At CnES…Calum Iain Maciver, Director of Development; Councillor Roddie Mackay, Council Leader; Lord Duncan; and Chef Executive Malcolm Burr.

Scotland Office Brexit Minister Lord Duncan flew out of Stornoway today (Friday September 29) after a series of meetings across Lewis and Harris aimed at building links between the Western Isles and those involved in organising the UK exit from the European Union.

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State also pledged that the Conservative Government was committed to its 2017 Election Manifesto promise to bring about some form of interconnection with the national electricity grid, with a target of 2019 for getting proposals organised.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil welcomed confirmation from Lord Duncan that the Contract for Difference (CfD) auction will take place in the first quarter of 2019.  In July Mr MacNeil met Richard Harrington MP, Parliamentary under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), who at that time expressed his determination to progress island Contracts for Difference (CfD) and his view that auctions would take place in the first quarter of 2019.

Lord Duncan said that it was not a question of whether should be a link, it was a question of finding the best way to develop it. “It’s a manifesto commitment, it is going to happen, we will be connecting the islands up, it’s a question of which sequence, of who is first, what type of interconnector.”

He said he had enjoyed a series of meetings – with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the Stornoway Trust, Western Isles Fisherman’s Association, Harris Tweed Hebrides, the Isle of Harris Distillery, at the proposed site for Ionad Hiort, and at MG ALBA.

Lord Duncan acknowledged that there was a Brexit challenge for the Islands in relation to migrants forming a major part of some workforces, particularly in agriculture and tourism. It was necessary to find a solution which worked for the whole of the UK.

“We are in this awkward situation now of needing to make sure we can configure a migration policy and a residency policy that works because we have been dependent on migrant labour.”

He pledged to make sure he maintained close contact with the Islands – the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland – as the months of debates in Parliament develop after the end of the Parliamentary recess next month.

“There’s an open door for all discussions on Brexit, to make sure the Islands are absolutely part of those discussions, because they have had a unique relationship with Europe.” There should be no part of Scotland left out of this discussion, he said.

After the meeting with Lord Duncan, the Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Councillor Roddie Mackay  said, “The meeting with Lord Duncan was very positive.  We discussed the future of island renewables and I was heartened by the Government’s clear commitment to support the Scottish Islands.  Lord Duncan outlined a timetable that should allow islands projects to complete in a Contracts for Difference Auction in early 2019 as well as confirming that the Government was committed to supporting and funding the interconnector.

“Lord Duncan was clear that the Comhairle’s approach to achieving the interconnector was the correct one and he advised that we keep working with the Government and with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to reinforce the positive case we were making.  Based on Lord Duncan’s advice, the Comhairle will continue to engage with Government, regulators and the developer community to ensure that the recent positive progress is maintained..

Lord Duncan was elected to the European Parliament in 2014, and resigned upon his appointment to the House of Lords. In 1999 he became the Deputy Chief Executive, and Secretary for the Scottish Fishermen's Federation. From 2004-2005 he acted as the Head of Policy & Communication for the Scottish Refugee Council. Before becoming an MEP, Duncan worked as Head of the EU Office for the Scottish Parliament, a position he held between 2005 and 2011, at which time he was appointed Clerk to the Parliament's European Committee and EU Advisor to the Parliament.

Below at the proposed site for the St Kilda Centre, Lord Duncan is pictured with Brian Wilson and Joni Buchanan