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Alistair Carmichael - MP for Orkney & Shetland

Welcome

Thank you for visiting my website.

 

The main purpose of this site is to keep people in Orkney and Shetland up to date with what I am doing as their MP, and to give them the opportunity to get in touch and let me know their views.

 

Orkney and Shetland is an area of beautiful coastlines and spectacular scenery, but living in the most northerly parliamentary constituency in the UK is not without its challenges! I work closely with my colleagues Tavish Scott MSP and Liam McArthur MSP to ensure that the needs of people in the Northern Isles are represented at every level of Government.

 

On my website you can read the latest news on my work in the Northern Isles and at Westminster, find details of my regular advice surgeries and take a look at what I have been up to in my online galleries.

 

If you are not a constituent, please feel free to take a look around and learn more about some of the issues that matter most to people in the Northern Isles. If you like what you see, why not come and pay us a visit?

 

If you cannot find the information you require, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Read more...
 

Recent News

  1. NEW SHETLAND SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael has announced two new surgery date:

    Location: Shetland Parliamentary Office

    Date: Friday, 14 November 2014

    Time: 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm.

     

    Location: Shetland Parliamentary Office

    Date: Friday, 19 December 2014

    Time: 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm.


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  2. SHETLAND'S PARLIAMENTARIANS WELCOME TOUGH SCHOOLS DECISION AND URGE COUNCIL LEADERS TO BRING PUPILS' EDUCATION BACK TO THE FORE

    Shetland’s two Parliamentarians, Alistair Carmichael MP and Tavish Scott MSP have welcomed the decision by the Education and Families committee to halt the closure of two primary schools in Northmavine and have appealed to the SIC to set aside any plans for future school closures, urging them instead to focus on delivering quality education over financial cuts.

    In a joint letter to leaders of the Shetland Islands Council, both acknowledged the tough decisions that the SIC have faced and recognised the difficult financial decisions taken. However with further closure consultations for Symbister and Mid Yell Junior High Schools looming, they have called for council leaders to bring both, plus any additional future proposals, to an immediate stop.

    Commenting following yesterday’s Education and Families committee decision, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott Said:

    "We need to put our children's future first in the islands schools again. What is taught and learnt in the classroom must become the most important thing that happens.  SIC is making good progress towards a stable financial position and has already made significant savings across Shetland’s education system. However, the prospect of further school closures is intensely damaging right across Shetland.

    “Pupils sitting exams this year did well. That is to the credit of our high schools and junior highs despite the threat of closure hanging over some schools. Shetland education needs to concentrate on the quality of education, vocational routes into work and putting the right structure in place. That work will be easier if there is no damaging and divisive closure consultation hanging over pupils, parents and schools. There is also a huge impact on SIC education officials and teachers and that needs to stop.

    “Shetland’s young people deserve the best start in life. Education gives them a grounding towards university, college, and other routes into work. This is where we believe the council’s efforts should now be fully focused and not on school closures."

    Commenting on the joint letter with Tavish Scott to Gary Robinson, Alistair Carmichael said:

    “I do not normally intervene in council business. They have a difficult and often thankless job to do. Sometimes, however, the issue is just too important to be silent. This is one of those times. Despite a lengthy consultation period I believe that the current proposals remain flawed and that it would be a mistake to proceed with them.

    “In particular, closing schools that will require daily travel by sea by children remains part of the proposals. I simply fail to see how this can be anything other than stressful and disruptive to the education of children at what are some of the most important points in their education.

    “Shetland’s education is something of which we should all be proud. The council should now seek to move forward with a coherent education vision that can command the confidence and support of the community. There are many challenges that face us living in the Northern Isles. The fact that we give a first class education to our children is one of our greatest strengths. It is something of which we should be proud and in which we should only contemplate change if it will lead to improvement.”

    Ends


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  3. NEW ORKNEY SURGERY DATE ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael has announced a new surgery date.

    Location: Stromness Community Centre

    Date: Thursday, 13 November 2014

    Time: 1:00 - 1:45 pm.


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  4. WORK TOGETHER TO SECURE GRID CONNECTIONS - CARMICHAEL

    Date: 28 October 2014

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has spoken about the need for governments, regulators and the private sector to work together to secure grid connections for Orkney and Shetland.

    Speaking at the Green Investment Bank conference this week, Mr Carmichael explained that any failure to act on grid issues post-referendum would be a “missed opportunity of tragic proportions.”

    Mr Carmichael also highlighted some of the key achievements fronted by the coalition government, namely that since the Coalition Government came into power in 2010, renewable electricity capacity has more than doubled across the UK.

    Speaking at the event on grid connections, Mr Carmichael said:

    “Last year the coalition government also announced a specific strike price for Scottish Islands which will help to unlock their renewable potential.

    “That was a welcome and necessary step and it established an important principle. It provides, however, only a mechanism for supporting generation capacity once it is installed.

    “Without grid connections for the islands we shall never see that capacity installed and the potential for the generation of tidal and wave power will not be realised – or at the very least it will not be realised here.

    “Other countries have their eyes on the same prize so now, with the referendum behind us, I want to see all the effort of Scotland’s two governments, along with the regulator and the private sector, focused on making this happen.

    “Not to do so would be to invite a missed opportunity of tragic proportions.  This is understood in Government.  It is why Ed Davey and Fergus Ewing set up the islands working group, involving both of Scotland’s governments and all relevant stakeholders to find a way through this.”

    Speaking about the work being done by the Green Investment Bank, Mr Carmichael said:

    “In its first two years, the UK Green Investment Bank has backed 34 projects, directly committing more than £1.4bn and bringing alongside a further £3.5bn of additional private sector capital.

    “The marketplace remains challenging but I am confident the Bank will continue to go from strength to strength, mobilising much needed investment.”

    ENDS


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  5. CARMICHAEL: EU FISHING SUPPORT VITAL AS RUSSIAN EXPORT BAN CONTINUES

    Date: 14 October 2014

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed the announcement that the European Union will provide support to fishermen affected by the Russian export ban.

    His comments come after the UK led a European lobbying effort in order to protect the fisheries industry. The EU decision means that fishing quotas can now be ‘banked’ and held until next year, meaning that fish will be left in the sea instead of being caught and potentially going to waste. The support has been welcomed by the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “Today’s announcement underlines the UK Government’s commitment to use our influence in the corridors of power in Brussels to secure legal changes that will benefit both mackerel fishermen and processors in Scotland.

    “I have recently met with representatives of our local industry to hear about the worrying impact that the Russian ban is having. The flexibility on quotas agreed today will help to minimise the impact of the ban.

    “This is a great example of the UK Government working together with industry and major Scottish fishing communities to help ensure that our vital industry is protected now and in the future.”

    ENDS


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  6. CARMICHAEL COMMENTS ON EMERGENCY TOWING VESSEL RETENTION

    Date: 27 October 2014

    Commenting on the recent use of the Emergency Towing Vessel, the Herkales, in the Moray Firth and Pentland Firth Mr Carmichael said:

    “The use of the Emergency Towing Vessel in the Moray Firth and Pentland Firth demonstrate the importance of having a resource of this sort and justify keeping it.

    “People in the Northern Isles could not have been clearer in their view that keeping emergency tug cover was essential to protect our coastline when the service was under threat in 2012. I took that message in government and pushed it relentlessly and we were able to secure the immediate future of this vital emergency service. The recent events vindicate that decision.

    “I continue to discuss this on a regular basis with the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin who has himself seen the vessel in Orkney and understands the need.”

    ENDS.


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  7. CARMICHAEL HIGHLIGHTS GOVERNMENT EFFORT TO TACKLE MISLEADING WEBSITES

    Date: 13 October 2014

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has highlighted the work being done to tackle misleading third party websites masquerading as legitimate government services.

    The warning comes at a time of a growing reliance on the internet as a vehicle for communication and access to vital private and public services, particularly in rural and remote locations. Unofficial non-government websites often charge users for services which they can otherwise receive for free through official websites.

    A number of constituents have contacted Mr Carmichael with concerns about the misleading websites, with passport renewal websites causing the most problems.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “For rural communities like ours, the internet is of huge importance in providing easy access to essential services. The internet has made so many aspects of everyday life that much easier and faster but at the same time it also leaves space for manipulation and misleading information.

    “We have increased the funding to the National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) to help them investigate and identify misleading websites and have been able to work with Google and other search engine providers to identify adverts for misleading website and ensure that they are taken down.

    “I urge all to pay extra care and attention when accessing sensitive information online through search engines to look out of the GOV.UK or other official web pages. If you do come across a misleading website they should be reported through www.gov.uk/misleadingwebsites.”

    ENDS


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  8. “WESTMINSTER ABBEY PLAQUE AN OVERDUE BUT WELCOME RECOGNITION OF RAE” - CARMICHAEL

    Date: 30 September 2014

    A plaque in Westminster Abbey to recognise the achievements of Orcadian explorer Dr. John Rae has been described as “overdue but welcome” by Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    His comments come after a plaque was unveiled in Westminster Abbey to recognise the achievements the Arctic explorer.

    The event was attended by, among others, descendants of John Rae and Sir John Franklin, while survivalist Ray Mears and author Ken McGoogan were also in attendance.

    Speaking at Westminster Abbey, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The failure to accord John Rae proper recognition is an historic injustice. We cannot change history, but it is right that people should know his story and he can now be given full recognition for his achievements.

    “The feeling of injustice still runs deep in Orkney. That was clear to me in September last year – almost one year to the day – when a few hundred turned out to see the unveiling of his statue on Stromness Pier.

    “Westminster Abbey is the most significant place in the United Kingdom where men and women of achievement are commemorated. I have always believed that a memorial here has been John Rae’s due and I am delighted that the memory of this great Orcadian is at last being honoured in this way.”

    ENDS.


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  9. MACKEREL UPGRADE VINDICATES CONSERVATION EFFORTS - CARMICHAEL

    Date: 25 September 2014

    The news that mackerel has returned to the ‘Fish to Eat’ list has been described by Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael as evidence that UK and EU conservation efforts are working.

    His comments come after the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) promoted mackerel caught in the UK, EU and Norway to “fish to eat” on their traffic-light ratings system. Mackerel caught by Icelandic fleets remain listed as the least sustainable choice.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “Our seas are an invaluable resource and we have a responsibility to ensure that stock levels are protected for future generations.

    “Earlier in the year, we finally reached a quota agreement with the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands which would protect mackerel stocks. That deal raised concerns amongst the local pelagic fleet and has to be monitored closely. The recovering stocks means that all signs are pointing towards a healthy future for our vital industry.

    “That deal is time limited and we will continue to keep an eye on how it impacts both stocks and the industry. When the deal expires, we will need to negotiate a deal that works for everyone.

    “Iceland have shown a willingness to return to the negotiating table. I hope that they shall see fit to do so when talks resume in October.”

    ENDS.


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  10. YOUTH PARLIAMENT “A GREAT OPPORTUNITY” SAYS CARMICHAEL AS NOMINATIONS OPEN

    Date: 24 September 2014

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has encouraged young people to consider standing for the Scottish Youth Parliament.

    His comments come as nominations for prospective Youth Parliament candidates opened this week. Nominations are open to anyone aged 14-25 and the closing date for getting nominations in is 31 October at 5pm, with elections taking place from 2 – 13 March 2015.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The recent referendum gave young people an opportunity to be involved in political decision making and they seized it with both hands. The fantastic turnout of among younger voters is testament to the enthusiasm that young people bring to politics and I have no doubt that it will continue.

    “Our four current MSYPs have done the Isles proud and I have been watching their work on different issues with interest. Catherine, Kaylee, Iona and Samuel have been great representatives to Shetland and Orkney and I hope that they have found the experience thoroughly enjoyable

    “With nominations now open, this is an excellent time for any local young person whose interest was seized by the referendum to continue their involvement in politics by representing the young people of Orkney or Shetland in Scotland.”

    ENDS

    Notes:

    1. The expression of interest form is available at the following location: http://www.syp.org.uk/elections


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  11. CARMICHAEL HIGHLIGHTS SCALE OF MARINE ENERGY INVESTMENT AND POTENTIAL

    Date: 23 September 2014

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has highlighted the economic benefits and potential of green energy following the publication today of Scottish Renewables’ Marine Milestones report.

    The annual report highlights that almost quarter of a billion pounds has been invested in marine renewables to date, with over £30 million of that in 2013/14.

    Marine energy has been forecast to be worth £50 billion to the economy by 2050, while a report released last year showed that Orkney and Shetland could be home to thousands of renewable jobs by 2030.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “This report clearly illustrates that the business community has growing confidence in the marine renewable energy sector and are putting their money where their mouth is. Governments and regulators must also do their part.   This is one of these areas where the prospects of progress will be improved by the Scottish Government, The UK Government and the EU Commission all working in partnership."

    "We all know that the main barrier to development is grid connections.  The UK and Scottish governments have already an Islands Working Group which is making the case for new cables.   Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, is also talking to Commission officials in Brussels about their consent for the higher "strike price" for wind energy on the Isles. This is one of the areas where the islands councils could most obviously make a difference using the agreements won as part of the Our Islands Our Future Campaign."

    Commenting, the European Energy and Marine Centre (EMEC) Managing Director Neil Kermode said:

    “We welcome the publication of this report as it shows how all the hard work that’s being put in over the last 10 years is paying off.

    “Local businesses and multinationals are all spending money and benefiting from marine energy, and EMEC is delighted that all this hard work has been recognised.

    “Peoples have always said that the challenge is going to make sure that it is this generation that benefits from marine energy. All signs indicate that is actually now happening.”

    ENDS.


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  12. A MATTER OF “WHEN NOT IF” FOR VOTES AT 16 AFTER REFERENDUM TURNOUT - CARMICHAEL

    Date: 22 September 2014

    After the independence referendum saw record voter turnout, Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has renewed calls for the national voting age to be lowered from 18 to 16.

    The commitment to lower the voting age has been Liberal Democrat policy for many years.  Over 100,000 voters aged under 18 registered to vote in the referendum.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    "The energy and enthusiasm of young people in the referendum campaign is something of which Scotland should be proud.

    “I have always believed that young people are much more politically engaged than they are given credit for. Never has that been clearer than during the referendum campaign. One of the most active volunteers for Better Together Orkney was in fact fifteen year old Jack Norquoy of Birsay.  Jack spoke at a packed meeting in Kirkwall Town Hall alongside Shirley Williams.  He made a powerful and compelling case for what he believed in.

    “Our young voters were given the opportunity and seized it with both hands. I believe that it is now only a matter of time until we see votes at 16 rolled out across the UK. That time should be now.”

    ENDS.


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  13. BP INTERVENTION LEAVES SNP OIL CLAIMS IN TATTERS - CARMICHAEL

    Alistair Carmichael MP

    Date: 10 September 2014

    The intervention of BP into the Scottish Referendum debate is a “knock-out blow” to the Scottish Government’s oil claims according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley urged Scots not to gamble with their economic future on misleading information and promises that could not be delivered.

    The BP boss also backed comments made by another oil industry expert, Sir Ian Wood, who warned of declining oil reserves last month.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The intervention of Sir Ian and Bob Dudley is devastating to the nationalists’ oil claims. These two industry experts, with years of experience in the North Sea, have set out the reality of declining oil reserves that we will face in the coming decades.

    “The oil industry has provided enormous benefits to the Isles and the country as a whole. As part of the United Kingdom, we are in a much stronger position to adapt the economy as we maximize oil recovery from the North Sea.

    “Meanwhile, the UK Government is committed to implementing the recommendations set out in the Wood Review, including basing a new Oil and Gas Authority in Aberdeen, cementing the North East of Scotland as the heart of the UK’s oil industry.”

    Mr Dudley’s comments in full:

    "BP has been in the UK North Sea for 50 years and we hope to operate here for many years to come.

    "However, the province is now mature and I believe Sir Ian Wood correctly assesses its future potential.

    "The opportunities today are smaller and more challenging to develop than in the past.

    "We also face the challenges of extending the productive life of existing assets and managing the future costs of decommissioning.

    "Much of this activity requires fiscal support to be economic, and future long-term investments require fiscal stability and certainty.

    "Our business invests for decades into the future. It is important our plans are based on a realistic view of the North Sea’s future potential and the challenges the industry faces in continuing to operate here.

    "As a major investor in Scotland – now and into the future – BP believes that the future prospects for the North Sea are best served by maintaining the existing capacity and integrity of the United Kingdom".

    ENDS.


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  14. BARONESS SHIRLEY WILLIAMS TO VISIT ORKNEY ON ROAD TO THE REFERENDUM

    Date: 9 September 2014

    BARONESS SHIRLEY WILLIAMS TO VISIT ORKNEY ON ROAD TO THE REFERENDUM

    With the referendum vote just over a week away, Baroness Shirley Williams will be in Orkney later this week to make the positive case for Scotland remaining part of the UK family of nations.

    Baroness Williams, one of the most popular and well-respected figures in UK politics over the last 50 years, will address a public meeting in the Town Hall on Friday at 7pm til 8.30pm.  As well as setting out her perspective on the referendum, Baroness Williams will answers any questions members of the public in Orkney may have ahead of this vitally important and historic vote on 18th September.

    Speaking ahead of the visit, Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said

    “There are few politicians around at the moment who can claim to have had more influence on social democracy in Britain than Shirley Williams.  Widely respected, even by those who disagree with her, Shirley has an ability to speak with a clarity, vision and passion that help to explain her influence on politics in this country over so many years.

    “Her background in economics and a career-long commitment to issues, such as social justice, education and international development make her observations on the current constitutional debate in Scotland all the more relevant.  I hope that as many people as possible in Orkney take this rare opportunity to come along and hear Shirley Williams speak, and to ask her the questions they want answered as we head into the final days of this long-running campaign.

    “This is a debate that has divided many people whose political views and aspirations are otherwise very similar.  I think Shirley Williams is almost uniquely placed to set out the positive reasons why Scotland’s continued role within the UK can help secure many of those aspirations”.

    Orkney MSP Liam McArthur added:

    “The polls confirm that this historic vote is going to be very close.  No-one can predict the outcome, but if Scotland opts for independence, it is clear there will be no option to change our mind in a few years’ time.

    "From speaking to people in Orkney over recent weeks, I know this is concentrating minds.  Not surprisingly, therefore, even at this late stage, there is an appetite to find out more about what the potential consequences might be for Orkney, Scotland and the wider UK.

    “In that context, I am delighted that Shirley Williams has agreed to visit the county to offer her thoughts and answer questions on the issues at the heart of this vitally important debate.  Shirley Williams is widely recognised as one of the most engaging, thoughtful and articulate politicians of her generation, and I am sure that people in Orkney will find her perspective on the referendum of interest.

    “I would encourage anyone, particularly those who remain undecided about how to vote, to come along to the Town Hall on Friday evening.  This promises to be an historic event in an historic campaign”.

    ENDS.


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  15. QUEEN'S SPEECH BOOST FOR ISLES WORKERS AND PENSIONERS - CARMICHAEL

    Northern Isles MP, Alistair Carmichael, has welcomed the last Queen’s Speech of the coalition government before the 2015 general election, which has outlined major reforms to pensions and childcare among other measures.

    Major policy pledges have been included such as a reform of pensions which will give people the power to decide how they spend their money, scrapping the government requirement to buy an annuity and allowing people to set up collective pension funds.

    It was also confirmed that the Liberal Democrat commitment to raising the tax threshold to £10,500, giving 24 million people a further income tax cut will be completed by April next year.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The coalition government was set up in 2010 to tackle the urgent task of rescuing our economy.   We needed to reduce the deficit to regrow and rebalance our economy.   That meant taking many decisions which were difficult but which were necessary, and four years later we have the fastest-growing economy in the G7 group of nations.  People can see that our plan is working but there is still a lot to do.   That is why the emphasis in this Queen’s Speech remains on the economy, helping more people get into work and helping small businesses get access to lending.

