MP Angus Macneil talks about Budget, BT and brighter days

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The Budget setting last week made the headlines mostly for the surprising sugar tax, but the budget as a whole left more of a sour taste.

It appears the Tories targeted the poor because they didn’t vote for them.

In recent negotiations they also tried to remove £7 billion from Scotland in recent negotiations but the SNP stood up for Scotland and blocked them.Who else is in the sights of the divisive Tories?

At the time of writing, the course of action the UK Government will take on this is anyone’s guess, but what is clear to all is that the programme of austerity is not working for ordinary people and not working as a vision by this Government who are increasingly divided.

I was pleased that following pressure from myself and my colleagues in the SNP, the Chancellor announced a freeze on fuel duty for another year.

This is an issue which I will continue to be vocal on to protect island households.

The SNP group at Westminster has consistently shown that the UK deficit and debt can be brought down without making extreme cuts to public services, yet the Tories continue to pursue the programme of austerity.

A number of famous economists for years have warned that austerity causes austerity.

My office here in the islands has been contacted by a large number of constituents since the new year regarding service issues with BT.

Earlier this month I met with Brendan Dick, Director of BT Scotland to highlight the concerns expressed.

We had a straight discussion over service levels and I was reassured that BT are making efforts to address this through relocation of call centres back to the UK; improving customer services; and recruiting further engineers locally.

BT recently recruited three new engineers and are planning to take on a further five.

The roll out of superfast broadband, while a very welcome development, remains an issue for some with many households reporting problems with available speeds or lack of access altogether despite the service being available to neighbours.

BT assure me that they are doing all they can to address the issues and expand the programme.

The announcement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the SNP conference that 100 per cent of Scottish premises will be able to access superfast broadband should the party be re-elected, is a fantastic assurance that this is a priority for Scotland.

Also this month I met with CEO of Faroes Føroya Telecom - the telecom company that operates the mobile phone network in the Faroes - and Huw Saunders from Ofcom, to discuss further developments for expanding mobile phone networks in Scotland, particularly in the Islands.

Following positive discussions regarding the Faroes’ impressive service, which is due to offer blanket 4G coverage by this summer, I am pushing for a pilot project to be carried out in a Scottish island group based on the Faroese model. This call is supported by several SNP MPs and I would hope to see this taken forward.

Some preliminary scoping carried out by Faroes Telecom indicates that one of the island groups should manage to bring 4G with just 25 masts given the high speed broadband being rolled out.

On a bright note to end this month’s column (which will not return again until May due to the Gazette’s Scottish Parliamentary election coverage), we are almost at that hopeful time of year when the clocks spring forward, indicating the start of British Summer Time.

I was recently interviewed for Sky News about the suggestion of scrapping Daylight saving. My view is that without it, much of Scotland would be plunged into darkness in winter mornings.

The only change I could see as advantageous is possibly the introduction of a shorter winter period by moving the clocks forward a few weeks earlier at the beginning of March, when the days have already begun to stretch.