“Absurd” plan to merge every Moray school

John Finnie speaking at the University of the Highlands and IslandsJohn Finnie has urged Moray Council bosses to abandon their plan to merge all of Moray’s primary and secondary schools into a single 12,000-pupil mega-campus.

John said:

“Moray Council need to stop wasting time with this obviously absurd plan and get back to finding a realistic solution that keeps schools at the heart of communities across Moray.

“The megaschool would have more pupils than there are undergraduates at the University of Aberdeen. On school days, it would be a town the same size as Forres. Children as young as four would have a commute of up to an hour each way.

“Not only would this be unworkable, it would tear schools and school children out of their communities. We need more community connection with our schools, not less.”

John welcomes Council support for Moray refugee project

Moray Supports Refugees logoJohn Finnie has expressed his gratitude for Moray Council’s backing of the Moray Supports Refugees group, and tabled a Scottish Parliament motion to allow other MSPs the chance to do the same.

Moray Supports Refugees both collects donations of clothing and other vital supplies for delivery to refugee camps in France and Greece, and works to support refugees who have settled in Moray.

Moray Council has given the group a rent-free use of three units on the Chanonry industrial estate in Elgin, and waived the business rates on the property.

John said:

“Refugees have given up everything to escape nightmare situations like the war in Syria, and I am so grateful for the work the volunteers of Moray Supports Refugees do to help refugees put their lives back together.

“The support of Moray Council in the form of premises and the business rates waiver allows Moray Supports Refugees to do even more to help refugees, both on the Continent and here in Moray.

“It’s also an important gesture, showing that Moray welcomes refugees, rejects xenophobia, and is determined to be a safe and supportive home for those fleeing war and persecution.

“Both Moray Supports Refugees and Moray Council deserve our sincerest gratitude for working to make that home a reality for people who have none.”

John’s Scottish Parliament motion reads:

otion S5M-00381: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 08/06/2016
Moray Supports Refugees

That the Parliament welcomes the decision by Moray Council to offer a rent-free lease of three business units to help the Moray Supports Refugees group; also notes that Moray Council waived the remaining 20% of rates following charity status deduction; believes that this gesture will go a long way to ensuring that Moray and Scotland are seen as a welcoming and supportive home for those fleeing war and persecution; understands that the units will be used to collect, sort and distribute humanitarian aid for refugees, and sends its best wishes and sincere gratitude to Moray Council for its work in supporting the group.

John warns on ship-to-ship oil transfer impact on Moray Firth orcas

SaveOurDolphins_800x450 John has warned the pod of orcas that enchanted Moray Firth ocean-watchers last week could be put at risk if controversial plans to allow ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Firth are given the go-ahead.

John, who has been campaigning to stop the proposal, pressed the Scottish Government for details of the dangers posed to the orcas by oil transfers. He urged the new Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, to make the Scottish Government’s position clear.

Cromarty Firth Port Authority has applied for a license for the risky ship-to-ship procedure, in which oil is transferred between vessels in the open sea rather than secured in a harbour. The application is presently being considered by the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The orca pod, known as the Northern Isles community, migrates between Iceland and the Moray Firth each year. It would be vulnerable to any oil spill in the Firth resulting from ship-to-ship transfer operations.

The Scottish Greens have a strong track record in protecting coastal communities from ship-to-ship plans. A three-year campaign by Green MSPs to halt similar plans in the Firth of Forth ended in victory when Forth Ports PLC dropped their proposal in 2008. John Finnie launched the Save Our Dolphins campaign in response to the Moray Firth plan in January this year; his petition at http://bit.ly/SaveOurDolphins has received over 3,700 signatures.

John said:

“The sighting of these extraordinary animals is a reminder of how precious the environment of the Moray Firth is, both for its wildlife and for its people.

“Oil transfers are already carried out safely in the relative shelter of Nigg harbour; there’s no need to put our Firth in danger with risky ship-to-ship transfers in the open sea.

“I’m trying to find out whether the Scottish Government understands the threat to the orcas and the whole Firth ecosystem. If it does, I hope new Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham will break the silence that her predecessor inexplicably maintained on the issue, and join the opposition to the proposal.

“The Moray Firth is one of Scotland’s most important marine habitats. As well as orcas and our iconic bottlenose dolphins, it is an important area for seabirds, wading birds, seals and otters. It’s a vital fishery and a centre for the production of shellfish. It’s an excellent location for windsurfing, kayaking and other water sports. All that is in danger if we allow oil transfers to go ahead.

“Greens MSPs have beaten ship-to-ship plans once before, in the Firth of Forth. With your help we can do it again: please sign the petition at bit.ly/SaveOurDolphins.”