It is hard to believe it is a year since the Transocean Winner turned up unexpectedly on the shores at Dalmore.
This visitor, though unwelcome, caused quite a stir and led to unexpected economic benefit for many in the islands. The publication of the enquiry report raises some important questions about safe passage of vessels using our seas and again raises the issue of an Emergency Towing vessel on the West Coast even though it may not have been of help in this case. I will continue to press the case for this vessel with MCA and other authorities.
The First Minister has announced a progressive and innovative programme for Scotland for the next year. I welcome the Scottish Governments commitment to Education and to reducing the poverty related attainment gap and to reforms throughout education from nursery to university.
The abolition of the pay cap for public services in Scotland is in contrast to the mixed messages being received from Westminster Ministers who seem to be favouring one public sector group over another. The introduction of ‘Frank’s law will see those with progressive illness under the age of 65 given access to free personal care.
This measure has been introduced following an extensive public campaign and shows that Government can listen and respond to the needs and wishes expressed by its citizens
Nicola Sturgeon also announced a number of schemes to reduce damage to our environment including ambitious targets for changing from petrol and diesel to electric cars and a deposit return scheme on plastic bottles.
I am particularly pleased to see the introduction of a Crown Estates Bill to establish a framework for the management of assets and ensure that local communities in the Hebrides benefit from the devolution of these powers.
The implementation of the 2016 Land Reform Act and the approval of the first strategic plan of the new Land Commission are also of interest locally.
In Westminster at present Parliament is consumed by limiting the damage of self- inflicted Brexit. The Conservative Government and their DUP allies have pushed through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. This has now come before devolved Governments in Wales and Scotland who have both declared their opposition to clauses enabling Ministers to change laws without redress to parliament or the devolved Governments. This is a challenge to democracy and while we do not look to prevent Brexit, I and my SNP colleagues in Westminster and Holyrood will continue to oppose any attempts by this Tory government to dilute devolution or in any way seize more powers to London.
Meanwhile I continue to work on my Private Members Bill which I presented to Parliament just before the summer recess. The Refugee Family Reunion Bill would allow child refugees to sponsor their parents to come to the UK. It would also allow parents to bring children who are over 18 into the UK and assist them with legal aid.
Over the next few months I will be seeking support from parliamentarians of all parties as well as from those organisations most involved in caring for children and their parents who find themselves in these difficult situations.
How we welcome the most disadvantaged says much about the society we live in.
Over the next few months surgeries will be advertised throughout the islands but to contact me at any time please call the Stornoway office on 01851702272 or email me .