Finnie Highlights HIAL Failings

Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie has called on the Scottish Government to ensure Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) is adequately delivering for the remote, rural and island communities it is supposed to serve.

HIAL operates airports in the Highlands and Islands on behalf of Scottish Ministers. Mr Finnie highlighted a number of areas where the company is failing in its duties, in the Scottish Parliament this morning (6 Dec 18).

  • Inverness Airport has received a ‘very poor’ environmental compliance rating from SEPA for four years in a row.
  • Air Traffic Controllers may be about to go on strike over pay and plans to centralise air traffic control operations.
  • HIAL has repeatedly failed to consult the remote, rural & island communities it is supposed to serve, on behalf of ministers, on important issues including the introduction of parking charges.

Mr Finnie said:

“HIAL is wholly owned by Scottish Ministers and has a duty to serve communities throughout the Highlands and Islands. It is becoming increasingly clear that the organisation is failing on a number of fronts. Ministers must take responsibility for these failures and commit to urgently improving the service its company provides to my constituents. I gave the Cabinet Secretary for Transport the opportunity to express confidence in HIAL’s management and it won’t be lost on HIAL, and the wider public, that he chose not to endorse their performance.”

Finnie warns Transport Bill doesn’t address poverty or do enough to tackle deaths from air pollution

Scottish Greens Transport spokesperson John Finnie MSP today (21 Nov) warned that the Scottish Government’s proposed Transport Bill doesn’t address poverty or do enough to tackle deaths from air pollution.

During today’s meeting of Holyrood’s Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee, Mr Finnie questioned Transport Secretary Michael Matheson.

John said:

“Whilst much of the evidence has revolved around technical aspects of ticketing and Low Emission Zones (LEZs), I was keen to ask the Cabinet Secretary about the human aspects of his legislation. The Cabinet Secretary agreed with me that the Bill didn’t have direct regard to addressing the role that transport can play in addressing poverty.

“Similarly, with regard to LEZs, whilst everyone seemed happy to discuss engine types and compensation schemes, the Cabinet Secretary acknowledged that the Scottish Government had not done any projections on the implications their introduction could have for the 2,500 lives lost in Scotland each year which are directly attributable to air quality.

“I took some reassurance from an official who stated that, whilst there may be evidential challenges directly attributed any drop in deaths to the introduction of LEZs, a committee was examining this matter. I look forward to hearing back from the Cabinet Secretary on the matters of poverty and deaths from poor air quality, both matters which should have been addressed already.

“Greens will always place a greater focus on people and will continue to push for a more robust Bill which meets the widest community needs ahead of the exclusive interests of the road haulage industry or car owners.”

John Finnie Calls for Vessel Tracking at FMQs

Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie has today (15 Nov 2018) called on the Scottish Government to mandate, “robust, tamper proof, vessel tracking” following reports of illegal scallop dredging at Gairloch in Wester Ross. [1]

John Finnie highlighted the call from Open Seas to introduce the vessel tracking technology at First Ministers Questions, and the First Minister advised that the government would give consideration to the proposal.

Mr Finnie has raised concerns with the Scottish Government over the capacity of Marine Scotland’s compliance fleet repeatedly this year, most recently with the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform. [2]

John Finnie MSP said:

“I’ve repeatedly raised concerns with the Scottish Government regarding Marine Scotland’s capacity. Around 20% of Scotland’s vast marine area is designated as part of the marine protection network, yet with a fleet of just three compliance vessels, it is clear that Marine Scotland does not have the capacity to adequately manage Scotland’s seas.

“Robust vessel tracking technology would greatly assist in ensuring compliance and I am pleased that the First Minister indicated this is a step the Scottish Government is willing to consider when I questioned her on the matter. It is vital that we provide our compliance officials with all the tools necessary to adequately protect Scotland’s waters.”

We urgently need a just transition

This article first appeared in the Shetland Times.

In parliament recently I raised a new report, commissioned by Friends of the Earth Scotland and Stop Climate Chaos, called Quantifying the implications of the Paris Agreement: What role for Scotland? with the Environment Minister.

The report outlines the need to leave the majority of fossil fuel reserves we already know about in the ground and I was therefore dismayed at the response to reports that Total, at the end of last month, had made a major gas find off Shetland.

It really is very simple; for Shetland, Scotland, Europe and our planet; we cannot afford to use the reserves we already know about and if we want to prevent the worst excesses of climate change then we certainly cannot afford to seek out and exploit any new reserves.

Academic research commissioned by the Scottish Green Party shows that hundreds of thousands of jobs could be created if we bite the bullet and transition from our oil and gas based economy to one built on renewable energy sources.

When I raised this matter in the Parliament, I highlighted the important role the Highlands and Islands, not least the Shetland Isles, can play in this transition.

