It has been an exciting, interesting and challenging year at Westminster and I was delighted to be re-elected in May to serve as MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar for a third session of Parliament.
Since January, I have dealt with around 500 constituency cases and have done my best to help people in the islands who have come to me for assistance with different issues ranging from transport to broadband to problems with the Department for Work and Pensions, Passports or Immigration.
Since the start of the year I have taken part in over 100 votes on legislation including voting against the Tories’ Welfare Reform Bill, Trade Union Bill and the hugely controversial decision to take military action against IS in Syria. I have spoken more than 60 times in Debates in the Chamber and also Chair the Committee for Energy and Climate Change on a weekly basis. I have submitted 63 Written Questions to UK Government Departments on matters relating to issues in the Isles including the Hebrides Range, Feed in Tariffs for community groups and Air Passenger Duty. I was also successful in presenting a Ten Minute Rule Bill in November ‘Scots Votes for Scots Laws’ which will have a second reading in March.
Broadband and mobile coverage issues dominated this year and I’ve been pushing for improvements. I met with UNISON reps regarding the threat to local jobs at the Citizens Advice Direct Call handling centre and was pleased to hear in February this had been resolved.
The islands were hit with some extremely stormy weather and there was extensive damage to the Hebrides Range on St Kilda. I wrote to the MoD who updated the community on the progress. In February I raised the issue of Out of Hours Medical cover in North Harris and put pressure on the DVLA to hold car and bike driving tests locally and the decision was overturned.
I took part in the Scottish Government’s consultation on the future of the secondary department at Lionel School and supported the community in their campaign to retain it. I met with those taking forward the Harris Marina Project to support their project to create a first class facility.
I continued to press mobile operators for details on the upgrade of infrastructure and also pursued the roll out of the superfast broadband making sure that communities are given the best chance of a connection.
On May 7th I was re-elected as your MP and was delighted and humbled to have increased my majority by more than 8% on what was an historic night for Scotland with 56 SNP MPs being elected.
Mobile signal matters continued to be an issue and I made contact with many operators who have been making positive moves to extend coverage. I was in touch with the Immigration Minister regarding the UK Border Agency refusing migrant workers entry to the UK to work on boats who are struggling to get crew.
BT Installation issues were raised by several constituents and I had contact with the UK Government over the reinstatement of the Emergency Towing Vessel. In Parliament I raised the issue of the illegal gold trade with the Treasury and as a result they confirmed that the Police would be investigating the matter.
The SNP Group at Parliament were hugely concerned about the Tory plans for tax credit cuts and the current u-turn is a relief but is an on-going concern for the future. I was delighted to hear that the broadband roll out programme was ahead of schedule in August but I still aware of many communities who are hoping to be included in the next phase of the roll-out and I have been in contact with BT and HIE on this matter.
The refugee crisis was dominating everyone’s thoughts in September and I was pleased to hear that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar were offering support to resettle some families in Lewis. The plans for management of the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are an ongoing cause for concern and I have raised the matter with the Fisheries Minister and the First Minster. I was delighted to hear plans of enhanced ferry services between Oban and Barra and Mallaig and Lochboisdale announced by the Scottish Government and hope this will help tourism in 2016.
In October the Scottish Government announced that the Air Discount Scheme would increase to 50% which is good news for all. The issues with reliability of Loganair are continuing and is a matter which I am monitoring.
I was delighted to launch the 3G Sure Signal in Tarbert and I hope more communities will benefit from this in future.
RET began on inter-island ferries which is a huge step forward and will not only be of benefit to regular travellers but also boost ‘island-hopping’ tourism.
I was part of a cross-party group of MPs who wrote to the Chancellor about continued investment in broadband infrastructure as this is crucial in the islands. I am encouraged that Vodafone have plans to upgrade their network to 4G in the Isles within the next two years. I put forward a 10 Minute Rule Motion on Scots Votes for Scots Laws. This was successful and will have a second reading in March. This month I also tabled a motion in Parliament against the UK Government’s plans to cut £1million of funding for BBC Alba while increasing funding for London museums to £150million.
Despite my opposition and that of all SNP MPs at Westminster, the Parliament voted in favour of air strikes against IS in Syria.I was delighted to attend a parliamentary reception in support of the charity CRY’s campaign for cardiac screening of young people. Closer to home, I have been made aware of booking issues on buses for those trying to make it home for the festive season and I have written to Citylink on this matter. I am pleased to see that communities in Uist and Barra can get active this Christmas and New Year with the Comhairle’s decision to open the sports centres during the holidays.