    “Obviously there are still many people who struggle to make ends meet.   As well as income tax cuts, it was also welcome to hear that the freeze on the level of fuel duty will continue

    “Although we are into the last year of this Parliament, the coalition government remains committed to long-term fairness in areas such as pension provision.   The major reforms to pensions will ensure fairness in retirement and the long-term dignity of our pensioners.”

    ENDS.

     


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  16. CARMICHAEL WELCOMES CRACKDOWN ON TAX AVOIDANCE

    Northern Isles MP, Alistair Carmichael, has welcomed the announcement by the UK Government that it has raised £23.9bn in “additional tax” in the last financial year. This is the largest amount raised from “additional tax” since records began.

    This money is in addition to regular tax receipts and has been collected as a result of crackdowns on tax avoidance schemes by both individuals and large corporations.

    Tax avoidance is an issue that angers a great many people and has been a target of Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, since he was first appointed in 2010. As a result of his actions the deficit between taxes owed and taxes paid was £35bn in 2012-13 down from £45bn in labour’s last full year in government.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “Today’s announcement is good news as it shows that the government is serious about clamping down tax avoidance and tax avoidance schemes, it is clear that our efforst are paying off to the benefit of the taxpayer.

    “We remain committed to tackling the deficit and making sure that people and corporations pay their fair share of tax. My Colleague and Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, deserves great credit for tackling this issue head on and ensuring that the amount collected is greater than our original target.

    “The Liberal Democrats in Government have cut income tax for millions of people on low incomes, taking many of the lowest paid out of tax altogether, while making sure that the amount raised through action on tax avoidance is the highest since records began.”

     

    ENDS.


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  17. CARMICHAEL WELCOMES SIC HOUSING LOAN AGREEMENT

    Date: 19 May

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed the news that Shetland Islands Council will be able to take advantage of cheaper public borrowing to deal with its historic housing debt.

    The arrangement will save Council Tax payers in Shetland around £1 million pounds over the life of the loan.  It will allow the council to clear its historic housing debt and to fund its contribution to the building of the new Anderson High School.

    Commenting on the news Mr Carmichael said,

    “Shetland Islands Council found itself in a highly unusual position where it was not on the list of qualifying local authorities for the purposes of borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) and were therefore going to be excluded from the opportunity to borrow at a cheaper rate, 0.2% less than the standard rate.   This was a highly technical provision but it could have meant an extra £1million in interest payments over the life of the loans.”

    “Working with senior councillors and officials I was able to make the case to Danny Alexander MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who has agreed that a way around this technicality can be found.   I am very pleased that it has been resolved in this way.   Danny Alexander has again shown himself to be a good friend of Shetland.”

    ENDS.


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  18. DIGITAL FORUM SET TO HIGHLIGHT THE ISSUES SURROUNDING BROADBAND AND MOBILE COVERAGE IN THE NORTHERN ISLES – CARMICHAEL

    Alistair Carmichael MP

    31 March 2014

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has released details for this year’s Northern Isles Digital Forum which will take place in Orkney on Thursday 17 April from 12:00 to 14:00 in the St. Magnus Centre, Kirkwall, and Shetland on Friday 18 April from 10:00 to 12:00 in the North Stanley Hill Hall.

    The Northern Isles Digital Forum is a joint effort by Mr Carmichael, Tavish Scott MSP and Liam McArthur MSP to highlight the problems surrounding digital services in Orkney and Shetland. It follows successful Forum events in the past during which representatives of some of the major players in the digital market were answering questions from local people.

    This year’s guest speakers will include Brendan Dick, Director of BT Scotland, and Stuart Robertson, Director of Digital Policy at the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), both of whom will oversee a £146 million project intended to bring super-fast, fibre optic broadband to 75 % of the people in the north of Scotland.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “Broadband and mobile coverage is of central importance to people in the Northern Isles and creating a platform for discussions between industry experts and local people is of particular relevance when it comes to finding solutions. The Digital Forum was created to facilitate this discussion and I encourage everyone to engage in the debate by attending the event.

    “With Brendan Dick and Stuart Robertson we have two high-profile figures overseeing a £146 million project that could potentially make a real difference to the daily lives of local people. I am thankful to them for taking part in the discussion and look forward to hear their views on what the projects means for Orkney and Shetland.”

    ENDS.

    Notes:

    1. If you have any questions about the event, please contact my office in the House of Commons on 0207 219 8181 or else telephone my offices in Kirkwall and Lerwick.


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  19. CARMICHAEL DELIGHT AS POST OFFICE CHANGE MORTGAGE POLICY

    12 March 2014

    A decision taken today by Post Office to extend mortgage coverage to Scottish Islands has been welcomed by Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    His comments come after the Post Office announced that mortgages will now be offered to all major Scottish Islands, including mainland Orkney and Shetland. Outer Isles in Orkney and Shetland are to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

    Mr Carmichael spoke with the Chief Executive of the Post Office Paula Vennells last week to raise this issue. He spoke with Ms Vennells again today who confirmed to him that after consideration the policy had been changed.

    Commenting Mr Carmichael said:

    “I am delighted that the Post Office Chief Executive has confirmed to me that she has already been able to extend the availability of these mortgages to mainland Orkney and mainland Shetland. She continues to work on the widest possible coverage and in the meantime all applications, wherever they come from, will be considered on a case by case basis.

    “It is important that the Post Office offers services that are available to everybody in all parts of the country this seems now to be understood by them and they are acting accordingly.”

    ENDS.


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  20. CARMICHAEL WELCOMES COASTAL COMMUNITIES FUND BOOST FOR ISLES

    12 March 2014

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed the news that the groups in Orkney and Shetland have been awarded funding through the Coastal Communities Fund (CCF).

    His comments come after Treasury Minister, Danny Alexander, confirmed that projects across Scotland would be able to bid for a share of a further £14.4 million from the UK government’s CCF.

    The Fund was created to direct regeneration investment to seaside towns and villages to help rebalance their local economies, reduce unemployment and create new work opportunities for young people.

    In this round of funding the Shetland Fisheries Training Centre Trust (SFTCT) trust were awarded £300,000 to fund research into the commercial production and use of marine seaweeds. In Orkney, the Stronsay Community Council have received £80,000 towards renovating the Fish Mart building, to create a multi-purpose community space.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “This announcement underlines the UK Government’s commitment to supporting coastal community projects across Scotland. The local projects that have received funding are prime examples of the how this scheme supports the local economies of coastal communities like our own.

    “I am also delighted that Danny Alexander has announced a further £14.4m will be made available in the next round of funding. This investment will come as a real shot in the arm to communities ours and I hope that as many projects as possible will apply for the next round of funding.

    “For years the Crown Estate was happy to take money from local coastal communities such as ours. The Coalition established the CCF to ensure that money can be reinvested in communities such as ours, helping to create jobs and boost the local economy.”

    ENDS.

    Notes:

    1. The deadline for the next round of CCF applications is 30 April 2014


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  21. CARMICHAEL RAISES MORTGAGE ISSUE WITH POST OFFICE CEO

    5 March 2014

    The issue of Post Office mortgages that are unavailable to people in Orkney and Shetland has been raised by Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael with the Post Office Chief Executive, Paula Vennells.

    His call comes after it emerged that the Post Office does not provide mortgages to people in Orkney and Shetland, but does for the Scottish Island of Skye. Mr Carmichael spoke to Paula Vennells on Tuesday afternoon and asked her to review the policy.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “Like many people in Orkney and Shetland, I was alarmed to read that the Post Office does not provide mortgage services to Scottish Isles. A public service should not deny access to people based on where they live.

    “I explained this to the Post Office CEO Paula Vennells when we spoke earlier today and I have asked her to ensure that the Post Office should reconsider their approach on this issue.

    “Ms Vennells was very helpful in her approach to the issue. She explained that the conditions were constructed by the Bank of Ireland who are the actual mortgage providers. The Post Office will now speak to the Bank of Ireland to see if this can be removed from their standard terms and conditions.

    "Obviously nothing is yet certain but I was encouraged by the willingness to listen and to tackle the problem. I shall continue to stay in touch and to work with the Post Office to see this sorted.”

    ENDS


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  22. CARMICHAEL URGES RESIDENTS TO SIGN UP TO NEW BROADBAND SCHEME

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael is urging local people to register with a scheme launched by The Independent Networks Co-operative Association, called “Notspot” for people who want to access better broadband but can't get it.

    The scheme aims to find out from local residents where there are gaps in broadband coverageand the information collected will be made available to alternative providers looking for opportunities to serve areas that are left out of BT's superfast broaband roll out plans

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “This registration scheme collects vital information that can help alternative internet providers to enter the market and offer competition. More competition in rural parts of the UK will be crucial in tackling our broadband problems and the better the response to schemes like these the more companies may feel the assurance that their presence is valued and profitable.”

    “The UK Government is already investing over £1 billion in Superfast Broadband across the UK. I have emphasised with ministerial colleagues and BT the need to ensure that there are options available to those in the hardest to reach areas. This survey forms part of that discussion and I encourage anyone in the Isles with poor quality internet to participate.”

    ENDS

    Notes:
    1. http://www.inca.coop/notspot

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  23. CARMICHAEL SUPPORTS LOCAL EMERGENCY CONTROL ROOM PROPOSAL

    27 February 2014

    CARMICHAEL SUPPORTS LOCAL EMERGENCY CONTROL ROOM PROPOSAL

    Calls for a single local emergency control room in the Northern Isles have been backed by Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    His support comes after Shetland MSP Tavish Scott called for a Northern Isles emergency services centre which would coordinate all local call outs. The idea has received support from Shetland Islands Council convener Malcolm Bell who has stated the concept has merit and should be evaluated.

    Last month, a decision was taken by the new respective Fire and Police Boards to close their control rooms in Inverness and Aberdeen. Mr Carmichael initially contacted Pat Watters, Chair of the Fire Board, in October last year to express concerns about the centralisation of the service.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “When these operations are moved away from local communities it means staff with little or no knowledge of the area are being asked to make vital decisions for an area they may be unfamiliar with. Any unexpected delays could be the difference between life and death. That was why when the closure of the Shetland Coastguard station was proposed I campaigned within government to save it. I was delighted that we were able to persuade the Marine Coastguard Agency to change their mind. This issue now is just the same although this time it is the Scottish Government that is removing the local service.

    “A single operation involving Coastguard as well as the other rescue services would be a good way of resisting any future threat to any service. I shall be speaking to the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin to see what can be done from the Westminster end.

    “Ultimately this is about saving lives – politics should not come into consideration. I fully support Tavish Scott’s effort to highlight alternatives that could benefit the Isles. Convener Malcolm Bell’s support in principle for Tavish’s proposal is also very encouraging, given his wealth of experience in the emergency services.”

    ENDS.


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  24. SHETLAND SURGERY DATE CORRECTION

    My previous surgery announcement said Friday 21 March, but in fact the surgery date is Saturday 22nd March

    The timing of the surgery and location have not changed however: 10:30 - 11:30 - Shetland parliamentary office

    For further information please contact the Shetland office on 01595 690044


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  25. NEW ORKNEY SURGERY DATE ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP and Liam McArthur MSP will hold a joint surgery on Friday 21 March at the following time:

     

    12:45 – 13:30 – Constituency Office, Kirkwall


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  26. CARMICHAEL PENS MEN UNITED DEAL

    25 February 2014

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has become the latest big name signing for Men United.

    Mr Carmichael has backed Prostate Cancer UK’s ‘Men United v Prostate Cancer’ campaign, which uses the language of sport to engage men in the battle against the disease.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and is predicted to be the most common cancer overall by 2030. It is vital that men, particularly in later life, get checked regularly to catch any early signs of the disease. Prostate cancer, if it is caught early, is very treatable.

    “The Coalition government have taken a number of steps to help the prevention and treatment of cancer, including committing over £450m in 2014/15 to support early diagnosis by promoting awareness and improving GP access. There is still more to do and I welcome Prostate Cancer UK’s awareness-raising campaign.”

    ENDS

    Notes:

    1. Attached is a photograph of Men United’s latest signing, Alistair Carmichael MP

    Men United v Prostate Cancer is Prostate Cancer UK’s call for men to join together in a movement against the common enemy of prostate cancer. The aim is to build a united front of men against this disease. We want to get the message out about the most common cancer in men in the UK, support men affected by it, and intensify the search for more reliable tests and treatments for the future.

    Men, and the women in their lives, are being asked to sign for Men United by visiting www.prostatecanceruk.org/menunited where they can also test their health knowledge by taking a quick quiz.

    The core audience is men over 45 who urgently need to know about this disease, and to do something about it. Men United is not exclusively for men. It is a movement for men, but women will be critical supporters and activists within it. The core idea is that men are very consciously facing their health and banding together to right a wrong.

    Whether they’ve been diagnosed or are simply concerned about prostate cancer, men can find out about the disease at www.prostatecanceruk.org.

    About Prostate Cancer UK:

    Prostate Cancer UK fights to help more men survive prostate cancer and enjoy a better quality of life. We support men and provide vital information. We find answers by funding research into causes and treatments. And we lead change, raising the profile of the disease and improving care. We believe that men deserve better.

    Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in the UK. Over 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. Every hour 1 man dies from prostate cancer. One in eight men will develop prostate cancer at some point in their lives. One in four black men will develop prostate cancer at some point in their lives.

    Anyone with concerns about prostate cancer can call Prostate Cancer UK's confidential Helpline on 0800 074 8383 or visit www.prostatecanceruk.org. The helpline is free to landlines, staffed by specialist nurses, and open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday with late opening until 8pm on Wednesdays.


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  27. CARMICHAEL ENCOURAGES LOCAL BUSINESSES TO TAKE PART IN DELIVERY CHARGES SURVEY

    25 February 2014

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has encouraged businesses in Orkney and Shetland to take part in a survey that assesses the impact of unfair delivery charges on local businesses in the north of Scotland.

    The survey, conducted by Citizens Advice Scotland, is the first of its kind assessing the impact of high delivery charges on businesses in rural parts of Scotland - having previously targeted individual consumers only.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “This survey could help to achieve the change to delivery policies that we want to see. Whenever the issue of high delivery charges is raised it almost exclusively focuses on individual consumers. What this survey will seek to gather instead is the views of businesses and their experiences of how they have been affected.

    “In speaking to people who have been hit by high delivery charges, I know that some have decided to return to the local high street for their shopping. With this there comes opportunity for the local economy, however it may be the case that businesses suffer to the same extent as individual consumers. The result of the survey will help us to get to grips with this important and complex issue.”

    Commenting, Citizens Advice Scotland chief executive Margaret Lynch said:

    “In 2011/2012 we collected evidence from over 3,000 Scots, and published research which found that delivery firms applied huge additional charges to postcode areas that included one million Scots – not just in the far north but across much of the country.

    “Until now we have mainly focused on the impact this has on individual consumers. But we have also been contacted by many businesses, particularly small businesses.

    “High delivery charges can be absolutely devastating on them – both when sending and receiving parcels. We estimate that there are well over 20,000 businesses that could be affected.”

    ENDS.

    1. For those wishing to take part in the survey, please go to:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DeliveryCosts

    2. The survey is open until 5 pm on Friday 14 March.

     


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  28. CARMICHAEL BACKS OIL INVESTMENT

    25 February 2014

    UK Government’s multi-billion pound investment into the North Sea oil and gas industry will maximise opportunity and boost the economy, according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    His comments come after the Energy Secretary Ed Davey agreed to implement the essential recommendations of Sir Ian Wood’s report into the North Sea industry. His review found that there were 3-4 billion barrels of oil in the North Sea that could only be retrieved with substantial investment in the oil and gas infrastructure. The Wood review argues that these changes could be worth up to £200 billion to the UK.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “This is clearly good news for the both the oil and gas industry and the country. The offshore industry is a huge part of the economy in the Northern Isles and such a large investment in the fields around Shetland is a great boost to the many people who work in the industry.

    “Built on the broad shoulders of the United Kingdom, the investment will help us attract new business and develop existing companies, create jobs and ensure we can compete in the global race

    “The scale of the investment shows that Scotland benefits from being part of the UK. The huge investment that the Wood report made clear was necessary is only possible as a result of being part of one of the world’s largest economies.”

    ENDS.


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  29. HELICOPTER SAFETY CHANGES "AN IMPORTANT STEP FORWARDS" - CARMICHAEL

    Date: 20 February 2014

    New guidelines for offshore helicopter safety announced today by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have been described as “an important step in protecting enhancing safety of offshore workers” by Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    The guidelines have also been adopted by the CAA’s Norwegian and European counterparts.  The CAA announced in September that a review of the guidelines would take place following tragic Super Puma helicopter crash in Shetland waters in August 2013 which saw the loss of four lives.

    The guidelines have been welcomed by the RMT Union and industry.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The work of those in the offshore industry is vital important to the economy of the Northern Isles and the rest of the country. The Super Puma crash in August last year was a tragedy and the CAA were right to look at how safety guidelines could be improved.

    “The new guidelines are an important step forward in ensuring that those who work offshore are kept as safe as possible in what is a very challenging and difficult environment and I am pleased that the industry and the union have welcomed them.

    “The co-operation of the national and international authorities shows that in working together we can get the right result that will strengthen workplace safety for offshore workers at home and across the continent.”

    ENDS.

    Notes:

    The main measures of this review include:

    1. Prohibiting helicopter flights in the most severe sea conditions, so that the chance of a ditched helicopter capsizing is reduced and a rescue can be safely undertaken

    2. Pending further safety improvements to helicopters, passengers will only be able to fly if they are seated next to an emergency window exit to make it easier to get out of a helicopter in an emergency (unless helicopters are fitted with extra flotation devices or passengers are provided with better emergency breathing systems)

    3. Requiring all passengers to have better emergency breathing equipment to increase underwater survival time unless the helicopter is equipped with side floats


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  30. BUSINESSES HAVE AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN REFERENDUM DEBATE - CARMICHAEL

    6 February 2014

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has encouraged local businesses and communities to contribute to the referendum debate.

    His comments come after two major British business leaders weighed in on the referendum debate. BP boss Bob Dudley highlighted a “question mark” over the prospect of a currency union, while outgoing Sainsbury Chief Executive Justin King expressed concerns over the possibility of rising grocery prices in an independent Scotland.

    Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday 5 February, Mr Carmichael said:

    “I speak to businesses from across Scotland regularly and frequently. In those meetings we highlight the importance of the decision the Scottish people will make on 18 September, and encourage them to get involved in this important debate.

    “I have seen and studied the intervention from Bob Dudley. The terms of that intervention do not surprise me at all as they very much reflect the concerns expressed to me when I speak to businessmen and women across Scotland who represent businesses of all sizes. They all tell me the same: they see independence as being bad for their business. It brings uncertainties, uncertainty means risk, and that is bad for their business future.”

    ENDS.


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  31. “GROUNDBREAKING AGREEMENT” HELPS SECURE ROYAL MAIL FUTURE - CARMICHAEL

    6 February 2014

    A terms and conditions deal agreed between the Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) will provide long term stability and certainty for the Royal Mail, according to Alistair Carmichael MP.

    His comments come after the two groups agreed the legally-binding deal covering industrial stability and protections, together with a three year pay deal. The Agreement covers 139,000 Royal Mail employees and includes a three percent increase this year.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “This groundbreaking deal represents the first critical step in securing the long-term stability of the Royal Mail and is of great reassurance to Royal Mail workers and customers.

    “It will ensure that the Royal Mail can be more competitive as the mail market changes. The parcel market in particular has increased dramatically in recent years and this agreement will put the Royal Mail in a better position adapt with the market.

    “Royal Mail employees are also gaining from this. They will also enjoy a pay increase that is better than most public service workers while also having their terms and conditions legally protected.

    “The continued good health of the Royal Mail is absolutely vital for people and businesses in Orkney and Shetland. This agreement provides a solid foundation for the Royal Mail to continue to provide the excellent service that they do and is a very welcome development.”

    ENDS.

    Notes:

    1. Royal Mail staff will receive a pay increase of 9% across 3 years.


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  32. CARMICHAEL URGES VIGILANCE OVER UNOFFICIAL PASSPORT SERVICES

    5 February 2014

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has warned about the hidden charges and dangers of submitting personal information to unofficial passport renewal websites. 

