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      Stornoway, Broadbay & Lochs news

Alasdair Allan, MSP; Claire Smith; FM Humza Yousaf; and Lawrence Devenney, Drop-in Support Worker – photos: Robert Sinclair

First Minister Humza Yousaf is visiting Stornoway today (Friday April 5) – and spent quite some time this morning meeting with workers and others involved with The Shed project at Martin's Memorial Church on Francis Street.

He was also expected to make visits related to agriculture while on the Isle of Lewis and to highlight calls for a rural visa pilot scheme to tackle the impacts of Brexit and depopulation.  It is designed to allow some rural businesses to recruit foreign nationals easily to help with a shortage of workers.

These proposals were first outlined by Scottish ministers in September 2022 and received backing from organisations including the National Farmers Union Scotland  (NFUS) – but they were not supported by the Conservative Government in Westminster, which controls immigration policies.

Mr Yousaf, who was being joined by the SNP’s Na h-Eileanan an Iar Westminster candidate Susan Thomson and the SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, is reported in The Herald newspaper today as saying: "Businesses and farms across Scotland’s rural and island communities have shown enormous resilience in recent years and are invaluable to communities like the one I am visiting today.

“They are a hallmark of the skill, dedication and ingenuity that runs throughout Scotland, and we must do what we can to support them so that they continue to be so. That is why the SNP proposed a rural visa pilot scheme.”

Mr Yousaf went on to say the proposals would mitigate against labour shortages “which are a direct consequence of Brexit and hostile Tory immigration policies”.

He said there has been “no meaningful engagement from Westminster”, adding: “Instead, this Tory Government has continued to pursue a toxic combination of Brexit red tape, the ending of freedom of movement and hostile Tory immigration policies – despite the significant damage this is doing to our rural industries and communities.

“A rural visa pilot would go a long way to addressing this, however ultimately Scotland must look to a brighter future as an independent country that is once again a member of the EU.”

And also today, Alasdair Allan has welcomed this morning’s announcement that the Scottish Government will provide additional funding to protect Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s Gaelic Development Officers Scheme, which was facing closure because of a funding shortfall. 

Initially an additional £175,000 will be provided to Bòrd na Gàidhlig to maintain the development officer roles, with the development agency being asked by the Scottish Govenmernt to review the scheme in the meantime in order to provide a plan for its sustainable operation in future, including support and oversight of the community officers, to allow ministers to consider options for the scheme’s continued funding.

In February the future of the Gaelic Officers Scheme, which has been running for two years, was thrown into doubt. While Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s core funding remained steady for the 2024/25 budget, the funding uplift received by the agency in recent years had not been able to be renewed.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “The news of this additional funding, and commitment to ensure these jobs continue being protected for the long-term, will be a great relief to many. I thank the Education Secretary for her engagement on this issue and for identifying the necessary funding to extend the development officer contracts, especially at a time when budgets across the board are stretched to their limits.

“The loss of these jobs would have gone against the aims and principles of the new languages bill, and would have represented a significant local loss and step back in progress, particularly in rural communities. While the Scottish Government’s budget is under severe pressure – with the proportion of funding received in the block grant for this year from the UK Government at its lowest level ever – it is vital to highlight the critical stage at which the Gaelic language remains. If Gaelic is to continue being used as a community language, work to protect the language’s heartlands needs to be properly funded.

“I will be watching with interest in the coming weeks as the Education Committee in parliament begins its scrutiny of the Scottish Languages Bill, and in the meantime I hope today’s news will be of reassurance to those working so hard to promote the language and culture in their local communities.”