Shetland already has superb facilities at Pedersen’s yard in Lerwick for decommissioning oil and gas infrastructure and another site at Dales Voe has just been identified as the optimal location for an “ultra deep water” decommissioning port.

This is vital not only for Shetland but Scotland and the changing role for the North Sea and it should guarantee steady employment for years to come. We must focus on the jobs that can be created in new technologies, which are better for us all, and essential for our survival as a species. It is time to leave the age of fossil fuels behind us.

Scotland has one quarter of Europe’s tidal resource and one tenth of its wave resource. Our island communities are in prime position to take advantage of emerging technologies, such as those being developed across the water at the European Marine Energy Centre in Stromness. The opportunities to boost local economies and create jobs are staring us in the face, whilst a focus on continued oil and gas extraction, from both Scottish and UK Government’s, limits long-term opportunities and damages our climate change ambitions .

A proposed new wind farm in the Highlands will have its towers built in Motherwell and this emphasises the opportunities which exist for the whole of Scotland to benefit from investment in a cleaner economy.

Climate change is increasingly a focus for world leaders and, as highlighted by the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report this week, it’s vital Scotland seizes the day and becomes a world leader in green technologies.

This is not something that we can be allowed to fail at; to do so would invite catastrophe for our environment, our economy and our future. We need to end our reliance on finite fossil fuels and seize the opportunities available to us through our natural renewable sources such as wind, wave and tidal.

Green MSP Slams Serco Over Sleeper Delays

Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie has slammed Caledonian Sleeper operator Serco for its failure to deliver new trains on time.

The company has claimed that the process of testing and gaining the necessary regulatory and operating approvals for the new carriages was “time-consuming and complex”.

Serco has claimed that its new fleet will now be operational by May, although services in the Highlands be the last to come into service.

Mr Finnie said:

“The Caledonian Sleeper provides an important link from Scotland to England, but the current rolling stock is long past its best and passengers rightly expect a good quality service on a modern train. It is therefore extremely disappointing that Serco has failed to live up to its commitment to deliver this new rolling stock on time.

“The company should not be surprised at the process for testing and regulating new carriages and its attempt to blame this for the delay is quite frankly absurd.

“Serco only has itself to blame for its failure to deliver, and as usual it will be my constituents in the Highlands who are forced endure the longest wait for improved trains. I would encourage the Scottish Government to reflect on its decision to award this contract to such an unscrupulous company and urge them to bring Sleeper services back into public ownership at the earliest opportunity. Our railways should be run in the interest of public service, not private profit.”

Finnie Calls on Scottish Government and HIE to Support Salmon Company Staff

John Finnie MSP has today called on Scottish Government Ministers and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to step in to protect jobs in Dingwall.

Following the announcement that the Dingwall site of the Edinburgh Salmon Company could be closed, Mr Finnie wrote to Scottish Government Ministers and HIE to ensure that all available steps are taken by both to assist Edinburgh Salmon Company and its workers in finding suitable buyers to prevent closure of the site and a loss of jobs.

Commenting Mr Finnie said:

“This is desperately disappointing news from the Edinburgh Salmon Company, and will come as a blow to all those workers on site. I have sought assurances that the Scottish Government and HIE will make every possible effort to assist the Edinburgh Salmon Company in finding a buyer for the site and provide full assistance to the workforce as need.

“I fervently hope that a solution can be found to safeguard the jobs at the site, which is a significant employer for Dingwall.”

Northern Isles Ferry Service Must Put Communities First

Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie has called on the Scottish Government to put the needs of communities at the forefront of its thinking, as it announced early details of the Northern Isles Ferry Services tendering process.

Mr Finnie is calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that public ferry operator Calmac is in a position to tender for this contract, as a prelude to the permanent nationalisation of the Northern Isles routes. This would ensure that the significant public subsidy that goes to these services would secure sustainable returns for remote communities, rather than Serco shareholders.

The Scottish Government must also ensure that workers terms and conditions are protected, and not allow private operators to undermine these. This is best achieved by ensuring that Trade Unions RMT and Nautilus are included in discussions at all stages.

Commenting, John Finnie said:

“I believe that the lifeline Northern Isles Ferry Services should be run exclusively in the interest of my constituents in Orkney and Shetland, rather than for private profit. The Scottish Green Party has consistently called for these services to be run as a public service. The Scottish Government could still deliver this by ensuring that Calmac come in with a strong bid in the tendering process.

“The significant public subsidy that goes to these routes should be used to the benefit of island communities and that simply doesn’t happen when you put a disreputable company such as Serco in charge.

“One thing the Scottish Government can and must commit to is protecting the terms and conditions of the workforce. I am therefore calling on Ministers to ensure that RMT and Nautilus are involved at every step in the tendering process to ensure this is prioritised.”