    The warning comes at a time when many local residents are in the midst of planning their summer holidays. Although these companies operate within the law, the real danger stems from the charges of up to £69 without added benefit and from submitting vital personal information such as credit card details and passwords.

    A number of constituents have contacted Mr Carmichael about this issue and Mr Carmichael has written to the Chief Executive of the Identity and Passport Service to see what can be done to ensure that the general public use official passport sites.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “Copycat websites do you absolutely no favour in the process of getting your passport renewed. They are a real concern to people and can go quite beyond the immediate frustration of not having their passport renewed. The real danger consists in the possibility of allowing third parties to gain access to personal information such as credit card details and passwords.

    “At a time when many people are in the middle of their summer holiday preparations, it is absolutely vital that people check the authenticity of online passport application services.

    “One constituent came to me recently who had used one of these services and subsequently expressed concerns that the personal data of their entire family may have been harvested.  I would advise anyone looking to get their passports extended to approach no organisation other than the official Passport Office.”

    ENDS


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  33. SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT MUST CLARIFY PENSIONS PROVISION - CARMICHAEL

    4 February 2014 

    Questions about how pensions will be provided in an independent Scotland must be answered, according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    His comments come after the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland (ICAS) published a report yesterday (3 February 2014) entitled ‘Scotland’s Pensions Future – Have Our Questions Been Answered?’ which concluded that key questions “remain unanswered” following the publication of the Scottish Government’s White Paper on Independence.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “This report goes right to the heart of the problem of the Independence debate – the Scottish Government has failed to provide answers to crucial questions.

    “We were told that we would be given answers in the White Paper. That has not happened. It is vital that voters in Scotland are given full access to the facts before making a decision on Independence.

    “This is not the first report to express worries about the future of pensions in an Independent Scotland. The ICAS is not a political body.   They have no axe to grind.   Their warnings deserve to be taken seriously and their questions need to be answered.”

    ENDS.

    Notes:

    1. Please see more on the official ICAS website: http://icas.org.uk/News/Latest_News/Pensions_questions_not_answered_-_ICAS/

     


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  34. REPORT OUTLINES POTENTIAL OF ISLES RENEWABLE INDUSTRY

    14 January 2014

    Work is still needed to ensure that Orkney and Shetland can be a national and international leader in renewable energy, according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    His comments come after an independent report, commissioned by Scottish Renewables found that 11,695 people are currently in full-time employment in the Scottish renewable sector, with 12% of this – 1,459 – in the Highlands and Islands alone, making the region the top employer.

    The report also found that the industry had experienced year-on-year growth of 5%.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “This report confirms what many in the local renewable industry have said for a number of years. The importance of the renewable energy sector to the economies of Orkney and Shetland now and in the future has never been clearer.

    “Local developers have highlighted the challenges that they still face including strike pricing and grid access. I am working with ministerial colleagues in government to ensure that challenges such as grid connections are met. I am hopeful that we can iron out the remaining issues to ensure that renewable developers are not unfairly penalised in the Isles.

    “Energy Secretary Ed Davey has listened to the community and there is for the first time an understanding within government of the importance for reforming the renewable energy market in the Isles. What we now need is to see that process through to the finish and help Orkney and Shetland become world leaders in renewable energy.”

    ENDS.

    Notes to editors:

    1. The report found the following:

    There are 1,459 people working in the renewable energy sector across 77 different organisations.

    As a location, the Highlands & Islands is the top region in Scotland for Hydro employment.

    Alongside Hydro, Onshore wind is the most important segment of the renewable energy sector from an employment perspective.


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  35. WHISKY VERIFICATION SCHEME “GOOD FOR PRODUCERS AND CONSUMERS” - CARMICHAEL

    13 January 2014

    The launch of a new drinks verification scheme to help consumers identify genuine UK-made products will boost producers and consumers, according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    Under the new scheme, announced by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander MP, Scotch whisky will be the first drink to be protected from fake or sub-standard Scotch being sold in the European Union.

    Commenting on the new scheme, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The new Spirit Verification Scheme is beneficial in two ways: as a way for the Scottish whisky industry to stop the sale of adulterated Scotch whiskies bottled abroad, and as an easy way for EU consumers of Scotch whisky to identify Scotch as what it is – the finest spirit in the world.

    “The Scottish whisky industry is one of the most important industries in Scotland with more than 10,000 jobs directly dependable on it. The new verification scheme is designed to increase sales of Scotch whisky in the EU by protecting the integrity of the product and by finally putting an end to the sale of counterfeit Scotch whisky.”

    Notes:

    1. Producers, blenders, bottlers, labellers and bulk importers will need to apply to HM Revenue and Customers (HMRC) if they want to be verified. For further information, please visit http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/news/spirit-drinks.htm

    2. The Highland Park distillery in Kirkwall, Orkney, is the northernmost whiskey distillery in the United Kingdom.

     


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  36. CARMICHAEL ENCOURAGES LOCAL PEOPLE TO SUPPORT NOLTLAND AWARD BID

    18 December 2013

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael is encouraging local people to nominate the excavations at Links of Noltland for the prestigious ‘Best Rescue Dig’ award, hosted by Current Archaeology Magazine.

    The site which is home to the ‘Westray Wife’ figurine’ is at severe risk from erosion. Recent work (funded by Historic Scotland) has made it possible to recover a wealth of new information about daily life in the Neolitic and Bronze Age periods.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “Archaeological sites in Orkney and Shetland are famous across the globe, and excavation efforts across the Isles have helped us to discover our rich history.

    “That’s why I am encouraging local people in the Isles to back the Noltland excavations and vote for them to win the ‘Best Rescue Dig’ award. To win such an award would give the site great publicity and would be another feather in the cap of our fantastic archaeological traditions.”

    ENDS.

    Notes :

    1. Votes can be cast at the following link: http://www.archaeology.co.uk/awards/archaeology-awards-2014/rescue-dig-of-the-year-2014-nominees.htm


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  37. “THREAT OF DAYS AT SEA CUT AVERTED” - CARMICHAEL

    18 December 2013

    UK Government efforts to meet targets set by fishing industry representatives have “very largely delivered” according to Alistair Carmichael MP.

    His comments come after the European Commission Fish Council decided against cutting the number of days fishermen could spend at sea yesterday evening (17 December).

    Industry representatives had argued that further reduction in fishing days would have placed an unbearable economic burden on the Scottish fleet for no conservational gain, as key stocks including cod continue to increase in size.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “I have always believed that it is important for government to listen to the fishing industry whenever catches and quotas are set.  The industry representatives set clear and challenging targets for our negotiating team and I am pleased to see that a strong UK team has very largely delivered on what was asked of them.

    “The most important ask for the Scottish industry was that we should avoid further cuts to the number of days that fishermen can go to sea.   That has been achieved.

    “Similarly, the increase in flexibility on monkfish is important and will be welcomed.

    “Much work remains to be done as the vital EU-Norway talks do not conclude until the New Year and the crucially important mackerel quota has still to be set.”

    ENDS.


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  38. TRANSPARENCY ON CALLER ID CHARGES TO HELP CONSUMER CHOICE - CARMICHAEL

    11 December 2013

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed the publication of information by Ofcom of the main services offered by phone companies that can help consumers protect themselves against nuisance calls and compare any charges that may apply.

    The communications regulator Ofcom has clearly set out the charges for services such as Caller Display, Incoming Call Blocking, Anonymous Call Rejection, Last Caller Identification (1471) and Voicemail (1571), across seven landline providers

    Information is also provided about what each service does and how it can protect consumers from nuisance calls.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “Customers should be equipped with the information that they need to protect themselves against nuisance calls and this publication by Ofcom is a step in the right direction. Their easy-to-understand table will go some way towards enabling consumers to make the right choice.

    “I am disappointed that some providers still charge some customers for caller ID services. Caller ID is not a premium service and as such should come as part of the basic service offered by these companies. By publishing the table today, Ofcom have highlighted the choices that are available to consumers should they wish to switch to get a better deal.”

    Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director said:

    “When shopping around for a new landline service or provider it’s important that consumers have access to information about a range of factors such as price, quality of service and any additional call features.”

    “For many consumers, protecting themselves against nuisance calls may be a high priority and providers offer a number of useful services.”

    “We have set out information about some of these services to help consumers understand the choice available and whether they’re free or cost extra. This information is intended to help consumers to make an informed decision about the landline provider and package that might best meet their needs.”

    ENDS.

    Notes:

    1. Information in full - http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/2013/12/phone-company-services-that-can-help-tackle-nuisance-calls/

    2. The prices listed are per month. The communications providers shown below are those with a relevant market share above 1% or with auniversal service obligation to ensure that basic fixed line telecoms services are available at an affordable price to citizens across the UK (BT and KC). There are other communications providers offering the same or similar services.  When choosing a provider consumers should also consider them and check their provision of the relevant services and the charges.  Consumers who are a customer of another provider should check their services and charges.

    For ease of comparison Ofcom has used a generic name and description for each of the services offered by the communications providers listed. Whilst the services are broadly comparable there may be slight differences in the way the services operate and the features they offer. Consumers should therefore check the precise nature of the service with the provider directly.

    For a comparison of communications providers see: http://media.ofcom.org.uk/2013/12/10/services-that-can-help-tackle-nuisance-calls/ (Information correct as at 10 December 2013)

    3. Scottish Liberal Democrat MP Mike Crockart has set up a campaign website which encourages people to sign a petition against nuisance calls. The link is: http://www.no2nuisancecalls.net/


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  39. CARMICHAEL – KNEE-JERK ACTION ON VULNERABLE FISH STOCKS IS THE WRONG APPROACH

    10 December 2013

    A blanket ban on deep-sea trawling is not a sensible approach, according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    His comments come after the European Parliament voted on a draft European Union (EU) regulation on fishing deep-sea stocks in the North-East Atlantic.

    An amendment which had proposed a blanket ban on bottom-trawling was rejected by 343 votes to 326, with 19 abstentions. Scottish Liberal Democrat Member of the European George Lyon helped to defeat the amendment.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The blanket ban proposed by the defeated amendment was a knee-jerk approach to a complex problem. This proposal was premature and not properly supported by the sciences. If you are to impose stringent restrictions of this sort you must first be certain that they are necessary and will be effective.”

    “I have always maintained that any decision on fishing quotas must be taken with authoritative science behind it. We do not know what the full effects of such a ban would be on fishing communities in Scotland and until there is a comprehensive assessment carried out the EU would be taking a decision based on an uninformed view.”

    Commenting, George Lyon MEP said:

    “Fisheries management is all about securing the long-term future of stocks but also the economic future of the industry. A blanket ban on fishing in waters deeper than 600m was not supported by the evidence and would have been difficult to enforce.“

    "The aims of the overall package are welcome, particularly the new action on discards and regional management of local fisheries. But we need to ensure that changes are implemented in a way that does not leave fishermen in places like the Northern Isles unable to make ends meet.”

    "This is why I backed calls for a review of these measures in 4 years once we can see we've established their effect in practice. There is good evidence fish stocks in these areas are sustainable.”

    ENDS


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  40. SOUTHEAST ASIA BEEF DEAL IS “GREAT NEWS” FOR NORTHERN ISLES FARMERS - CARMICHAEL

     

    6 December 2013

    A new trade agreement between Singapore and the UK offers great opportunities for the beef industry in Orkney and Shetland, according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    The new trade agreement means that Singapore’s ban on Scottish beef is lifted, opening the door for Scotland’s beef exporters into one of Southeast Asia’s most lucrative markets.

    Singapore’s ban on UK beef was put in place in the aftermath of the BSE scandal and has now been removed following an inspection from Singapore’s Agri-food Vetinary Authority (AVA) to three British beef plants.

    Under the £10 million deal, Scotland’s beef producers are now in a position to export cuts of deboned beef from cattle aged thirty months to Singapore, provided they comply with the requirements set out in the trade agreement.

    Commenting on the deal, Alistair Carmichael said:

    “Orkney and Shetland’s beef industry’s high quality produce is recognized across the UK and all over the world. The new trade agreement shows that the UK Government is helping local businesses to overcome their disadvantage of distance by opening up foreign markets that value high quality products.”

    “This trade agreement also shows that the interests of farmers are represented at the highest level of UK Government. Combined with the free trade agreement reached between the EU and Singapore last year, the Northern Isles will be in an ideal position to benefit from this lucrative market.”

    ENDS.

     

     

     


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  41. "DON’T MISS OUT ON EQUITABLE LIFE COMPENSATION” SAYS CARMICHAEL

    10 December 2013

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael is calling on any constituents who had pensions with Equitable Life to make sure they get compensation promised to them by the government.

    The Equitable Life Payments Scheme was set up by the Coalition in 2011 to pay up to £1.5 billion to victims of the Equitable Life scandal, and £600 million has already been paid out. But many people have moved without giving their new address and an alarming number seem to be unaware that they are entitled to a payment. The Treasury is planning to shut down the scheme in 2015, with many pensioners at risk of remaining unpaid.

    The Parliamentary Ombudsman found that UK financial regulators had failed the firm’s customers every single year throughout the 1990s. In 2008, she published a report entitled ‘A decade of Regulatory Failure’.  She called on the government to pay compensation to the victims of the scandal but it was not until 2010 that the new government committed in the Coalition Agreement to make “swift, fair and transparent payments” to the 1.5 million pensioners affected.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “I always felt that the failure of the previous government to accept responsibility for their role in the collapse of Equitable Life was shameful. The payments scheme set up by the Coalition was undoubtedly the right thing to do to make sure that pensioners got what they were entitled to.

    “The scheme is coming to its end in 2015 and it is vital that any affected pensioners who have not yet received compensation act before it is too late. It would be a tragedy if, having worked all their lives, those who lost out when Equitable Life collapsed were not fairly compensated.”

    ENDS.

    Notes:

    1. If you think you have an eligible policy but have not yet heard from the Scheme, you can first confirm that your policy is eligible for the Scheme by telephoning the Scheme’s “Policychecker” service on 0300 0200 150. Or write to Equitable Life Payment Scheme, PO Box 4110, Glasgow G58 1EL quoting your full name, address and your Equitable Life policy number in all correspondence.

    2. The Scheme website can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/ELcompensation or http://equitablelifepaymentscheme.


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  42. POSITIVE AUTUMN STATEMENT WELCOMED BY CARMICHAEL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed a raft of positive announcements by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement, delivered this morning in the House of Commons.

    The Autumn Statement examined the current state of the economy and outlined a number of policies that the government will take so that the economy can continue to grow.

    Among the most prominent of these decisions for local people in Orkney and Shetland was the Treasury’s financial support to the Shetland Islands Council, the freezing of fuel duty and the proposed energy reforms that will see £50 cut from household energy bills.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “This Autumn Statement gives us many reasons to be positive. Economic outlook in Scotland has been revised upwards and the UK now has the fastest growing economy in the G7.

    “The Chancellor’s decision to freeze fuel duty once again is great news for local drivers. The freeze will stay in place for the remainder of this parliament meaning that by then the Coalition will have not increased fuel duty for 48 months.  Having scrapped Labour’s deeply unpopular fuel duty escalator, the motorists in the Isles are now 25 pence-per-litre better off than they would have otherwise been.

    “Local businesses too will welcome the announcement that under-21-year-olds will have their employer national insurance contributions abolished completely. This will help employers cut costs and ensure that young people are able to find jobs.”

    Commenting on the announcement that the Treasury will give the Shetland Islands Council £10 million, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The council asked for £10 million to address the ongoing issue of their historic housing debt and the Treasury has delivered. I am delighted that we have been able to secure what the SIC asked for. This has been far from straightforward. If it were easy I am sure it would have been sorted years ago.

    “It has ultimately been resolved because there has been a political commitment within the coalition government to recognise Shetland’s contribution to the national economy and see us treated fairly. We have reached that point now and the SIC are being given the money they requested.

    “Now that we have delivered this £10 million I would expect the Scottish government to do the same. They have never been slow to deliver an opinion on this matter. They now need to put their money where their mouth is.”

    ENDS.


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  43. CARMICHAEL WELCOMES £10 MILLION FROM TREASURY TO SUPPORT DEVELOPMENT IN SHETLAND

    5 December 2013

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed the announcement that the Treasury will contribute £10 million to support the Shetland Islands Council.

    His comments come after the Chancellor George Osborne announced in the Autumn Statement that £10 million would be given to the Shetland Islands Council (SIC) to recognise the vital contribution that the council continues to make in supporting the oil and gas industry.

    The money will come in two £5 million lump sums in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 periods respectively and will be given to the Scottish Government. The money will be ring-fenced to ensure that it is given to the SIC.

    The funding will be dependent on the Scottish Government matching the commitment, but the Treasury are looking at ways to ensure that this money reaches the SIC even if the Scottish Government refuse to contribute.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The council asked for £10 million to address the ongoing issue of their historic housing debt and the Treasury has delivered. I am delighted that we have been able to secure what the SIC asked for. This has been far from straightforward. If it were easy I am sure it would have been sorted years ago.

    “It has ultimately been resolved because there has been a political commitment within the coalition government to recognise Shetland’s contribution to the national economy and see us treated fairly. We have reached that point now and the SIC are being given the money they requested.

    “Now that we have delivered this £10 million I would expect the Scottish government to do the same. They have never been slow to deliver an opinion on this matter. They now need to put their money where their mouth is.”

    Commenting, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander MP said:

    “The Government will provide £10m over 2 years to the Shetland Islands Council to support infrastructure development, recognising the vital contribution the council continues to make in supporting the oil and gas industry.  We expect the Scottish Government to commit similar sums to infrastructure development over that period”

    ENDS.


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  44. DELIVERY SUMMIT A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION - CARMICHAEL

    28 November 2013

    A meeting of the Consumer Minister, retailers and couriers to discuss delivery charges was a “step in the right direction” according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    His comments come after Consumer Minister Jo Swinson MP held a meeting on Tuesday 26 November to discuss delivery charges. The meeting was attended by a large number of industry officials, including representatives from Tesco, British Retail Consortium, Citizens Advice Scotland, the Office of Fair Trading and the Royal Mail.

    Public body Consumer Futures have agreed to examine the issue in further detail and will report back to the Minister in Spring 2014.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “With Christmas on the horizon, local people will be all too aware of the problems that high delivery charges cause. I am pleased that my Liberal Democrat colleagues have taken this issue to the heart of Government and have engaged a large number of retailers and couriers.

    “Online retailers and delivery providers have now recognised that high delivery charges disproportionally affect people living in rural areas, and that a more transparent approach will be beneficial to consumers and retailers.

    “I welcome the commitment by Consumer Focus and the British Retail Consortium to develop and promote best practise guidelines amongst online retailers. We are some way off a solution to this problem but I believe that we are now moving in the right direction.”

    Sir Robert Smith, MP for West Aberdeenshire and and Kincardine highlighted this problem to the Government by bringing forward a Private Members Bill- the Delivery Surcharges (Transparency for Consumers) Bill. The Bill was debated on 13th September and following this the Consumer Minister, Jo Swinson, agreed to host a summit with Sir Robert and stakeholders.

    Consumer Minister Jo Swinson said:

    “With online shopping revenues expected to break through the £10 billion barrier for the first time this year, it is vital that customers are getting a fair deal when buying goods online. Retailers and couriers should make it absolutely clear at an early stage to all consumers, regardless of where they live, what they can expect to pay to have their items delivered.

    “After today’s summit, it’s a very positive step that the British Retail Consortium has agreed to work with Consumer Futures and other stakeholders to develop guidance for industry. This will help retailers and couriers provide clearer information about how much something will cost to be delivered and help explain to consumers what to expect from online retailers and couriers when making a purchase.”

