Outer Hebrides Commerce Group AGM

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The appointment of David Wood as Chairperson of the Outer Hebrides Commerce Group was unanimously approved at the Group’s Annual General Meeting in Stornoway.

Speaking after his installation Mr Wood said that the past year of campaigning could be summed up as a year punctuated with “minor successes but sadly, major disappointments”.

He said: “First of all I must put on record our thanks to our first chairperson Calum Campbell of Polybox. Calum ably led the Group over the past year and we all wish him well for the future. He remains as a valuable and experienced member of the OHCG.”

“In the past year we smoothly amalgamated with the Western Isles Chamber of Commerce, our membership continues to increase and the OHCG continues to speak for the economic community of the islands. We also successfully showed that hauliers did pass on the benefits of cheaper ferry travel to customers. The important independent report which proved how cheaper fares benefited our Islands nailed that particular lie. It also demonstrated the negative impact massive increases of the ferry tax are having on jobs and prosperity.”

Mr Wood continued: “we have had major disappointments in the past year also. The non-engagement of our national politicians has been nothing short of a disgrace. They pledged to fight for their constituents - but they’ve sadly been found wanting. We hope that this will improve in the forthcoming year. Our MSP and MP can redeem themselves by getting the Transport Minister, Keith Brown MSP to fulfil the pledge to meet with the OHCG. Keith Brown’s refusal to meet with us because of a so called ‘busy diary’ has been roundly condemned by our membership and our Annual General Meeting. Our communities have had to absorb a 67% increase in commercial fares in the past year and all Mr Brown can do is ignore us.”

Mr Wood finished by paying tribute to Gail Robertson who was re- elected as Co-ordinator. Mr Wood said: “From the first day our group was set up Gail has been a diligent and tenacious co-ordinator”.

Ms Robertson said: “I share David’s view of the past year - but we are going to keep highlighting the folly of this ruinous ferry tax. We also pledged to continue campaigning for the re-instatement of a five day air service between Benbecula and Stornoway and campaign for an additional flight between Stornoway and Aberdeen.

We are due to meet with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar shortly to keep pressing on these and other matters of great economic importance. We always welcome input from all areas of the islands - our membership is drawn from all the communities.”