Neil Mackay, a member of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, has spoken publicly after Tighean Innse Gall announced its insulation department is to close with severe knock-on effects for businesses and householders.
Mr Mackay said his own business had insulated three to four homes per week but is now reduced to “one or two a year”. In a series of e-mail exchanges with Alasdair Allan MSP, seen by the Gazette, Mr Mackay repeatedly expressed frustration over the lack of action.
In January, Mr Mackay told Mr Allan: “Let’s not forget this problem has been here for over six months. Whoever made this original decision obviously took no advice from those at the coalface which is shameful. You will never get it right unless all parties are allowed a voice”.
On February 1st, he e-mailed again: “To sum up, it looks like after all this time you are no further forward. This whole scenario is absolutely unbelievable. I’m struggling to believe that the SNP/Greens could sign up to such a flawed system.
“My job takes me to the sharp end and I see every day the conditions people are living in. How can you allow this central belt idea to be imposed on the Western Isles?” He added: “You guys are paid to fight the Western Isles corner, not the SNP/Green corner. Please stop kicking this can down the road”.
On February 4th, Mr Allan responded: “I am currently trying to set up another meeting with TIG to discuss a plan of action as to how to best progress this … I have taken a number of opportunities to take this one up with government (as you will appreciate I am not a member of the government myself)”.
On February 13th, the MSP recalled he had facilitated a meeting between TIG and the Minister responsible, Patrick Harvie, on November 4th. He added: “Since then I have been trying to get more information, as I agree with your concerns about this legislation and its effect, both for local businesses and also homeowners”.
However, the e-mail trail does not suggest any urgency or sympathy on Mr Harvie’s part. When his reply was received by the MSP’s office, two months after the TIG meeting, and passed to Mr Mackay, he responded: “That’s an incredible letter. It tells me nothing.”
On March 4th, as the TIG announcement approached, Mr Mackay told Mr Allan: “Sorry but I don't accept our MSP can do nothing”. Rejecting a suggestion the problem is only in the Western Isles, he asked: “Why is there only 14 per cent of the insulation money allocated to Scotland spent so far with only four weeks left to spend the rest?
“Renovating old houses is my passion. I look forward to your answers”.
Meanwhile, earlier this week Mr Allan issued a press release on the issue.
“I have been working with Tighean Innse Gall since October to highlight the issues they outlined with the new ventilation standards to the relevant Minister and government officials," he said.
He said “there needs to be an alternative solution urgently put in place” to help local people.