    Sir Robert has been leading a Fairer Delivery Charges campaign, calling for retailers to be clear about delivery surcharges facing people when buying good online. Sir Robert has invited people who have been faced with surcharges to sign his online petition at http://www.fairerdeliverycharges.net/

    ENDS

    Notes:

    1.        Further details about the petition and Fairer Delivery Charges campaign can be found at: http://www.fairerdeliverycharges.net/

    2.        Details about the Delivery Surcharges (Transparency for Consumers) Bill can be found at: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2013-14/deliverysurchargestransparencyforconsumers.html

    3. The following groups were represented at the event:

    Tesco Stores Ltd

    eBay UK Ltd

    Shop Direct / British Retail Consortium

    British Retail Consortium

    Interactive Media Retail Group

    Federation of Small Businesses

    Royal Mail

    Yodel

    AJG Parcels

    Woody's Express Parcels

    MetaPack Limited

    Consumer Futures

    Citizens Advice Scotland

    Office of Fair Trading

    Trading Standards Institute

    Society of Chief Trading Standards Officers in Scotland


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  45. CARMICHAEL: EXTRA POST OFFICE MONEY WILL BOOST RURAL SERVICES

    28 November 2013

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has hailed additional investment into the Post Office Ltd by the government as a victory for consumers in rural areas.

    His comments come after the Postal Affairs Minister Jo Swinson announced an additional £640 million of funding for the Post Office network. This will go on top of the existing £1.34 billion that the Coalition government has already committed over the course of this parliament. The additional funding will speed up the modernisation of the network for the 2015-2018 period.

    For the first time, funding will also be specifically set aside for investment into maintaining smaller community Post Offices. There are around 3,000 branches for which a conversion to the ‘Local’ or ‘Main’ models of Post Office may not be suitable, and £20 million will be set aside to maintain these branches.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “For the first time the government is specifically targeting smaller community Post Offices like many in Orkney and Shetland. The extra money that they will get will help to ensure that these Post Offices continue to operate in more isolated areas. This is a massive boost for residents of these communities.

    “The Coalition’s record with the Post Office is very positive: we have now committed nearly £2 billion of investment to help the Post Office branches and have presided over the greatest level of stability in the Post Office in 20 years.

    “When the Coalition came to power, the country was losing 10 branches per week. We scrapped Labour’s programme of branch closures that saw the Network shrink by nearly 7,500 during their 13 years in power and in doing so have protected vulnerable post offices in rural communities.”

    ENDS.

    Notes:

    1. The last government’s post office closures were as follows:

    (2003-05) Network Reinvention closures - 2486

    (2007-09) Network Change closures - 2432

    In addition to these closure programmes, the network lost a further 1,921 through attrition (2,428 including those replaced by Outreach services).

    2. Two Post Offices have already undergone part modernisation, Norsepharm in Scalloway, Shetland and the Stromness Post Office in Orkney.


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  46. WHITE PAPER DODGES BIG QUESTIONS - CARMICHAEL

    Date: 26 November 2013

    The Scottish Government’s independence white paper dodges the major uncertainties of independence, according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    His comments come after the Scottish Government released their white paper on Tuesday 26 November (today). The 670-page document aims to be an ‘independence manifesto’, but does not have answers on currency or pensions plans in an independent Scotland. The paper also does not give a price tag for Scottish Independence.

    The White Paper also promises to bring forward legislation for Orkney and Shetland to look to devolve further power to the Isles.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “Today’s release by the Scottish Government has failed to deliver on the big questions. People in Orkney and Shetland deserve to be told what would happen to their pensions and currency in an independent Scotland.

    “It is astonishing that the SNP have chosen to dodge these issues. They have had years to get their argument in order. They have ducked at the opportunity to provide concrete answers when it mattered most.

    “This paper does nothing to address the continuing uncertainty that public have about the prospect of an independent Scotland. Leaving the UK would be a huge leap into the dark.”

    Commenting on the proposal of an ‘Isles act’ in the event of a Yes Vote, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The Scottish Government has the power to implement a number of their promises now, but they have chosen not to. The promise of an ‘Isles Act’ for Orkney and Shetland is one such example – it is wrong that this should be used as bait for a Yes vote.

    “For years they have stripped power away from local communities and now they are offering some of it back as some sort of referendum bribe. I know that local people have not been impressed with that.”

    ENDS.


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  47. CARMICHAEL: EU FUNDING BOOST PROVIDES OPPORTUNITIES FOR SCOTLAND

    Date: 20 November 2013

    Orkney and Shetland’s voice in Europe is stronger as part of the UK, according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    His comments come after Members of the European Parliament (MEP) signed off on the European Union’s long term budget for 2014-2020.

    Despite a historic cut to the EU budget, Scotland will benefit from over £5bn of European funding, underlining the importance of the EU to Scottish jobs and the Scottish economy.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “I have always believed that the European Union should do more with less and I am pleased to see that they have taken a step in the right direction.

    “As part of the UK, Orkney and Shetland’s voice is much stronger than it would be in an independent Scotland. This is a substantial sum of money which will help to support jobs and growth locally and stands to show again that we benefit greatly as a bigger player in Europe.

    “Scottish Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon deserves great credit for ensuring that Scotland’s case was heard by Ministers in Europe and he has helped to achieve this important deal.”

    Liberal Democrat MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament's Budget Committee George Lyon commented:

    "Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament have consistently argued for a smaller EU budget that can be spent more effectively and is more targeted towards creating jobs and growth. That is exactly what this long-term budget deal will deliver.

    “As part of the UK, Scotland gets real benefits from our place in the EU. This substantial investment will help deliver jobs for the UK and build a stronger Scottish economy. Whether we are talking about Scotland’s place in the UK or the UK’s place in the EU, we get a better deal as part of something bigger.

    "This deal secures more than £5bn for Scotland. This is funding that will help boost our universities, get our young people back into work and boost Scottish businesses at a time when many are still struggling to make ends meet. I was clear during talks that we needed a budget that delivers for Scotland on jobs and on growth and that is what we have achieved.”

    ENDS.

    Notes:

    A final vote on the EU 2014-2020 budget deal reached in June was taken on Tuesday in Strasbourg. This came after the conditions laid down by Parliament in its resolution on the MFF were deemed to have been met.

    Under the deal, funding for the ‘Competitiveness for Growth and Jobs” heading – which includes research and development funding and capital investment projects – will see an increase of 37% compared to the existing budget. This includes 70.2 billion euros for the Horizon 2020 research programme, of which universities and research institutes in the UK are some of the biggest recipients.

    The deal will also see up to 2.54 billion euros frontloaded to 2014 and 2015, where it will be prioritised on projects to tackle youth unemployment, strengthen research and boost SMEs. This will complement efforts by the Liberal Democrats in government to create 1.2 million apprentices and 110,000 work placements for young people out of work since 2010.

     


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  48. CARMICHAEL ISSUES FREE LIFEJACKET REMINDER

    Date: 19 November 2013

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has reminded local fishermen to apply for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s (SFF) free lifejacket scheme ahead of 4 roll out events next week.

    The scheme aims to supply a free lifejacket (or personal floatation device, PFD) to every fisherman who is actively fishing under a current fishing licence administered by Marine Scotland and who have mandatory safety certification.

    The roll out events in Orkney and Shetland will provide successful applicants with an opportunity to see the new PFDs first hand.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The deadline for applications is tonight [Tuesday 19 November] for personnel hoping to attend the roll-out events. I encourage all fishermen to sign up if they have yet to do so and take advantage of this scheme.

    “The SFF roll out events will be a good opportunity to get a demonstration of the new PFDs and speak directly to SFF personnel about any questions you have.”

    ENDS.

     


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  49. CARMICHAEL RAISES OVER £4,400 FOR MACMILLAN CANCER TRUST

    5 November 2013

    CARMICHAEL RAISES OVER £4,400 FOR MACMILLAN CANCER TRUST

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has praised the MacMillan Cancer Trust after completing the ‘Go Sober for October’ challenge.

    The MacMillan Go Sober campaign challenged drinkers to give up alcohol for the month of October to raise money for the cancer charity.

    The entire campaign raised over £1,600,000 for MacMillan. Mr Carmichael ended the month as the 2nd highest fundraiser nationally, raising £4,440.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “MacMillan Cancer Trust deserves enormous praise for organising this hugely successful campaign. Anyone who knows me knows that I do enjoy a dram and there are not many causes that would motivate me to abstain from alcohol but MacMillan Cancer Trust is one of them.

    “A few times in my life I have seen people who were dear to me lose the fight against cancer and I have seen what MacMillan did to help them and their families. The word ‘inspirational’ is much over-used these days but for the MacMillan nurses that I have seen it is, if any anything, an understatement.

    “I would like to thank everyone who participated and donated to the campaign. I cannot say that it has been easy but I can say for certainty that it has been well worth it.”

    ENDS.

    Notes :

    1. Mr Carmichael’s GoSober page is viewable here: https://www.gosober.org.uk/profile/alistaircarmichael


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  50. CARMICHAEL ENCOURAGES FISHERMEN TO APPLY TO FREE LIFEJACKET SCHEME

    CARMICHAEL ENCOURAGES FISHERMEN TO APPLY TO FREE LIFEJACKET SCHEME

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has offered his backing to a Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) led initiative that aims to provide lifejackets to every fisherman in Scotland for free.

    The scheme is funded by the European Fisheries Fund, Scottish Fishermen’s Trust and the UK Fisheries Offshore Oil and Gas Legacy Trust Fund and is open to personnel actively fishing under a current fishing licence administered by Marine Scotland and who have mandatory safety certification.

    The SFF and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) will be holding events in Orkney and Shetland at the end of November to distribute personal floatation devices (PFDs) to fishermen who have been successful in their application.

    Mr Carmichael said:

    “The fishing industry forms part of the lifeblood of Orkney and Shetland and this initiative can go some way in helping to prevent the tragedy of fishermen lost at sea.

    “Currently, half of all lives lost at sea are the result of involuntary drowning and the scheme is looking to reduce this figure and instil a culture of safety among fishermen.

    “The SFF and RNLI roll-out events in November will provide a good opportunity see the new PFDs first hand and I encourage all isles fishermen to take advantage of the scheme and sign up as soon as possible.”

     

     


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  51. CARMICHAEL SEEKS EARLY VISIT FROM EUROPE MINISTER ON FISH QUOTAS

    CARMICHAEL SEEKS EARLY VISIT FROM EUROPE MINISTER ON FISH QUOTAS

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael is seeking an early visit from new European Minister George Eustice MP to Orkney and Shetland to discuss European fish quotas.

    His comments come as talks between coastal states begin in London on Wednesday in an attempt to agree a deal.

    Mr Carmichael has already met with the Scottish Pelagic Fisheries Association and will be accompanying Mr Eustice on a visit to the North East on Thursday 24 October.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “I have already impressed on George Eustice the importance of positive engagement with the Scottish fisheries industry and I am delighted to be able to accompany him on his first visit to Scotland in his new role. He has taken on a job that will be of enormous importance to the Northern Isles and I am keen to support him in getting well acquainted with our needs.

    “I am keen that the Minister does visit Orkney and Shetland soon in order for him to hear the needs of the local industry in the run up to the Local Fisheries Council meeting in December. I have always taken the view that there is no substitute for government ministers hearing from local people and seeing for themselves the realities of life in the Isles. This is particularly true of fisheries ministers.

     

     


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  52. NEW BILL TO DELIVER £2,000 A YEAR TAX CUT FOR ISLES BUSINESSES - CARMICHAEL

    NEW BILL TO DELIVER £2,000 A YEAR TAX CUT FOR ISLES BUSINESSES - CARMICHAEL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has highlighted potential savings of £2,000 for Isles businesses through the National Insurance Contributions Bill

    The Bill, which had its first reading in the House of Commons on Monday 14 October, provides the detail for a new employment allowance of £2,000 per year for all businesses and charities to offset against their employer national insurance bill from April 2014.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “Small and medium sized businesses are the backbone of the local economy in Orkney and Shetland as such anything that is designed to help small businesses should be good news for our local economy.”

    “The National Insurance Contributions Bill will be a welcome help to many businesses and charities in the Isles who will be able to save £2,000 from their employer national insurance bill. Of course it is not going to suit all small businesses but I hope this will send a signal to the business community that we are on their side.”

     

     


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  53. CARMICHAEL AIMS TO MAINTAIN MOMENTUM ON ISLANDS CONSTITUTIONAL DEBATE

    16 October 2013

    CARMICHAEL AS SCOTTISH SECRETARY TO FIGHT FOR SCOTLAND’S FUTURE IN THE UK

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has offered support to the three Scottish island councils in their campaign for more community power.

    His comments come after the Our Islands Our Future (OIOF) delegation – comprised of representatives from the Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles councils – argued their case with government ministers and officials in London.

    The OIOF delegation is campaigning for local control of the delivery of public services.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The round of meetings between the island councils and the variety of Whitehall Departments has made a good start in pushing our agenda in Whitehall. Having started that dialogue we now need to keep the momentum of it. The councils will come forward with their next steps and I shall continue to work with them.

    “One early change that I have been able to make has been the establishment of an ‘islands desk’ in the Scotland Office. This will be a single point of contact that will ensure that the islands’ case is addressed by the right Whitehall department. I also hope that this will establish a body of expertise in Whitehall on islands’ issues which has been a little lacking in the past.

    “I shall remain part of the OIOF campaign as it develops.”

    ENDS.


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  54. CARMICHAEL AS SCOTTISH SECRETARY TO FIGHT FOR SCOTLAND’S FUTURE IN THE UK

    8 October 2013

    CARMICHAEL AS SCOTTISH SECRETARY TO FIGHT FOR SCOTLAND’S FUTURE IN THE UK

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has described his appointment to the role of Secretary of State for Scotland as an “honour”, vowing to continue the excellent work undertaken by his predecessor.

    The appointment was announced by the Prime Minister as part of an Autumn governmental reshuffle. Mr Carmichael had been the Deputy Chief Whip to the Coalition government since May 2010 and now becomes the first Cabinet Minister that the Northern Isles have produced.

    Commenting on his appointment as Secretary of State for Scotland, Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said:

    “It is a great honour to take on the role as Secretary of State for Scotland as we enter a crucial final months until the Scottish Referendum. I am eager to pick up from the many successes of my predecessor Michael Moore MP, who has done great work over the last three years.

    “I will be doing everything in my power to argue the case for keeping United Kingdom together and engaging with people across the length and breadth of Scotland. I will argue passionately for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom not as an end in itself but for the benefit of the people and communities who live there and their future.

    ‘’I believe that this is the first time that an MP for the Northern Isles has been a member of the Cabinet.  I hope, therefore, that local people will find this not as much an honour for me, as an opportunity for them. With a Chief Secretary in the Treasury, who represents the Highlands seat and an Secretary of State for Scotland who represents the Northern Isles, there has never been a better time for the Highlands and Islands to make their voice heard.

    “I know from my experience of Orkney and Shetland that people in Scotland are primarily concerned about the economy, jobs and the cost of living and that’s true for people all over Scotland. As Secretary of State, I will be making the case for staying in the UK to build a stronger economy in a fair society.”

    ENDS.


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  55. CARMICHAEL CALLS FOR HEATING OIL INVESTIGATION AFTER PROFITS SOAR

    3 September 2013

    CARMICHAEL CALLS FOR HEATING OIL INVESTIGATION AFTER PROFITS SOAR

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has called on the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to investigate huge profits made by DCC, the energy giant behind Scottish Fuels.

    His call comes after the firm saw profits rise 56%, with revenues up £1.8 billion. The company said that the “excellent year” was driven by the particularly cold winter.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “It is exceptionally disappointing to see this company celebrating in this manner. The huge profit that DCC have made comes at the expense of people who were struggling to pay to heat their homes.

    “The Office of Fair Trading absolutely must look again at workings of the fuel market. It is not right that consumers are facing an increase on their bills while energy companies post huge profits.”

    ENDS.


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  56. CARMICHAEL URGES OFT TO CONTINUE INVESTIGATION

    18 July 2013

    CARMICHAEL URGES OFT TO CONTINUE INVESTIGATION

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has written to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) urging them to continue their investigation into the fuel market in Shetland.

    Mr Carmichael’s action comes as it emerged that the OFT were considering closing their investigation into the fuel market of the Western Isles and Shetland. The decision is due this month but it is thought that decision will be taken this week.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The OFT may wish to bury their heads in the sand over this issue but I will not let them. Ask any fuel retailer in Shetland and they will tell you that the lack of competition in the Isles is a major factor in the high costs that we face in the Northern Isles.

    “I have written to OFT Chief Executive Clive Maxwell urging the continuation of this investigation. If the OFT choose to neglect their responsibilities and abandon the study I will be seeking an urgent meeting with them to get some answers.”

    ENDS.

    Notes:

    1. The progress page of the investigation can be found here: http://www.oft.gov.uk/OFTwork/competition-act-and-cartels/ca98-current/scottish-road-fuels/#.UeetPtJOSSo


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  57. REPORT SETS OUT SENSIBLE ALTERNATIVES TO TRIDENT - CARMICHAEL

    17 July 2013

    REPORT SETS OUT SENSIBLE ALTERNATIVES TO TRIDENT - CARMICHAEL

    A government report commissioned by Liberal Democrat Cabinet Ministers and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander MP to look at alternatives to the UK’s nuclear deterrent programme has been welcomed by Northern Isles Alistair Carmichael MP.

    The report sets out a number of alternatives to the UK’s system of nuclear deterrent. Currently, the UK maintains 4 nuclear submarines and a review of the existing set-up is due in 2016.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “What we have with this report is one of the most substantial contributions to British nuclear weapons policy since the 1960s. With it we can now have a fact-based discussion on a replacement for the Trident system.

    “The Conservatives are unlikely to shift from their view that a like-for-like replacement is the only choice. I hope that Labour will make their views clear so that we can build a cross-party consensus on the issue.

    “If Labour had carried out a similar review of Trident alternatives during their 13 years in government the debate may have been very different now. With the main-gate decision on trident not due to take place until 2016 this report makes it clear that there are more options than we have been led to believe."

    ENDS.


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  58. CARMICHAEL – TRADE SANCTIONS NECESSARY

    16 July 2013

    CARMICHAEL – TRADE SANCTIONS NECESSARY

    Commenting on the news that the European Commission has confirmed new trade sanctions on the Faroe Islands due to their over-fishing of Atlanto-Scandian herring, Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said:

    “I am relieved that we now have confirmation of this action which is an unfortunate necessity. The Faroe Islands have been repeatedly warned about their reckless approach to fishing and they are now experiencing the consequences of their actions.

    “I am hopeful that this decision will be the catalyst that brings the Faroes and Iceland back to the negotiation table so a fair deal can be agreed.”

    ENDS.


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  59. CARMICHAEL BACKS FAIRFUEL INQUIRY CALL

    15 July 2013

    CARMICHAEL BACKS FAIRFUEL INQUIRY CALL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has backed FairFuelUK’s call for the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to launch an inquiry into fuel price manipulation.

    His comments come as fuel campaign group FairFuelUK handed a petition to the OFT calling on them to emulate regulators in the USA and the European mainland by investigating oil price manipulation.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said

    “We have heard allegations in recent years from whistleblowers that the oil industry actively engages in Libor-like oil price manipulation. It is about time that these rumours were fully investigated by the OFT so that we can get to the bottom of what is going on.

    “With investigations underway in America and Europe, the OFT has no excuse. The UK Government have made a considerable effort to ensure that motorist’s bills do not skyrocket. We cancelled Labour’s ‘fuel duty escalator’ and scrapped scheduled fuel duty increases meaning that motorists will be 18 pence per litre better off by September this year. Orkney and Shetland were also given a further 5 pence per litre cut in fuel duty to tackle high prices.

    “If oil companies are manipulating oil prices, all of our hard work could be going to waste.”

    ENDS.


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  60. INCOME TAX THRESHOLD KEY TO LOWEST INCOME INEQUALITY SINCE 1986 - CARMICHAEL

    11 July 2013

    INCOME TAX THRESHOLD KEY TO LOWEST INCOME INEQUALITY SINCE 1986 - CARMICHAEL

    The efforts taken by the Coalition government to lower taxes for the least well-off in society have contributed to the lowest income inequality in the UK since 1986, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS).

