Minister has not given clear answers on the single market and as a result of that we have to understand what the implications will be for the UK.
One of the first inquiries I imagine the committee would want to look at would be what the World Trade Organisation rules of engagement will mean for trade across the UK.
Obviously with uncertainty over the single market, or whether we can negotiate trade agreements between the World Trade Organisation rules and the single market, remains an open question.
I - Islands
The islands have always had a strong identity and I am very pleased that this is being embodied in a piece of legislation through the Islands Bill being taken forward by the Scottish Government.
This thinking is also being taken forward by the three island councils working together through the Our Islands Our Future campaign.
It is outrageous and undemocratic that the UK government is planning to cut the number of Scottish MPs while it continues to pack the unelected and unaccountable House of Lords with Tory donors to do the government’s bidding. However, it is a relief that the constituency of Na h-Eileanan an Iar is protected by law from being merged with another.
I - Inter-island flights
I think the inter-island flights between Stornoway and Benbecula and Benbecula and Barra should be fully reinstated. They were cut by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar more than three years ago and the consequences have been extremely negative for the people of Uist and Barra. Not only has this caused inconvenience for many, it has caused discomfort and distress for those travelling for hospital appointments. I will continue to press for the return of the full service.
J – Jobs
Creation and retention of jobs in Na h-Eileanan an Iar are crucial for building our population and ensuring a high quality of life for people living here.
I am pleased to see that the numbers of those claiming Job Seekers Allowance have remained low in the islands and continue to fall. However, I know that this can mean those seeking work have moved elsewhere or taken up part-time roles.
The islands are consistently named as the areas with the highest quality of life and that must include good employment opportunities.
There is massive potential in renewables and I have strongly supported that and continue to press the UK Government to commit to support going forward.
The islands have always relied on EU funding to support jobs and projects which boost the local economy. This is a deep concern in the face of the UK Government’s move towards an exit from the EU. To ensure a strong future for the islands, I am firmly of the view that an independent Scotland which is part of the EU would give us the greatest chance of ensuring a thriving Isles economy. This would be free from the austerity programme of the Tories and give us the opportunity to continue to benefit from vital EU funds.
L – Land reform
Giving his 2016 Angus Macleod Memorial Lecture in Stornoway, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said he felt that land reform in Scotland still has a long way to go. I agree with him and we all know the varied benefits which the Isles have taken from community land ownership. Economic opportunities, increased housing and increased social interaction are all well-documented parts of this process and I welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to the support of this movement.
M – Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail
The Royal National Mod 2016 was a great success in Na h-Eileanan an Iar and we hope it will return in the not-too-distant future. The Western Isles event was well organised and well supported by the local community and I hope its success will inspire many more people to get involved with the Gaelic language and culture.
N – No
I have met many people in the constituency who voted 'No' in the 2014 Independence Referendum who are now reconsidering. They cannot see a future for Scotland with the Tories in charge and a future outside the EU. However, there remains much more to be done, we need to work hard to convince those who still have doubts. The Scottish Government is being proactive on this and has published a draft Independence Referendum Bill. You can read the details here: http://news.gov.scot/news/protecting-scotlands-interests
O – Oil rig
The Transocean Winner oil rig arrived unexpectedly in the Isles in August 2016 and highlighted once again the need for an Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV) on the west coast as the outcome could have disastrous if a major pollution incident had resulted. As it was, the grounded rig brought significant media coverage to the islands as well as a boost to the local economy through the salvage work. The firm’s contributions to the local community were very well received.
P - Population decline
In November 2016 I attended the seminar on population decline held by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. This was an effort to put together some action points and a strategy to move forward in addressing this issue. I would welcome views from constituents on this issue – why did you choose the islands as your home? What issues affect your decision to move or return to the islands and what improvements would make the islands a more attractive place to live?
Q – Questions
I regularly submit Written Questions to Government departments and Secretaries of State on a wide variety of matters.
To see my latest questions and answers visit:
R – Referendum
The Scottish Government has launched a draft Independence Referendum Bill and you can see more details here:
S – Scotland
The SNP continues to stand up for Scotland by the strong leadership of the Scottish Government and also by the team of MPs at Westminster.
The SNP also has a large number of councillors across Scotland’s councils. Scotland is a strong country and is more than capable of managing its own affairs and thriving in that environment.
S – Syria and Iraq
I am deeply concerned for the wellbeing of the civilian populations of Syria and of areas of Iraq such as Mosul - and above all its children - during the ongoing military offensives. The SNP has challenged the UK Government to do a great deal more for the protection of civilians in Iraq and indeed in Syria and Yemen also.
On 18 October, during an emergency debate on the military offensive on Mosul, our MPs raised these issues with Secretary of Defence Michael Fallon in the House of Commons.
T – Trident
I am opposed to the renewal of Trident as are the SNP as a party. I have consistently voted against spending on nuclear weapons during my career at Westminster and together with his SNP colleagues opposed the replacement of the UK’s ageing nuclear weapons system. Use of weapons of mass destruction is not just immoral but replacement of the UK’s system would cost around £167bn – an obscene amount of money for a country which has shown little economic recovery in the last eight years – incidentally unlike international friends and neighbours in Ireland and Iceland whose rate of growth now dwarfs that in the UK.
T – Transport
I am involved on a weekly basis in dialogue with Calmac and the airlines to raise any issues which my constituents bring up with me about our Isles transport system. The extension of RET to inter-island ferries and extension of ADS to 50% discount are very welcome developments which show the Scottish Government’s support for transport links. My view on the cuts to inter-island flights by the local council are widely documented and I would like to see these reversed in full. The alarming prospect of leaving the EU could impact on our transport infrastructure in the future.
U – Universal Service Obligation
I would like to see the proposal for a Universal Service Obligation for broadband taken forward. However, this would have to be in the best interests of those in hard-to-reach areas. Currently a threshold is set for the cost of setting up a phone line at a property and if the cost exceeds the threshold, householders can be asked to pay the difference. My concern is that the threshold could be set relatively low for broadband USO and that my constituents could end up footing the bill. I am monitoring this situation.
V & X – X marks the Vote
I would encourage everyone to exercise their democratic right and vote in all elections. The next one is the local council elections in May 2017.
This will for the first time include 16 and 17-year-olds in Scotland and I would encourage especially first time voters to make sure they are registered to vote.
Y – You
I was chosen by the people of Na h-Eileanan an Iar to represent them in the UK Parliament for a third term in 2015.
I am here to represent the views of all of my constituents so please get in touch with my office on any issue.