    The ONS published its annual report on Wednesday 10 July which indicated that that income inequality was at its lowest since 1986. The report examines the effects of taxes and benefits on household income.

    The coalition government have raised the income tax threshold by nearly £3,000 since 2010 from £6,475 to £9,440 and it will rise again next year to £10,000.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The priority of the Liberal Democrats at the last election was to increase the income tax threshold. When we entered government we insisted that the Coalition adopt this policy. We have delivered on that promise and effect of policy is now beginning to emerge. Income inequality in the UK is now at the lowest since before the last Labour government.

    “Our tax changes have given over 22,000 people in Orkney and Shetland have had an income tax cut. It is estimated that over 2,000 people now no longer pay any income tax at all. This is a welcome boost at a time when finances are tight.

    “This is the start of a process – it is not the end of the story. There is, of course, more work to do. But this is real progress towards the fairer society that Liberal Democrats are building.”

    Notes:

    1.         Link to the ONS report: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_317365.pdf


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  61. THOROUGH RESEARCH CRUCIAL FOR SUSTAINABLE FISHING - CARMICHAEL

    10 July 2013

    THOROUGH RESEARCH CRUCIAL FOR SUSTAINABLE FISHING - CARMICHAEL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has emphasised the importance of investment in science and research in protecting the environment and preserving the long-term future of the fishing industry in Orkney and Shetland.

    His comments come ahead of a crucial committee vote on the European Maritime and Fisheries fund on Wednesday 10 July.

    The budget for the European Fisheries Fund is likely to be increased from €4.3bn to €6.5bn through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund for the period of 2014 to 2020. There has been pressure on the EU from MEPs and the fishing industry to ensure that data collection, research and development are prioritised in the budget.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The Commons Fisheries Policy (CFP) has to deliver on two fronts: it has to ensure that the environment is protected and it has to secure the long-term future of the fishing fleet in Scotland. It is crucial therefore that the new budget should have a substantial focus on research and data collection.

    “Shetland is a great example of why this is necessary. Despite having one of the most developed fishing industries across the European Union, only 6 of the 20 commercially landed stocks has sufficient data on stock levels.

    “In what is a tough time for fishermen, it is important that Europe gives the industry effective support to collect information. We must see some real action to protect the industry and stock levels or the EU will be setting up to fail further down the road.”

    ENDS.


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  62. ISLAND PUPILS ENJOY PARLIAMENT EXPERIENCE WITH ALISTAIR CARMICHAEL MP

    10 July 2013

    ISLAND PUPILS ENJOY PARLIAMENT EXPERIENCE WITH ALISTAIR CARMICHAEL MP

    Three Students from Orkney and Shetland have enjoyed a period of work experience in the Houses of Parliament as part of an internship and work experience programme run by Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    Guille Lopez, Halina Romaniszyn (both 17, Kirkwall Grammar School and Stromness Academy respectively) and Alex Bendix (15, Brae High School) will each spend two weeks working in Mr Carmichael’s Westminster office in July. The paid internship scheme gives young islanders a chance to experience parliament in the flesh.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “I know that young people are often said to have little interest in politics but I have never found that to be the case. The young people who work in my office are always eager to learn and see how parliament works.

    “We try to accommodate a good number of interns and work experience placements throughout the year. I would encourage any interested youngsters to get in touch if they have an interest in gaining some work experience in the parliamentary office.”

    Commenting, Guille Lopez said:

    “The opportunity to take an active role in Parliament and witness firsthand the committees and meetings that hours later are reported in the media is something that I am delighted to have taken part in. It has given me a greater understanding of how parliament works, and I would encourage anybody interested in politics and current events to come and experience parliament.”

    Commenting, Halina Romaniszyn said:

    “It is a brilliant opportunity to be able to get a real sense of how Parliament functions on a day to day basis

    “This opportunity has given me a unique insight into the functioning of our government and I have been able to research and hear debates on cutting edge issues. I have loved being so close to the action in Westminster and I would advise others who are thinking about pursuing anything connected to politics to take this brilliant opportunity and come to work in parliament.”

    ENDS.

     


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  63. PIPER ALPHA ANNIVERSARY A STARK REMINDER OF MAINTAINING HIGH SAFETY STANDARDS - CARMICHAEL

    8 July 2013

    PIPER ALPHA ANNIVERSARY A STARK REMINDER OF MAINTAINING HIGH SAFETY STANDARDS - CARMICHAEL

    Commenting on the 25th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster, Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said:

    “The 25th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster provides is an appropriate time to emphasise the importance of safety in the oil and gas industry.

    “We know that standards have improved over the past 25 years. The industry has a duty to ensure that standards are maintained so that we never see a repeat of the 1988 tragedy. Safety will become particularly important as we shift towards deep water exploration which will bring with it a slew of challenges.

    “Flexibility and adaptability will be required by the industry to adapt and react to any new problems that arise on site. It is crucial that oil workers should feel able to report any concerns they have when working onsite without fear of reprisal.”

    ENDS.


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  64. TIME TO GET IT RIGHT ON BROADBAND - CARMICHAEL

    Responding to a report by The National Audit Office showing that the Government’s rural broadband programme was almost two years behind schedule on achieving its aims of 90% access by 2015 Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has called for the UK and Scottish governments to work together to ensure that the target is still met.

    Mr Carmichael said:

    “It is exceptionally disappointing that the roll out of superfast broadband should have been allowed to fall behind in this way.   Some of the reasons given will surprise no one in the northern isles – the lack of infrastructure here and the delay in getting money from the EU Commission are both familiar stories to us.

    “I very much hope that the extra £250m of new money announced by the UK government  last week will get this project back on track.   I shall, however, be pressing ministers and officials for the details of how this money will be used.  We need to know that it is sufficient both to do the work and to do it within the previously identified timescale.”

    “I am wanting early meetings with all the bodies concerned, especially Highlands and Islands Enterprise to satisfy myself that they have the tools to do the job properly now.
    “We have got to stop thinking of broadband and other connectivity issues as being some sort of luxury.  It is as important to the future sustainability of our communities as having a supply of water or electricity.”

    ENDS.

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  65. ARMY RESERVE BOOST IS WELCOME MOVE - CARMICHAEL

    3 July 2013

    ARMY RESERVE BOOST IS WELCOME MOVE - CARMICHAEL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed an announcement by the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond to invest £42m in army reservists and protect the Orkney and Shetland Territorial Army bases from closure.

    Defence Secretary Philip Hammond MP today (Wednesday 3 July) outlined reforms to the Territorial Army and basing across the UK. A number of TA branches were under threat of closure but the Orkney and Shetland branches will have been protected.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “This decision is good news for the TA members and reservists across the country, but I am very pleased that the local bases in Orkney and Shetland have been protected. The TA members in the Isles cannot simply travel elsewhere to train if the local bases had been closed. The decision to keep them open is therefore particularly important to our local TA members who wish to remain in the Northern Isles.

    "Local people in Orkney and Shetland know the contribution that TA members make to our military operations. We have seen local TA members on service throughout Afghanistan on a number of occasions and our regular army now relies greatly upon the contribution of TA soldiers.”

    ENDS.


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  66. ENERGY ANNOUNCEMENT RECOGNISES ISLES RENEWABLE CHALLENGES - CARMICHAEL

    27 June 2013

    ENERGY ANNOUNCEMENT RECOGNISES ISLES RENEWABLE CHALLENGES - CARMICHAEL

    The unique challenges faced by renewable energy developers in Orkney and Shetland are at last due to get fair treatment, according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    His comments come after the Department for Energy and Climate Change announced draft strike prices for renewable technologies and confirmed that work had started on a special price specifically for island communities

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “I have long argued in opposition and in government that an arrangement of this sort is necessary and today we have confirmation from the government that the principle is accepted.

    “Ultimately the crucial decision will be what level of subsidy is to be set for the Isles. It needs are to be high enough to overcome the extra costs of transmission charging or else the potential development of renewables will never happen.

    “Great credit must be given to Ed Davey who, as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, has been the first minister to listen to the community and developers here and to act on what he is told. I shall continue to work in government closely with him to ensure that the detail as well as the principle is right.”

    ENDS.

    Notes:

    1. The Secretary of State’s statement can be found here:  http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/June_2013/27-June-2013/5.DECC-Energy-market-reform.pdf


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  67. EU FIGHT NOT OVER SAYS CARMICHAEL AFTER REGIONAL GUIDELINE DECISION

    25 June 2013

    EU FIGHT NOT OVER SAYS CARMICHAEL AFTER REGIONAL GUIDELINE DECISION

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has vowed to continue making the case for Shetland at the European Union after the Isles were excluded from recently-adopted Regional Aid Guidelines.

    The decision was made due to the Isles having a GDP higher than the EU average and a very low rate of unemployment. The commission argues that removing the Aid will prevent distortions of trade and unfair competition in the EU.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “I am disappointed with the European Commission’s decision, particularly in light of the efforts of the Shetland Islands Council. The Treaty of Amsterdam recognises that peripherality is a characteristic that should be supported and protected. By taking this decision, the Commission are displaying an extraordinary lack of regard for their own treaties.

    “Assessing the state of Shetland on GDP and unemployment alone fails to take into account the challenges of operating a business in a remote community. Local businesses have been able to expand locally and venture into national and international market as a result of having this investment available and may now be at a disadvantage to their mainland competitors.”

    ENDS.


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  68. FAROE FISH ACTION AN UNFORTUNATE NECESSITY - CARMICHAEL

    25 June 2013

    FAROE FISH ACTION AN UNFORTUNATE NECESSITY - CARMICHAEL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has said that the Faroese Pelagic Organisation should expect further action if they do not change their irresponsible fishing policy, after the Marine Stewardship Council suspended certification of the Faroese Atlanto-Scandian herring.

    Atlanto-Scandian herring caught by the Faroes can no longer be classed as certified, meaning that it is ‘well managed and sustainable’, nor can its products carry the eco-label distinguishing it as being sustainably sourced, due to the Faroese breaking previously agreed limits to increase their quota.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The Faroe Islands have been warned for years about their reckless approach to fishing. It is disappointing that decisions such as the one taken by the MSC are now becoming necessary to tackle the problem but as the Faroes refuse to play ball they have left little alternative.

    “Overfishing by the Faroese stands to have detrimental impact on the local and national fishing industries. They should realise that this issue is not going to go away even if they choose to ignore it.”

    “Maintaining sustainable levels of fish stocks in the North Sea will require cooperation. They must get back around the discussion table as soon as possible so that this saga can finally be resolved.”

    ENDS.


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  69. “DELIVERY CHARGE BILL IS GOOD NEWS FOR CONSUMERS” - CARMICHAEL

    19 June 2013

    “DELIVERY CHARGE BILL IS GOOD NEWS FOR CONSUMERS” - CARMICHAEL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael welcomes the introduction of a Private Members Bill by his Liberal Democrat colleague to tackle companies who overcharge for delivery to rural areas.

    If passed the bill will force online retailers to make it clearer to consumers if they want to charge extra to deliver to Scottish regions.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “Too often online retailers feel that they can have one policy for the mainland and one policy for Orkney and Shetland. I know that I am not the only person to find this infuriating. I have even heard of people having orders cancelled by companies who simply refuse to deliver to the Isles.

    “Bob Smith’s bill seeks to empower consumers to make the right choice when ordering online. This has the potential to make businesses consider their delivery policy to rural areas.

    “I know that the Bill to hold a referendum on the European Union is likely to take up a lot of parliamentary time and there is a risk that Bob’s Bill may not have enough time to progress through Parliament. If that appears to be the case then I will be speaking to government Ministers to see if there are other avenues which we may pursue to implement this sensible proposal.”

    Commenting, Sir Robert Smith said:

     “I know from speaking to those living in Aberdeenshire and in much of rural Scotland, that this is an issue that really infuriates consumers.  People want to know before they start shopping on a website whether they will have to pay a surcharge for delivery if they find something they want to buy.”

     “Some of the extra charges made by online couriers to deliver to parts of Scotland are just outrageous.   Retailers need to think about finding more reasonable ways to deliver their products to rural areas.  One option is to deliver goods by Royal Mail which charges one price to deliver anywhere in the UK.  Alternatively retailers need to think about using couriers that charge more reasonable amounts for delivery in Scotland.

    “People in rural Scotland and on the Islands understand that products may take a little longer to arrive, but the additional cost charged by some companies just seems out of all proportion.” 

    ENDS.

    Notes for Editors:

    1. Sir Robert’s Bill is named the DELIVERY SURCHARGES (TRANSPARENCY FOR CONSUMERS) Bill.  [A Bill to require online retailers to declare to consumers at the start of the retail process the existence of surcharges for delivery to certain addresses in the UK; and for connected purposes.]


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  70. CARMICHAEL: INNOVATIVE 3G TRIAL IN WALLS CAN HAVE NATIONAL IMPLICATIONS

    21 June 2013

    CARMICHAEL: INNOVATIVE 3G TRIAL IN WALLS CAN HAVE NATIONAL IMPLICATIONS

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has highlighted national potential of a 3G trial launched yesterday in Walls.

    The trial is a joint effort with the local community, the Shetland Islands Council and Vodafone, and will see three Femtocells installed in Walls to provide 3G signal across an area which traditionally poor signal.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The local community in Walls have done brilliantly to ensure that they were selected to trial the Femtocell technology. It is a great endorsement of what happens when communities, the public sector and large mobile operators work together to come up with innovative solutions. Ian Walterson and the Community Council are to be congratulated for what they have achieved.

    “The unique challenges that the Isles pose in terms of geography and population present a great opportunity for communications providers to experiment with new ideas. If their technology can work on the Isles, it can work anywhere.

    “Improved connectivity will keep rural areas alive and thriving. If this trial is successful, I would hope to see Femtocell technology rolled out across the remote communities in the Northern Isles.”

    ENDS.

    Notes:

    1. Femtocells are small base stations which emit mobile signal. Usually they are kept in the home and are for personal use.


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  71. CARMICHAEL ENCOURAGES ENERGY ENTREPRENEURS TO APPLY FOR FUNDING

    13 June 2013

    CARMICHAEL ENCOURAGES ENERGY ENTREPRENEURS TO APPLY FOR FUNDING

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael is encouraging local energy entrepreneurs to apply for a share of the latest Government funding.

    Today the Department of Energy and Climate Change have announced a further £19 million of funding for innovative ideas and products in energy efficiency, storage and low carbon generation.

    Commenting Mr Carmichael said:

    “Today the Energy Minister Ed Davey has said he wants to see Britain’s brightest and best SMEs applying for this new round of funding. Here in the Northern Isles we have a wealth of innovation for renewable energy in just such companies. This funding could help get some of those new ideas off the ground and into the market place while creating new green jobs.

    “This fund is offering up to £1 million for projects in both the public and private sector, particularly small and medium sized enterprises. It is an opportunity that if grasped will help provide incubation support for some of the great ideas that are out there, something that could be vital to start ups and smaller firms.”

    Those who are interested in applying should visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/energy-entreprenuers-fund-second-phase-documents for guidance and application information.

    ENDS.

    Notes

    1. The full DECC announcement can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/19m-available-for-energy-entrepreneurs


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  72. “REVIEW INTO OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS OVERDUE BUT TIMELY” - CARMICHAEL

    Date: 11 June 2013

    “REVIEW INTO OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS OVERDUE BUT TIMELY” - CARMICHAEL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael says that the independent-led review into the UK continental shelf launched by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) this week is overdue but timely.

    The review, which will be led by Sir Ian Wood, will look at increasing investment in exploration as well as possible changes to the licensing regime and the use of up-to-date technology to recover resources from the shelf.

    It will be the first review in 20 years and Sir Wood will report back in the autumn before a full report is published early next year.

    Commenting Mr Carmichael said:

    “By putting extra money into ‘brown field allowances’ this year the government has made real investment in the oil and gas industry. This independent review, the first of its kind for two decades, is welcome if not somewhat overdue and will build on that commitment.

    “The challenges the industry faces now are massively different from those at the time of the last review. The amount of oil and gas being recovered has decreased but the technology used to extract it has changed as have the economics. There is a need for innovation in the sector to deal with these fresh challenges and to gain the greatest benefit.

    “Sir Ian Wood is an excellent choice to lead the review. He brings enormous experience and will, I believe, produce a thorough, critical and robust examination of the industry. I’m sure that whatever steps he recommends for improvement will bring the maximum benefit out of this key industry to our economy.”

    ENDS.

    Notes to editors

    1. The DECC announcement of the review is here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/economic-benefits-of-offshore-oil-and-gas-to-be-maximised


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  73. CARMICHAEL ENCOURAGES LOCAL PEOPLE TO BACK MOBILE COVERAGE CAMPAIGN

    11 June 2013

    CARMICHAEL ENCOURAGES LOCAL PEOPLE TO BACK MOBILE COVERAGE CAMPAIGN

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has encouraged local people to get involved with a new Countryside Alliance campaign designed to create a mobile coverage map.

    The campaign asks smartphone users to download the Cell Phone Coverage Map app on to their Android or iOS smartphone and to record coverage strength for calls and mobile broadband. As more information is gathered, a clearer picture will emerge of the state of mobile coverage in the United Kingdom.

    Commenting Mr Carmichael said:

    “We all know that mobile signal in the Northern Isles can be very poor and at best is patchy. This app provides local people with an excellent opportunity to gain some hard evidence of the true depth of the problem.

    “I have brought representatives of regulators and phone companies up to the Northern Isles in the past to highlight the ongoing problem of poor mobile reception. The lack of progress that mobile companies are making is still disappointing. The sort of evidence that this app will gather should be invaluable in strengthening our case for better coverage.

    “The idea is simple and in that lies its strength. Many people have smartphones these days and this is a simple way for them to be involved.”

    ENDS.

    Notes:

    1. Android link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rootmetrics&hl=en

    2. iOS link: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/cell-phone-coverage-map/id399701910?mt=8

    3. Web link: http://www.rootmetrics.com/uk/


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  74. REAL PROGRESS BEING MADE THROUGH SUSTAINABLE FISHING - CARMICHAEL

    10 June 2013

    REAL PROGRESS BEING MADE THROUGH SUSTAINABLE FISHING - CARMICHAEL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed a recent report from NAFC Marine Centre in Shetland, showing that the majority of accessed fish stocks are increasing in the North Sea and north-east Atlantic.

    Commenting Mr Carmichael said

    “All the media attention has been on the cod stock levels but this report demonstrates there have been significant increases in plaice and hake over the past few years. Last month the European Commission announced that there were 25 fish stocks that were known not to be overfished in European waters, compared with only two in 2005.

    “This report is positive news for the fishing industry. It will, I hope, help in improving public perception of the industry.

    “The continued move towards regional management announced in the new Common Fisheries Policy last month will help to build on this success. These will allow fishermen, scientists and conservationists to work together to ensure that we do not end up back where we were ten years ago.”

    ENDS

    Notes:

    1. The NAFC report can be found here www.nafc.ac.ukFisheries-Policy-Notes.aspx

    2. The European Commission announcement can be found here http://europa.eurapidpress-release_IP-13-487_en.htmsubweb=343&lang=en


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  75. REPORT SHOWS STRENGTH OF SHETLAND ECONOMY - CARMICHAEL

    Date: 23 May 2013

    REPORT SHOWS STRENGTH OF SHETLAND ECONOMY - CARMICHAEL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed the strong figures shown in the new ‘Input/Output Study’ commissioned by Shetland Islands Council from the Hutton Institute.

    The report looking at the figures for 2010/11 showed that the isles’ output had increased by 27% over the eight year period.

    The report also shows that Shetland was a net contributor to the exchequer with central government revenue exceeding expenditure by £82 million.

    Commenting Mr Carmichael said:

    “This report shows the continuing strength of the Shetland economy even in the difficult times that the nation has been facing.  With almost half of the output being transferred off the islands it shows the importance of being part of UK-wide and EU market and, therefore, the importance of reliable freight transport links for local businesses to get their goods to market.

    “The true position is possibly even stronger as this report does not include the extra work of the local oil and gas industry in recent years.

    “The SIC is to be commended for commissioning this report. It strengthens their hand when dealing with Scottish and UK governments to be able to point to the contribution that we make to the rest of the UK."

    ENDS

    Notes:

    1. The report is available to view here http://www.shetland.gov.uk/coins/viewDoc.asp?c=e%97%9Dc%94n%80%87

     


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  76. CARMICHAEL WELCOMES WHALSAY JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL TO PARLIAMENT

    5 June 2013

    Embargo: Immediate.

    CARMICHAEL WELCOMES WHALSAY JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL TO PARLIAMENT

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael yesterday (4 June) hosted the Whalsay Junior High School in the Houses of Parliament as part of a school trip.

    The Whalsay students, from years one to three, enjoyed a tour of Parliamentary and spent time grilling Mr Carmichael on a number of issues including Scottish independence, local school closures and the fishing industry.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “I was delighted to welcome the pupils of Whalsay Junior High to Parliament for the morning. I know it is commonly thought that young people are not interested in politics but I always find that meeting and speaking to school pupils and other young people from the isles contradicts this popular misconception.

    “As ever, the students asked some great questions about my work as a Member of Parliament and about current affairs in Scotland and Shetland.”

    Commenting, school trip organiser Miss Eyvor Irvine said:

    "The pupils were very interested and thoroughly enjoyed their visit to parliament. Mr Carmichael MP answered all their questions very clearly and I have no doubt that the pupils learnt a great deal.

    “We really appreciate the time Mr Carmichael spent with us, and also the help of James Stewart in organising the visit.”



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  77. TOO EARLY TO CRACK OPEN THE CHAMPAGNE ON FISHERIES DEAL - CARMICHAEL

    Date: 15 May 2013

    Embargo: Immediate.

    TOO EARLY TO CRACK OPEN THE CHAMPAGNE ON FISHERIES DEAL - CARMICHAEL

    Commenting following the deal reached at the EU Fisheries Council on reforming the Common Fisheries Policy Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael said,

    “Reform of the CFP is long overdue and while this is welcome news we should not be cracking open the champagne until we hear the final details of what is agreed.

    "Fishermen in the Isles have argued for years that a policy which produced arbitrary cuts in quota and effort made little sense. It is essential that a reformed CFP should make decisions based on the best scientific advice available and should have a role for the fishing industry in its decision making process.  That is the yardstick by which the final deal will be measured."

    ENDS

     

     


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  78. FISH FILM HIGHLIGHTS CHALLENGES FACED BY LOCAL SKIPPERS – CARMICHAEL

     

    Date: 15 May 2013

    Embargo: Immediate.

    Contact: James Stewart 020 7219 8181

    FISH FILM HIGHLIGHTS CHALLENGES FACED BY LOCAL SKIPPERS – CARMICHAEL

    A film highlighting the business side of the fishing industry has been warmly received by Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael, describing it as “an excellent snapshot of the challenges that skippers face.”

    His comments come after attending a screening of The Business of Fish in the House of Commons on 14 May held by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fisheries.

    The short film follows the life of four skippers fishing white fish and shell fish. Orcadian Iain Harcus is one of the featured skippers, and has led the Aalskere for 13 years.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “It’s very important that MPs are aware of the realities facing skippers. Fishing has become a highly complex business, with fishermen needing to balance quota requirements, rising costs, and uncertain market and environmental conditions. I felt this film presented the complex problems faced by fisherman in an easily digestible manner.

    “Over the past 15 years the fishing industry has faced a lot of hardship, but with fish stocks now at very healthy levels there is a good reason for optimism about the future.”

    Commenting, Iain Harcus said:

    “I am delighted that the Seafish produced film, The Business of Fishing, has been shown in parliament. It's important to our industry that the fishermens' observations, experiences and knowledge of what is happening in our seas is properly told and used in decision making.

    “We are lucky in Orkney as our MP, Alistair Carmichael, and MSP, Liam MacArthur, regularly meet us and value our observations. I only wish celebrity chefs would do the same. Fishing has become a complex business, but as we see fish stocks recovering to levels we have never seen before, it gives us great hope for the future.”

    ENDS.

     

     


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  79. TRANSPORT MINISTER SHOULD FACE COMMUNITY IN ORKNEY

     

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has called on the Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP to address the community about the absence of a replacement for Hamnavoe, the Scrabster-Stomness ferry which was taken out of service last Thursday.

    SERCO has said that the vessel will be out of service for at least a month and are considering replacements. Scottish Transport minister Keith Brown has said he is “satisfied” with the situation.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The Scottish Transport minister should have been in Orkney first thing on Monday morning to speak to the community about this increasingly farcical situation.

    “Keith Brown has said he is ‘satisfied’ with the situation. That can only mean one thing – he does not know the truth of what is going on here. He is sitting in his office in Edinburgh ‘monitoring’ the situation which seems to mean that he is being briefed by his own officials and by SERCO. I see nothing to make me think that either have a proper understanding of the situation facing the community in Orkney and everything to make me think that they are just telling him what he wants to hear.

    “If he had bothered to speak to people in Orkney he would know that the complete absence of information here is causing problems to local people and businesses. The Transport minister now must get up to Orkney and face the community. He needs to hear the truth from us and to act on it.”

     


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  80. RENEWABLE DEVELOPERS VINDICATED BY ENERGY REPORT FINDINGS - CARMICHAEL

     

    Date: 14 May 2013

    Embargo: Strict Embargo 15 May 2013 00:15.

    RENEWABLE DEVELOPERS VINDICATED BY ENERGY REPORT FINDINGS - CARMICHAEL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed a new report into the future of renewable energy in the Northern Isles, describing it as a significant step towards “freeing up the transmission charging logjam.”

    The report, released today by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, also found that by 2030 renewable projects in Orkney and Shetland could create thousands of full time jobs.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “Local renewable developers have been vindicated in their view that the current set up will not do. I have always believed that despite enormous resistance from officials in government departments over many years.

    “Having established that there is a case for Island communities to be given a different charging system the next step now is to continue in our engagement with government to set up that system and to enable the development of renewable energy.

    “This is not just an academic exercise. This report also shows the potential for thousands of full-time jobs being created due to renewable developments. Locally, the economic implications could be huge.”

    “Credit must go to Ed Davey for commissioning this study in the teeth, I suspect, of opposition in his own department. He also deserves respect for being the Secretary of State who has seized the political initiative over this issue.

    “The Isles councils, the Scottish Government and local renewable developers must also be credited for engaging constructively to work with  the UK government through this process. This report is not the end of the story, but it is a possibly the most significant step towards freeing up the transmission charging logjam.”

    ENDS

    Notes:

    1. The report can be access from 00:15 on the 15th May here:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/scottish-islands-renewable-project-final-report

     


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  81. CARMICHAEL WELCOMES EU SANCTION DECISION

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed the decision by the Fisheries Council to begin the process of imposing some sanctions against the Faroe Islands.

    Yesterday (13 May 2013), the Council agreed to outline a scheme that would initially impose sanctions against the Faroe Islands on Atlanto-Scandian herring.

     

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

     

    “I am pleased to see that the EU has finally taken some decisive action to intervene on this matter. The relentless overfishing by the Faroe Islands and Iceland has already damaged stock levels in the North Sea.   It is clear that they are not going to change their position of their own accord and therefore, regrettably, some measure of sanction is necessary.


    “This should serve as a warning to both that Europe is now ready to take action against if both continue to breach previously agreed rules. What is important, as I have always maintained, is that they both now return to the negotiation table with the intention of resolving this problem – not exacerbating it.”

     

    ENDS.

     


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  82. CARMICHAEL WELCOMES LIB DEM INFLUENCE IN QUEEN’S SPEECH

     

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed Liberal Democrat influence on the Queen’s speech, highlighting pension reform and the Energy Bill as a key victories.

    The Queen’s speech – which provides an outlay for government business in the coming year – also featured the Liberal Democrat manifesto pledge to commit 0.7% of GDP towards foreign aid.

    The controversial Communications Bill, also known as the ‘snoopers charter’, which would have given the government power to monitor online activities was crucially absent from the speech, after the Nick Clegg announced in April that the Liberal Democrats would not support the Bill.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “In opposition, the Liberal Democrats argued for fairer pensions and in government we have delivered it. The Pensions Bill will ensure that pension reforms are robust, fair and easy to understand. Not only will pensions increase by £40 per week by 2017 but men and women will be on an equal level for the first time ever.

    “The continuation of Energy Bill is another key Liberal Democrat gain from the speech. Our Energy Bill will create green jobs and growth, supporting as many as 250,000 jobs in the private sector. I know that our coalition partners were sceptical about having an Energy Bill at all, so my colleague Ed Davey deserve real praise for keeping the issue of energy and climate change at the forefront of government.

    “The Liberal Democrats influence is also very evident in the absence of the Communications Bill in the speech. I am very pleased that Nick Clegg acted to kill off the flawed Bill. It was unpopular among experts and the public and I am delighted that Nick has taken decisive action on this issue.”

     


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  83. CARMICHAEL CALLS FOR EU ACTION OVER MACKEREL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael is urging the European Council of Ministers to take action against the overfishing by Iceland and the Faroe Islands of North East-Atlantic mackerel stock.

    The Council of Ministers are meeting in Brussels today to discuss how to tackle the ongoing problem of the Faroese and Icelandic fleets fishing in breach of previously agreed quotas.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “I urge the Council of Ministers to take action and impose sanctions on those who continue to fish irresponsibly. This saga has been allowed to carry on too long already. Conservation groups like the Marine Conservation Society are already calling for people not to consume mackerel. Action is needed now before fish levels become critical and all nations involved need to focus on the long term management of a sustainable solution.

    “The pelagic fleet is particularly important to Shetland and we stand to be hardest hit if unsustainable fisheries practices impacts adversely on our stock levels. If the only way to get these two nations back into the negotiations about the long term future of mackerel fishing is to impose sanctions then that is what we must do.”

    ENDS.


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  84. ENERGY COMPANY OBLIGATION CAN HELP TACKLE FUEL POVERTY IN SHETLAND - CARMICHAEL

     

    Date: 9 May 2013

    Embargo: Immediate.

    Contact: James Stewart 020 7219 8181

    ENERGY COMPANY OBLIGATION CAN HELP TACKLE FUEL POVERTY IN SHETLAND - CARMICHAEL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed the news that energy company npower will be investing up to £10 million over a two year period in Shetland to improve housing stock and cut emissions.

    This funding comes as a result of the Coalition Government’s Energy Company Obligation scheme which creates a legal obligation on companies to assist in reducing carbon emissions and energy usage in homes. The money will be used to make homes more energy efficient and the work will be done by local construction firms.

    The Shetland Islands Council (SIC) has also applied to the Scottish Government asking for funding, but a final decision has yet to be taken.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “This money provides a great opportunity for homeowners in Shetland to improve their homes by making them much more efficient. The cold weather means that the Northern Isles are suffer higher levels of fuel poverty in relation to other counties on the mainland. This money can and will go some way towards helping improve the situation.

    “I now want to see this project move ahead as soon as possible so that Shetland can see its benefit maximised. This could be good news for local contractors that they will be able to benefit from taking on the improvement works.

    “We now want the Scottish Government to put their money where their mouth is and to confirm their commitment of £440,000 per annum so that the Council can press ahead with this great initiative.”

    ENDS.

    Notes:

     

    1. Shetlanders apply for the scheme through the Shetland Islands Council

    2. A report was presented to the Shetland Islands Council Environment Committee on 8 May 2013, and the supporting documentation can be found here: http://www.shetland.gov.uk/coains/submissiondocuments.asp?submissionid=14409

    3. More details on the Energy Company Obligation can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/helping-households-to-cut-their-energy-bills/supporting-pages/energy-companies-obligation-eco

     

     


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  85. CARMICHAEL WELCOMES OVERDUE OFT INVESTIGATION

     

    Date: 29 April 2013

    CARMICHAEL WELCOMES OVERDUE OFT INVESTIGATION

    Northern Isles MP has welcomed news that an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigation into competition issues in the Western Isles fuel market has been extended to Shetland.

    In January 2013 the OFT launched a formal investigation into the fuel market of the Western Isles to examine claims of abuses in the fuel market there. The investigation began because of suspicions that wholesale fuel distributors were abusing their market position by impeding other distributors from competing in the market.

    The investigation has now been extended to cover Shetland where GB Oils is currently the only wholesale fuel distributor.

    The investigation is expected to be concluded in the summer.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “An investigation into the fuel market in the islands is a welcome sign that the OFT may be finally facing up to reality. When speaking to local fuel retailers, the lack of competition in the wholesale market comes up time and again.

    “I have been disappointed by the OFT in the past as they have never properly looked at the wholesale market in the Isles. It is now vital that they carry out an extremely thorough review of the situation in Shetland and get to the bottom of this issue.

    “This is work that could have been undertaken years ago. I hope that it will now be done thoroughly and professionally but also as quickly as is possible.”

    ENDS.

    Notes for Editors:

    1.    The OFT announcement concerning the inclusion of Shetland in the road fuels investigation can be found here: http://www.oft.gov.uk/OFTwork/competition-act-and-cartels/ca98-current/scottish-road-fuels/#.UX56K6JOTTo

     


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  86. PENSIONS REPORT A FURTHER BLOW TO INDEPENDENCE PLAN - CARMICHAEL

    Date: 26 April 2013

     

    Scottish businesses could face a multi-billion-pound pension funding hole if Scotland becomes independent, according to a report produced by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS).   The report has been described by Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael as "a substantial piece of work" that demands answers from those who promote the case for separation".

    ICAS explain that splitting up the UK would impact pensions due to European Union law. Pension schemes which operate across the border would be classed as ‘cross-border’ pensions plans and the report explains that this would have “major cash-flow problems” for businesses.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    "This will not be news to Scottish ministers.  We know from cabinet papers leaked from the Scottish Government recently that this is an issue that they have already identified.  Unlike the SNP, however, ICAS has not buried their heads in the sand but have addressed the problem head on.   Their conclusions make worrying reading."

    "Maintaining the stability of work place pensions in a population where people are living longer is already an enormous challenge.   This report makes me think that independence would take a difficult situation and make it next to impossible.   The ICAS is not a political body.   They have no axe to grind.   Their warnings deserve to be taken seriously and their questions need to be answered."

    ENDS.

    Notes:

    1. http://icas.org.uk/News/ScotlandsPensionsFutureNewsrelease/ - The ICAS report

     


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  87. CARMICHAEL ANNOUNCES NEW ORKNEY SURGERY DATES

     

    Alistair Carmichael MP and Liam McArthur MSP will be hosting joint advice surgeries in Orkney on Friday 3 May 2013.

    12.45 - 1.30 pm: Stromness Community Centre
    5.00 - 5.45 pm: Orkney Parliamentary Office, Kirkwall
    For further information please contact the Orkney office on 01856 876 541.

     


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  88. CARMICHAEL: RICH PAY MORE UNDER COALITION GOVERNMENT

    Date: 24 April 2013

    Embargo: Immediate.

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed news that the wealthiest people in the UK have paid a record amount of tax.

    His comment comes after HMRC revealed that those with assets in excess of £20 million paid extra £220 million in tax in the 2012/13 tax year. The increase means that the wealthiest 1% of people in the UK now pay 26.5% of all income tax receipts.

    HMRC figures show that under the Coalition Government, tax reforms now mean that someone earning £1 million a year will pay £381,000 more over a 5 year period than they would have under the last 5 years of the Labour Government. The reason for this is that many high earners do not just take their income in salary on which income tax is paid. They may, for example, take their money in share options which, when realised attract Capital Gains Tax (CGT) and not income tax. Despite resistance from the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats in government secured an increase in the rate of CGT from 18% to 28% in the first coalition budget.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “There is a lazily accepted version of events which says that the richest do not pay their fair share. I can understand why people may say this but this report from HMRC shows that the money taken in taxes as a whole from high earners has gone up. Obviously there is still some way to go but I am pleased that change is now going in the right direction. The work being done to simplify the tax system, closing loopholes and tackling tax avoidance and evasion is now producing results. It is also worth remembering that the top rate in income tax being 45%, it is higher than it was throughout all but the last six weeks of the thirteen years that Labour was in government.

    “The Liberal Democrats are working hard in government to make the tax system fairer. I think it is right that in these difficult times the wealthy should also be helping to lessen the tax burden of ordinary people. This news shows that we are making even more progress in delivering on our manifesto pledge by helping people keep more of the money they earn.”


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  89. CARMICHAEL: CASE FOR INDEPENDENCE UNRAVELS AS QUESTIONS ARE ASKED

    Date: 23 April 2013

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has described the Scottish National Party’s plans for a currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK as “increasingly complicated and unclear."

    His comments come in the wake of a report released today (Tuesday 23 April) by HM Treasury which challenges the SNP case for a currency pact. In the report, the Treasury outlines how the proposed currency pact would constrain an independent Scotland’s tax and spending policies.

    Highlighting the Eurozone, the report also explains that currency unions do not necessarily add any additional protections against funding problems.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The SNP would have us believe that a currency pact is an easy option. In fact their plans look increasingly complicated and unclear. A currency union of the sort they propose would require a mass of arrangements and common agreements which would, as the report today makes clear, constrain Scotland’s fiscal freedom. Above all else, there is no guarantee that Scotland could even join the pound – that is a deal that would require negotiation between an independent Scotland and the remainder of the UK.

    "The more that the case for independence is scrutinised, the faster it unravels. On a question as basic as the currency that an independent Scotland would have there are no coherent answers. An independent Scotland would have no influence over the Bank of England but would still effectively be under its control."


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  90. BROADBAND UPGRADE MUST REACH RURAL COMMUNITIES - CARMICHAEL

     

    Date: 26 March 2013

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed news that £146m will be spent rolling out Fibre Optic broadband to the Highlands and Islands, but has highlighted the importance of ensuring that rural communities are not left behind.

    The total funding for the scheme is £146m. Over £110m of the funding will be supplied by Broadband Delivery for the UK (BDUK), a UK government scheme to ensure that improved broadband services are available across the UK. An extra £12m will be supplied by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), while BT are contributing over £19m.

    HIE are aiming to roll out superfast broadband to 84% of homes across the Highlands and Islands, promising speeds of up to 80 mbps. The time scale is for the project roll-out currently unclear.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “Today's announcement is the detail of how the money government in London and Edinburgh have made available for broadband improvements will be spent. That is welcome. It remains the case, however, that a great deal of detail remains unclear. HIE and BT now need to tell us where the gaps will be. They are inevitably working to meet targets but it will be little consolation to people who are left with a poor service that 84% of people have been given help.

    “Many of the most remote communities in Orkney and Shetland still suffer from very poor internet speeds but are expected to pay the same rates as someone with a considerably better service. It is vital these communities are not left behind.

    “Local communities need to be told as soon as possible if their service will improve. Once we have that information I shall be looking for BT and HIE to explain how we close the remaining gap.”

    ENDS

     


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  91. CARMICHAEL ANNOUNCES NEW SHETLAND SURGERY DATES

    Alistair Carmichael MP will be hosting advice surgeries in Shetland on Wednesday 10 April 2013.

    11.30 - 12.30: Unst Leisure Centre, Unst
    14.30 - 15.30: Yell Leisure Centre, Yell
    For further information please contact the Shetland office on 01595 690044.

     


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  92. FUEL DUTY FREEZE AND PERSONAL ALLOWANCE INCREASE IS WELCOME HELP - CARMICHAEL

     

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed Liberal Democrat influence on the Chancellor’s Spring budget, highlighting the increase in Personal Allowance as a major success for lower-income families.

    In the Spring budget, the Chancellor announced that Personal Allowance on income tax will increase to £10,000 in 2014, while a planned fuel duty increase has been cancelled. The amount of income you can earn before you will be tax has now increased from £6,475 in 2009, to £10,000 from 2014, an increase of over £3,000.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “In opposition, the Liberal Democrats argued for fairer income tax. In government, we have delivered it. Increasing Personal Allowance to £10,000 will give a tax cut to over 24 million people in the UK, and lift 2 million people out of income tax altogether. This policy will ensure that money is going to those who need it most – working people on low and middle incomes. I am delighted that it will come into effect one year earlier than originally proposed.

    I know that islanders will also welcome the Chancellor’s announcement to cancel the planned fuel duty increase in September. The coalition has been supporting hard-pressed families by keeping fuel duty lower than it would have otherwise been if we had not abolished Labour’s fuel duty escalator. For islanders, we benefit from a five pence reduction in the level of duty paid locally.  In addition we have now cancelled twelve pence worth of fuel duty escalator increases and cut the actual level of duty by one pence per litre.   As a result, although pump prices remain dangerously high, fuel is now 18 pence per litre less due to the actions taken by the coalition. This, for an average car, is a difference of about £7 every time you fill your tank.”

    As the Chancellor said, ‘It helps a little to have some bills that are not going up. It helps a lot to keep more of the money you earn.’”

     

     


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  93. CARMICHAEL ENCOURAGES COMMUNITY GROUPS TO SEIZE MULTI-MILLION POUND FUNDING CHANCE

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has encouraged the community groups in Orkney and Shetland to apply for a multi-million pound fund aimed at Scotland’s coastal communities.

     

    The Coastal Community Funding (CCF) has over £4 million which local governments across Scotland will be competing to obtain, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander MP has announced.

     

    The CCF targets the economic development of coastal communities and supports a wide range of project, including charities, skills development or safeguarding the environment. Projects are picked based on their ability to support sustainable growth and jobs in coastal communities.  Last year awarded funding ranged from £70,000 to nearly £400,000 per project.

     

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

     

    “This is an excellent opportunity for local community groups in the Northern Isles to grab a significant sum of money. The funding can provide a significant cash boost to community groups coastal communities like Orkney and Shetland.

     

    The funding is focused on sustainable groups that are aiming to expand their efforts. There is a great potential here in terms of more jobs, better training and more community engagement.

     

    I am delighted that the Coalition Government are continuing to invest in Scotland. I commend the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander MP for not only ensuring that this coastal funding is continued, but that the pot of money available is 15 per cent greater.”


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  94. CARMICHAEL WELCOMES BP TUG DEAL

    Date: 18 February 2013
    Embargo: Immediate.

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed news that an agreement between the UK Government and the oil industry will allow HM Coastguard to call on specially-adapted tugs to support the Coastguard-funded tug in the event that it is needed.

    The deal, the first of its kind, will allow BP's Grampian Frontier tugs to be released from their day to day operations if an emergency arises and her help is required. BP has also announced a $250,000 (approx £160,000) upgrade to their fleet of Caledonian regional support vessels as part of the announcement.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    "This agreement has been a long time coming but it is all the more welcome for that. I am delighted that BP has put up the money and has agreed to make their tug available should it be needed."

    "Credit should be given to Secretary of State for Scotland Mike Moore and Secretary of State for Transport Patrick MacLoughlin, who have brokered this deal.

    "Obviously we shall still have the Herakles stationed in Kirkwall but as it is covering not just the Northern Isles but also the Western Isles having this back-up to call on is most welcome.

    "This agreement shows what can be achieved when government and the private sector work together. I hope that other oil companies operating to the north and west of Scotland will follow the lead given by BP and see what contribution they can make.

     

    ENDS.


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  95. New Gallery

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  96. NEW ORKNEY ADVICE SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP will be hosting joint advice surgeries with Liam McArthur MSP in Orkney on Friday 22 of February 2013.
     
    12.45 - 13.30: Stromness Community Centre, Stromness  
    17.00 - 17.45: Parliamentary office, Kirkwall
     
    For further information please contact the Kirkwall office on 01856876541. 

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  97. CARMICHAEL PRESSES FUEL WHOLESALERS ON PROFIT MARGINS

    Date: 1 February 2013
    Embargo: Immediate.

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has called for more transparency in the wholesale fuel market, saying that the current situation “leaves a lot to be desired”.

    Mr Carmichael’s comments came after he attended a fuel summit on Thursday in Glasgow which brought together MPs, the OFT and wholesalers.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The fuel summit was a good chance to get retailers, wholesalers, regulators and MPs around the table, and I think that it would be beneficial for the group to maintain contact in the future.

    “The meetings real usefulness was throwing in to sharp relief the difficulties caused by the lack of transparency. According to the figures supplied by GB Oils to the OFT, the profit margin in Orkney is 3.4 pence per litre (ppl) while it is 5ppl in Shetland. I would like to know what that difference comes from. The obvious answer is that there is more competition in the wholesale market in Orkney than there is in Shetland.

    “To be fair, GB Oils say that there are other factors at play involving operating costs. I think that we need to be told how the operating costs can be so markedly different. I have been promised historic data for the period from 2007 when GB Oils took over. That should shed some light on the situation.

    “The OFT investigation in the Western Isles should now run its course but will, I hope, reach an early conclusion. Once we see the lessons from there, we should be asking whether the same rules might be applicable in the Northern Isles.”

    ENDS.


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  98. "FUEL COMPETITION ESSENTIAL" SAYS CARMICHAEL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has reiterated calls for a more competitive wholesale and distribution fuel market, following the publication of an Office of Fair Trading report which found that the market was working “relatively effectively”.
     
    Mr Carmichael was commenting ahead of a fuel summit in Glasgow on Thursday 31 January which will feature round-table discussions with MPs, fuel wholesalers and the OFT.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    "People in the Orkney and Shetland will take little comfort from the OFT's findings. The fact is, many motorists in the isles buy their petrol or diesel in an environment where competition simply does not exist.
     
    "To their credit, the OFT recognised that this could be the case in the Western Isles and have now started a formal investigation into that particular local market. I see no reason why this investigation should not be extended to cover the Northern Isles.
     
    "The OFT have questions to answer and I will be taking the opportunity to press them on the detail of their report at the Scottish fuel summit that the UK government will host tomorrow."

    ENDS.

    Notes:

    1. The full report can be found at the following link: http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/markets-work/oft1475.pdf

     


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  99. NEW SHETLAND ADVICE SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP will be hosting advice surgeries in Shetland on 19th and 20th of February 2013.
     
    19th: 13.00 - 14.00: Shetland Parliamentary Office, Lerwick (joint with Tavish Scott MSP)
      
    20th: 11.30 - 12.30: Whalsay Leisure Centre, Symbister
     
    For further information please contact the Lerwick office on 01595 690044. 


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  100. CARMICHAEL CONDEMNS FAROE FISHING PLAN EXIT

    The withdrawal of the Faroe Islands from the Atlanto-Scandian herring management plan is “completely irresponsible” according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    At talks in London on Wednesday, the Faroese decided to pull out of the international management plan and instead set their own quota, while Scandinavian neighbours Iceland and Norway remain committed.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The Faroese are becoming increasingly isolated in their thinking on this issue. This is highly unfortunate as in the past they were seen as a great example of fisheries management at its best.

    No one can disregard scientific advice on sustainability. If the Faroese continue to act without responsibility, stock levels will reach a critical point. This will have enormous impact on the fishing industry across Europe.

    It is not right that other countries should suffer because the Faroese will not play fair. The European Union has a duty to now engage with Denmark to ensure that the Faroes will take a more mature approach to help ensure the future of the fishing industry across Northern Europe.”

    ENDS.


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  101. CARMICHAEL SEEKS EARLY VISIT FROM NEW SUPERMARKET OMBUDSMAN

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed the appointment of the Grocery Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon, saying that the new role will help to ensure a fairer deal for farmers and suppliers in Orkney and Shetland.

    As Adjudicator, Christine Tacon will be responsible for enforcing the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, which regulates interactions between the ten largest supermarkets and farmers and suppliers. 

    Suppliers will now have the opportunity to register a complaint with the Adjudicator if they feel that they have been treated unfairly by supermarkets. The Adjudicator will have the power to make recommendations against a supermarket or impose fines.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “The farming and agricultural sector is hugely important to the Northern Isles. Rural farmers and suppliers can feel that they are in an unfair fight against the big supermarkets and are struggling to maintain their business. This is damaging to the local community and local economy. The new Adjudicator empowers farmers and suppliers to have a regulator on their side if supermarkets are abusing their position.

    The Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for a Grocery Code of Practise and an Adjudicator to enforce it. I am delighted that we have been able to achieve this goal in coalition government and we will continue to argue the case for small business in government.

    I am asking the Adjudicator to visit Orkney and Shetland soon after her appointment to hear from local food producers the particular issues that arise from working on the isles.”

    ENDS.

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  102. MACKEREL CALL “PREMATURE” - CARMICHAEL

    The refusal of Iceland and Faroe islands to pay more attention to scientific advice on mackerel catch levels could be a PR disaster for the whole pelagic fleet according to Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael.
    Mr Carmichael was commenting following the decision of the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) to remove mackerel from its list of “fish suitable to eat”.
    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:
    “I believe that the MCS is premature in taking this step but I am not particularly surprised that they have done it. The fishing industry in this country has been warning Iceland and the Faroese that their catches are too large since 2009.

    If they do not now act then eventually stock levels will become critical and the fishing industry as a whole will suffer enormously in the eyes of the public. That would be unfair, in my view, but it is the reality of the situation.
    This decision by the MCS should be a wake-up call for them it is time to stop the grandstanding and to get back to the negotiating table.”
    ENDS.

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  103. MP SIGNS MEMORIAL BOOK IN HONOUR OF HOLOCAUST VICTIMS

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael reaffirmed his commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day by signing a Book of Commitment to honour those who died.

    The annual event run by the Holocaust Educational Trust in the House of Commons gives MPs the opportunity to pledge that they will uphold the memory of the Holocaust and continue to work against racism and hatred.
    Tuesday marked the anniversary of the liberation in 1945 of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the infamous concentration and extermination camp, which Mr Carmichael visited with isles school pupils in 2007.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said: 

    “Holocaust Memorial Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and it should also serve as an opportunity to remember and reflect on the horrors of the Holocaust and other genocides.

    “Racism and hate are still very much present in our society and together we have a duty to unite our communities and ‘stand up to hatred’. It is essential to continue to educate youngsters about the Holocaust and encourage them to work together towards a better future.

    “Seeing the camp at Auschwitz-Brikenau in 2007 was a profoundly moving experience for me. The horror of what was done there is as strong today as it has ever been. As a new generation grows up, inevitably with fewer connections to that period in history, it is more important than ever to remember what happened there and why.”

    ENDS.

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  104. "ALPHA LEAK HIGHLIGHTS THE NEED TO MAINTAIN AGEING ASSETS IN NORTH SEA" - CARMICHAEL

    Commenting on the closure of the Brent Pipeline following the discovery of a contained leak within the Cormorant Alpha platform, Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has highlighted the importance of maintaining for ageing North Sea oil infrastructure.

    On Wednesday, a leak was discovered in the leg of the oil rig Cormorant Alpha, forcing Taqa Bratani to evacuate a number of workers and shut down the platform. The Alpha rig acts as a hub for a large oil pipeline network, and up to 27 oil fields have been forced to shut down while the problem is dealt with.
    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:
     
    “The North Sea oil is a crucial part of the national economy, and very important to Orkney and Shetland. Ensuring that older rigs are maintained to a high standard is very important.

    “Safety has to be top of the agenda for the UK government and the oil industry. This is another reminder of the importance of maintaining our mature assets in the North Sea. The scale of damage that can be caused by rig accidents is enormous, and have major economic and environmental impacts.

    “The North Sea oil is a crucial part of the national economy and very important to Orkney and Shetland. If the UK is to retain its high safety and environmental protection standards and if it is to maximise production in the North Sea, it is vital that it continues to maintain in its ageing infrastructure to a high standard."

    ENDS. 

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  105. “PENSIONS DEAL IS SIMPLE AND FAIR” - CARMICHAEL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed freshly announced pension reforms, which will see basic pension increase almost £40 per week by 2017.

    The changes will also see men and women treated equally under the pension system, and those taking time off work to have children or to become a carer will not lose out. This is on top of the Liberal Democrat ‘triple lock’ for current pensions which means that the full state pension, by April, will be £650 more than under the previous government.

    For anyone retiring after 2017, the new Single Tier Pension will pay out £144 per week, while currently it is £107.45 per week. These changes will now mean that the basic state pension is now at its highest share of average earnings since 1992.
    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said
    “It is concerning that for many, the state pension is simply not enough to live on. This is particularly true of Orkney and Shetland where cold weather results in a much high proportion of income going on electricity and gas bills.
    I am pleased that the Liberal Democrats have ensured that pension reform is robust, fair and easy to understand. Not only will this bring women and men on an equal level, it also does not penalise those people who want to take time off to have children, or those who become carers.

    Making pensions fairer and simpler has been an important part of the Liberal Democrats work in coalition government. After only six weeks in coalition, the link between pensions and earnings had been restored – something that the Labour party failed to do in 13 years of government.

    Pensioners will not have forgotten the derisory 75p increase offered by the previous Labour government. Liberal Democrats action in government has ensured that pensions are now over £600 better off than under the previous government.
    ENDS.

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  106. ORKNEY ADVICE SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED


    Alistair Carmichael MP and Liam McArthur MSP will be hosting joint advice surgeries on 11 January 2013.
     
     
    13.00 - 13.45: Stromness Community Centre
      
    16.30 - 17.15: Parliamentary office, Kirkwall
     
    For further information please contact the Kirkwall office on 01856 876541. 
     
     


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  107. NEW BANK WILL BOOST GREEN INDUSTRIES IN SCOTLAND - CARMICHAEL

    The UK Government’s new Green Investment Bank (GIB) will help generate thousands of sustainable jobs in Scotland according to Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    Mr Carmichael was commenting after the launch of the GIB yesterday.  Speaking in Edinburgh, where the bank is headquartered, Business Secretary Vince Cable confirmed that the bank had made its first investments and was ‘open for business’. Dr Cable was accompanied at the launch of the bank by Lib Dem Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary.

    The creation of a GIB was a commitment included in the coalition agreement after the general election in 2010. The UK government has provided the bank with £3 billion to 2015. This initial capital will allow the bank to make its first investments and mobilise private capital.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Scotland has been in the vanguard of the renewable energy industry for many years but it is clear that problems in obtaining financial support have hindered some projects in the past. The UK government’s Green Investment Bank will provide backing for new schemes and help generate thousands of sustainable green jobs across Scotland.

    ‘This is a win-win situation for both Scotland and the UK as a whole. Through the work of the GIB in Edinburgh, the UK will benefit from the expertise and technologies that are being developed at places like EMEC in Orkney and other parts of Scotland. Scotland benefits from the financial expertise and resources that the UK government can bring to bear.
     
    ‘News that the bank is now open for business is welcome. The money that the UK government is putting into the sector will pay real economic and environmental dividends.’

    ENDS.


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  108. NEW SHETLAND ADVICE SURGERY ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP will be holding an advice surgery on 7 December between 1 and 2pm at his constituency office in Lerwick.

     For further information, please contact Beatrice Wishart on 01595 690044.


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  109. NEW CONSTITUENCY ADVICE SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP will hold two constituency advice surgeries in Shetland later this month:

    3 October (14.00 - 14.45): Fair Isle

    12 October (17.00 - 18.00): Lerwick constituency office

    For further information please contact Beatrice Wishart on 01595 690044.


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  110. NEW ORKNEY SURGERIES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael will be holding a constituency advice surgery in Orkney on Friday 29 May.

    12.45 - 13.30: Stromness Community Centre

    17.00 - 17:45: Orkney Parliamentary Office 

    If you are unable to attend the surgeries but wish to raise an issue please contact the constituency office on 01856 876541 or email or carmichaela@parliament.uk.

     


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  111. OFT FUEL REPORT IS A “TOKEN EFFORT” - CARMICHAEL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has criticised the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report on local fuel prices which concluded that fuel suppliers were not abusing their position in Shetland. Mr Carmichael claimed that the report was a “less than substantial piece of work which had not been properly researched”.
    The OFT had been studying rural areas in Scotland to determine if fuel suppliers were inflating prices, and have concluded that they have found no evidence to suggest that this is the case. In their report, the OFT explain that high prices are due to limited choice resulting from low sales volumes and weak competition. They further explain that the problems identified do not fall within their remit. 

    While, they have left the door open for consumers to provide evidence of a market distortion in the future, this new report will have done little to allay the fears of islanders who are concerned by high living costs. The OFT have claimed that “there is no quick-fix solution” to the problems which have been identified in Shetland, however the report has been approached with scepticism by local Councillors and transport organisation ZetTrans.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said

    “If a student in any local secondary school were to produce work like this it would probably be returned and marked ‘C minus – must try harder’. The OFT ought to be embarrassed at putting their name to work like this. It looks as if they have written the conclusions then done the bare minimum research to justify it.

    “Sooner or later the OFT are going to have to wake up to the fact that local concerns about this issue are not to go away, so they might as well get on with doing the job they are well paid for doing. Local people have come forward with evidence. Reading the report they must wonder why they bothered.

    “I am going to pursue an early meeting with the OFT go over with them in some detail the methodology they have used and the conclusions that they have reached because frankly it looks like a bit of a token effort to me.”
     
    ENDS.  


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  112. CARMICHAEL WELCOMES EXTENSION TO EMERGENCY TOWING VESSEL FUNDING

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed news that the Government will continue to fund an Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV).

    The ETV had been funded on a month-by-month basis while discussions were underway to secure a long-term replacement. In a Ministerial statement today Scottish Secretary Michael Moore announced that ETVs would be funded as has previously been the case. Work on concluding of a deal with the oil industry and the use of a tug provided by them will continue to reach a with a view to supplying this provision.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “People in the Northern Isles could not have been clearer in their view that keeping emergency tug cover was essential was essential to protect our coastline. I took that message in government and have pushed it relentlessly. Credit must go to the Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, for taking the lead on this issue and Mike Penning, the Shipping Minister, for listening and responding to the case that we made.”
     
    ENDS.  


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  113. CARMICHAEL WANTS ACTION AFTER OFT REPORT SHOWS RURAL AREAS IN SCOTLAND GET A RAW DEAL

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has called for action to be taken following the publication of a report by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) which highlighted that the Highlands and Islands suffer from poor services, including internet connections, fuel costs and public transport.

    The OFT ran a consultation earlier this year asking consumers and businesses in rural areas of the United Kingdom to contribute their experiences of living and working in remote areas, in order to improve the OFT’s understanding of how prices, choice and access to goods are affected by remoteness. Over half of the responses from Scottish individuals, businesses and organisations were from the islands.

    In addition to the consultation, the OFT ran Local Engagement Groups (LEGs) in seven different towns across the UK which aimed at getting an in-depth study of particular areas. Lerwick was one of the locations which hosted one of the LEGs.

    The OFT report, published in June, highlighted the lack of competition in rural areas is a significant contributing factor to high costs, giving some companies a monopoly. Furthermore, despite the increase access to goods through the internet, the high delivery charges on these goods were found to be prohibitive to consumers.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    “While the conclusions of the report are not surprising, I am pleased that the OFT have recognised the difficulty that remote communities face. It is important that action is now taken to help to ensure that those living remotely are not being taken advantage of by companies. 

    “Islanders are well aware that by living in a remote location, some costs will be higher than in central areas. However, service providers should not be allowed to give the islanders an unfair deal by monopolising on this situation. For too long residents in the Northern Isles have been unfairly penalised by high costs and it is time to change this.

    “I will be seeking a meeting with the OFT in the near future and will look to discuss the next steps are, while I will also be looking to set up a meeting with Business Secretary Vince Cable to see how this can be taken forward.”
      
    ENDS.  


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  114. NEW ORKNEY SURGERY ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael will be holding a constituency advice surgery in Orkney on Friday 18 May.

    17.30 - 18.15:  The Marengo Centre, St Margaret's Hope (with Liam McArthur MSP)

     If you are unable to attend the surgery/ies but wish to raise an issue please contact the constituency office on 01856 876541 or email liam.mcarthur.msp@scottish.parliament.uk or carmichaela@parliament.uk.

     

     


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  115. NEW ORKNEY SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP will be holding two constituency advice surgeries in Orkney on 7 June. 

    12.00-12.45 pm - North Walls Centre

    14.30-15.15pm - Flotta Community Centre

    For further information please contact Barabara Flett on 01856 876541.


     


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  116. ISLES PARLIAMENTARIANS LAUNCH DIGITAL FORUM WEBSITE

    Orkney and Shetland Parliamentarians Alistair Carmichael MP, Tavish Scott MSP and Liam McArthur MSP have launched a new website to help keep Isles residents informed on local and national developments in digital services.

    The Northern Isles Digital Forum website is designed to bring together news and policy announcements from the UK government, private companies and other agencies such as Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

    In February, the Isles representatives convened the first meetings of the Northern Isles Digital Forum in Lerwick and Kirkwall.

    At the meetings, local people had the chance to hear from and ask questions of representatives of some of the major players in the Isles digital market. Speakers included senior staff from the mobile network Everything Everywhere, Highlands and lslands Enterprise (HIE), Ofcom and Shetland Islands Council.

    The Isles parliamentarians have established the website to build on these discussions. It will serve as a resource for local people with questions on digital issues. Notes from future public meetings will also be published online.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘The first meetings of the Northern Isles Digital Forum were extremely positive and I know that both the speakers and those who attended took a lot out of it. What many of those I spoke to after the meeting suggested is that it would be useful to have a means of continuing the debate around these issues before the next meeting takes place.

    ‘The new Digital Forum website - although basic - is designed to fill this need and keep people in Orkney and Shetland informed on developments in digital technologies.’

    Mr Scott added:

    ‘Broadband and internet issues are part of everyday life in Shetland.  This website can be a forum for discussion on solutions for individuals and businesses across the Islands.

    ‘We have already been in touch with Shetland Telecom and HIE, who have both agreed to provide guest posts on their work. I hope that in months to come this website will prove a real resource for people seeking information or help.’

    Mr McArthur added:

    ‘I’ve known for some time the frustration in Orkney caused by not simply having poor mobile phone coverage and slow broadband, but also a lack of information on what is being done to improve the situation.  The Digital Forum was a great opportunity for local individuals and businesses to put across their experience and needs, as well as hear what is being done by government and the various service providers. 

    ‘The new Digital Forum website will be a great way for people in Orkney to keep up to date with developments, and have an opportunity to give their feedback.  The inclusion of key phone numbers for making complaints will also ensure that this can be a first port of call for all their digital queries.’

    ENDS.

    Notes to Editors:

    The Northern Isles Digital Forum website can be found online at:

    http://nidigitalforum.wordpress.com/


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  117. ALISTAIR CARMICHAEL MP ANNOUNCES NEW ORKNEY ADVICE SURGERIES

    Alistair Carmichael MP will be holding two constituency advice surgeries on 6 June:

     

    10.30–11.15 am: Papa Westray Primary School

     

    15.30-16.15: Pierowall School

     

    For further information please contact Barbara Flett on 01856 876541.


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  118. NEW ORKNEY SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP will be hosting 2 constituency advice surgeries in Orkney on 27 April:

    1.15 - 2.00pm: Stromness Community Centre

    5.00 - 5.45pm: Kirkwall Constituency Office (joint with Liam McArthur MSP)

    For further information please contact Barbara Flett in the Kirkwall office on 01856 876541.


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  119. CARMICHAEL ENCOURAGES LOCAL GROUPS TO APPLY FOR CROWN ESTATE FUNDING

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael is encouraging local groups to register for funding under the UK government’s Crown Estate Coastal Communities Fund.

    Groups across the Highlands and Islands have until the 27 April 2012 to register for grants. Capital and revenue grants in excess of £50,000 are available for a wide range of applicant organisations and projects which benefit coastal communities. 

    Application forms for organisations wishing to apply to the fund in the 2012-13 financial year are now available via the Big Lottery Fund Website.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘For many years coastal communities have seen the money that the Crown Estate raises from the marine estate benefit people in other areas of the country. This is money that should be supporting jobs and services in coastal regions such as Orkney and Shetland and the new UK government coastal communities fund is a positive step in this regard.

    ‘Ultimately I would like to see much more radical reform of the Crown Estate with more control of the sea bed being given to the local communities affected. A fund of this sort, however, is an important move in the right direction.

    ‘Grants of more than £50,000 are available to groups seeking to boost economic development and training opportunities locally. I would encourage all those who think that they could benefit from this funding to consider making an application.’

    ENDS.

    Notes to Editors:

    Further details of the scheme and pre-application forms are available online at:

    http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/prog_coastal_communities_fund?tab=1®ioncode=-uk&

    If people have other queries they are being asked to contact Big Lottery Fund Advice line on 0845 410 20 30.


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  120. NEW ORKNEY SURGERY DATE ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP and Liam McArthur MSP will be holding a joint constituency advice surgery on 16 March 2012.

    5.00 - 5.45pm: Kirkwall constituency office

    For further details please contact Barbara Flett on 01856 876541.  

     



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  121. NEW SHETLAND SURGERY DATE ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP will be holding a constituency advice surgery in Shetland on 24 February.

    1.00 - 2.00 pm: Constituency office, Lerwick

    For further information please contact Beatrice Wishart on 01595 690044.

     


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  122. NEW ORKNEY SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP will hold 2 constituency advice surgeries in Orkney on Friday 17 February:

    12.45 - 13.30pm: Kirkwall Constituency office

    16.45 - 17.30pm: Stromness Community Centre

    For further information please contact Barbara Flett in the Kirkwall office on 01956 876541.


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  123. CARMICHAEL AND SCOTT PRESS OFT ON ISLES FUEL PRICES

    CARMICHAEL AND SCOTT PRESS OFT ON ISLES FUEL PRICES


    Isles Parliamentarians Alistair Carmichael MP and Tavish Scott MSP pressed representatives of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to look again at the operation of the fuel market in Orkney and Shetland during a meeting in London earlier this week.

    During the meeting, Mr Carmichael and Mr Scott argued that figures obtained by the OFT on the price of fuel do not represent the difference in the cost of petrol and hearing oil between the mainland and the Isles accurately. The OFT have claimed that data they have gathered up to this point would not justify the use of their legal powers to intervene in the market.

    The OFT representatives confirmed that they plan to carry out additional investigative work into the difficulties facing communities in more remote areas. Preliminary findings on fuel are expected by the spring.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Although the fuel duty derogation that will come into force in March will bring local drivers some measure of relief, I believe that the price differential that will remain between the Isles and the mainland goes well beyond that which might be justified on grounds of transport or infrastructure costs. I have been pressing the OFT on this issue since I was first elected in 2001 and their failure to get to grips with this problem has been a real disappointment.  

    ‘It is no surprise that the OFT do not have the answers they need to justify formal intervention when they have been so reluctant to ask the necessary questions to get this data. The message does seem to be getting through but it has been a difficult and frustrating process to get there.

    ‘Although the assurances we received at the meeting are a case of ‘better late than never’, I am pleased that the OFT have recognised that they need more data on market conditions in more remote and island communities. I will be meeting with them again in the New Year to discuss their work as it progresses and would encourage constituents who have concerns over the way we are forced to buy our fuel to get in touch.’

    Mr Scott added:

    ‘In the past it has often seemed that the OFT simply did not know how much more Shetlanders were being asked to pay for their fuel than people on the mainland. I am pleased that they now recognise that lack of data is an issue and steps are being taken to rectify this unacceptable situation.

    ‘In island communities like Shetland, high fuel prices affect almost everything we do. Every time we get in the car we are paying a premium that I do not believe is right or can be justified. The work that the OFT is now undertaking should make the extent of this problem clear. What we will then need to see is concrete action to ensure that local people are getting a fair deal on their fuel.’

    ENDS.

     


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  124. NEW ORKNEY ADVICE SURGERIES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP has announced two new constituency advice surgeries on 9 December:

    12.30 - 1.15pm: Stromness Community Centre

    5.00 - 5.45pm: Kirkwall Constituency Office

    For further information please contact Barbara Flett in the Kirkwall office on 01856 876541.


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  125. CARMICHAEL WELCOMES CONFIRMATION OF ISLES FUEL DEROGATION START DATE

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has today welcomed confirmation from the Treasury that motorists in the Isles will benefit from a 5p per litre cut in fuel prices from 1 March 2012.

    Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander announced this morning that final EU approval for the derogation scheme had been received and the rebate, which will be the largest of its kind in Europe, will come into force at the beginning of the spring.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘People in Orkney and Shetland have been forced to pay over the odds for their fuel for many years and I know that the announcement today will be welcomed across the Isles. 

    ‘Liberal Democrats campaigned for the introduction of a derogation for motorists in more isolated areas over many years in opposition but Ministers at the time simply refused to listen. For a decade we were told that this scheme was not workable but the government has delivered for local drivers in just 18 months.

    ‘The introduction of a duty cut for drivers in island communities was a genuine priority for the coalition government and I am pleased that we now have a firm date for the start of the scheme. This duty cut, which is the largest of its kind in the EU, will go some way towards providing local motorists with relief from high prices.  It remains the case however, that we will still be paying substantially more for our petrol and diesel. I still want the competition authorities to explain why our market fails and to sort it.

    ‘It should not be forgotten that this is only happening because the Liberal Democrats are part of the coalition government. The Labour party in government came up with ridiculous excuses about why this could not be done and the Conservatives did not support a scheme of this sort in opposition. The coalition is doing this because Liberal Democrats are a part of it.’

    ENDS.


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  126. NEW SHETLAND SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP will be holding two constituency advice surgeries in Shetland on the following dates:

    Friday, 25 November 1230-1330 in Shetland Parliamentary Office, Lerwick.

    Friday 16 December 1300-1400 in Shetland Parliamentary Office (joint surgery with Tavish Scott MSP).

     For further information please contact Beatrice Wishart in the Lerwick constituency office on 01595 690044.


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  127. NEW SHETLAND SURGERY DATE ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael will be holding a community advice surgery in Shetland on 25 November:

     12.30 - 1.30pm: Constituency Office, Lerwick.

    For further information please contact Beatrice Wishart on 01595 690044.


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  128. NEW ORKNEY SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP will be holding two constituency advice surgeries in Orkney on 14 October:

    1.00 - 1.45pm: Stromness Community Centre

    5.00 - 5.45pm: Kirkwall constituency office

    For further information please contact Barbara Flett on 01856 876541.

     


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  129. UNST AND FETLAR ADVICE SURGERIES - CANCELLED

    Alistair Carmichael MP regrets to announce that the surgeries that were due to take place in Unst and Fetlar tomorrow have been cancelled.

    Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause. Constituents wishing to arrange an alternative appointment or discuss issues of concern with Mr Carmichael should contact Beatrice Wishart in the Lerwick office on 01595 690044.


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  130. NEW SHETLAND ADVICE SURGERIES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael will be holding 2 constituency advice surgeries in Shetland on 4 October:

    11.15 - 12.00: Fetlar Hall

    16.00 - 16.45: Unst Leisure Centre

     For further information please contact Beatrice Wishart in the constituency office on 01595 690044.  

     


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  131. NEW ORKNEY SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP has announced a number of new constituency advice surgeries in Orkney: 

     Monday, 29 August – FLOTTA COMMUNITY CENTRE from 2:45 – 3:30pm and NORTH WALLS CENTRE from 12:00 – 12:45pm

    Tuesday, 30 August – ROUSAY SCHOOL from 11:00 – 11:45 and EGILSAY SCHOOL from 3:00 – 3:45pm

    Thursday, 1 September – ST ANNE’S CENTRE, PAPA WESTRAY from 11:30 – 12:15 and THE HOFN, WESTRAY from 2:30 – 3:15pm

    Tuesday, 27 September – NORTH RONALDSAY COMMUNITY CENTRE from 2:30 – 3:15pm

    Wednesday, 28 September – EDAY SCHOOL from 12:30 – 1:15pm

    Thursday, 29 September – SANDAY SCHOOL from 1:45 – 2:30pm

     For further information please contact Barbara Flett in the Kirkwall constituency office on 01856 876541.


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  132. FOULA TRIP CANCELLED - 24.08.11

    Alistair Carmichael MP's trip to Foula today has been cancelled due to inclement weather.

    Any constituents in Foula who wished to meet with Mr Carmchael should contact Beatrice Wishart in the Lerwick constituency office on 01595 690044.  


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  133. NEW ORKNEY SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP and Liam McArthur MSP will hold a joint advice surgery in the Kirkwall constituency office on Friday, 2 September from 12:45 – 13:30.

    Mr Carmichael will also be holding a surgery in Stromness Community Centre  from 17:00 – 17:45 that day.

    For further information please contact Barbara Flett in the Kirkwall office on 01856 876541.


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  134. Internships

    Parliamentary Internships offer young people a valuable way of gaining experience of life at Westminster. Alistair Carmichael MP is able to offer two short-term full time internship placements per year in his Parliamentary office. Placements will last for up to 3 months, with one position available during the summer months and one in winter.
     
    Due to the heavy workload associated with processing a large number of applications, there is no formal application process as such but people wishing to be considered should submit CVs and covering letters to stewartja@parliament.uk. Covering letters should include some indication of whether a summer or winter placement would be preferable.
     
    When a position becomes available, short-listed individuals will be contacted and invited for interview before an appointment is made.   Successful applicants will receive a salary of £1500 per month for the duration of their placement.
     
    Shorter-term work experience placements of up to two weeks are also available on an ad hoc basis. Applicants for these should also submit a CV with a covering letter.
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  135. NEW ORKNEY SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP will be holding 2 constituency advice surgeries in Orkney on Friday 8 July:

     12.20 - 13.15: Stromness Community Centre

    17.00 - 17.45: Constituency Office (14 Palace Road, Kirkwall)

    For further information please contact Barbara Flett on 01856 876541.


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  136. NEW SHETLAND SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED

    Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael will be holding two constituency advice surgeries on Friday 10 June: 

     

    12.00 - 13.00: Whalsay Leisure Centre 

     

    16.30 - 17.30: Shetland Parliamentary Office (joint with Tavish Scott MSP)

     

    For further details or to make an appointment please call Beatrice Wishart on 01595 690044.

     

     

     

     


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  137. NEW SHETLAND SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP will be holding two constituency advice surgeries in Shetland on 10 June: 

     

    12:00 - 13:00: Whalsay Leisure Centre

     

    16.50 - 17.30: Shetland Parliamentary Office (joint surgery with Tavish Scott MSP).

     

    For further information or to make an appointment please contact Beatrice Wishart in the Lerwick office on 01595 690044.


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  138. NEW SHETLAND ADVICE SURGERY DATE ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP will be holding an advice surgery in Yell on 27 May.

     

    5:00 - 5:45 pm: Yell Leisure Centre.

     

    For further information or to make an appointment, please contact the Lerwick constituency office on 01595 690044.

     

     


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  139. NEW ORKNEY SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP and Liam McArthur MSP will hold 2 constituency advice surgeries on Friday 20 May 2011.

    Stromness Community Centre: 12.30  - 13.15 pm

    Kirkwall constituency office: 17.00 - 17.45 pm

    For further details or to make an appointment please contact Barbara Flett on 01856 876541.

     

     

     

     


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  140. NEW ORKNEY SURGERY DATES ANNOUNCED

     

    Alistair Carmichael MP will be holding local advice surgeries in Orkney on 15 April'

    12.45 - 13.30: Kirkwall constituency office

    17.00 - 17.45: Stromness Community Centre

    For further details or to make an appointment please call Barbara Flett in the Kirkwall constituency office on 01856 876541.

     

     


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  141. Action on Fuel Prices Due 'Within Weeks' - Carmichael

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed news that Treasury Ministers will make a formal application to the EU within weeks for a fuel duty derogation that could see the price of petrol in the Northern Isles cut by 5p per litre.

    Answering questions at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference on Friday, Danny Alexander MP, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, confirmed that he expected the application would now be made before the 2011 budget and told delegates he was ‘confident’ the government’s plans would be approved by EU finance Ministers.  It was thought previously that the formal second stage of the application process would not be reached before next month.

    Under EU rules, a formal application must be made to the European Commission before a duty derogation scheme can be introduced. The government’s plans will then go forward for consideration by EU finance chiefs for final approval before the discount can be applied.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘I have always said that this derogation was never going to come quickly enough for motorists in the Northern Isles but news that we can now expect a formal application to be made within weeks is welcome. This announcement provides a clear indication of the measure of political commitment behind the scheme. 

    ‘The derogation for the Scottish Islands of 5p per litre will be the largest in the EU after it is applied, and while it will not bring our prices into line with other areas of the country it will go some way towards helping make petrol more affordable in the Isles. This is an important step in the process towards providing relief for local drivers.

    ‘Ministers are well aware of the strength of public feeling that the current high prices have caused and with the budget approaching I know that Treasury officials are still considering a range of options to help reduce the cost of fuel.’

    ENDS.  


     


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  142. Companies Should Come Clean on Broadband Speeds - Carmichael

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has today called on internet service providers to come clean on the connection speeds they are able to offer customers in the Northern Isles.

    Mr Carmichael was speaking after new research from Ofcom, the communications regulator, found that actual broadband speeds and those advertised can differ greatly. Ofcom found that just 14% of customers on ‘up to’ 20mbps services received speeds over 12mbps, while 58% averaged speeds of 6mbps or less.

    Consumer groups are now calling on firms to provide a typical range speed rather than a hypothetical maximum when advertising their products.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘What this latest research from Ofcom makes clear is that in many cases there is still a substantial gap between the internet packages which people sign up for and the level of service they receive.

    ‘Despite improvements in recent years, many people in Orkney and Shetland still struggle to access the internet and there are a number of ‘not spots’ around the Isles. It is important that those who are able to get online are aware of exactly what it is they are signing up for when choosing a service provider.

    ‘Companies need to come clean and ensure that their customers have all the information they need from the start.’

    ENDS.


     


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  143. NEW ORKNEY ADVICE SURGERIES ANNOUNCED

    Alistair Carmichael MP and Liam McArthur MSP will be holding 2 constituency advice surgeries on 25 February 2011:

    12:30 - 13:15 pm: Constituency office, Kirkwall.

    17:00 - 17:45 pm: Stromness Community Centre.

    For further information or to make an appointment, please contact Barbara Flett on 01856 876541.

     


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  144. CARMICHAEL WELCOMES PRE-CHARGE DETENTION LIMIT REDUCTION

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed news that the government is to reduce the period over which an individual can he legally detained without charge from 28 to 14 days.

    Home Office Minister Damien Green announced yesterday that the government would not renew an order which allowed police to hold suspects for up to 28 days in certain cases. Speaking afterwards, Mr Carmichael argued that the decision to reduce this period to 14 days strikes the right balance between public safety and protecting civil liberties.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘While we need to ensure that the police and security services are offered all the powers they need to protect us from the threat of terrorism, former Labour Ministers have admitted that in the past they got the balance between safety and civil liberties absolutely wrong. The nadir of this was the attempt to increase the period over which an individual can be held without trial to 90 days, a policy which I spoke against this in the House of Commons at the time.

    ‘In my view, the evidence supporting a pre-charge detention period of 28 days for some suspects was always limited. I am pleased that the Home Office have confirmed that the period over which an individual can be held is to revert to 14 days. This is welcome news and illustrates the commitment of the government to bringing to an end the intrusion into our civil liberties that we saw under Labour. 

    ’Under Labour, debates on these issues were all about politics and not about protecting the public. This decision marks a welcome return to the kind of rigorous, evidence-based policy making that we should expect from Ministers rather than the policy-based evidence making that we saw all too often in the past.’ 

    ENDS.


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  145. EXTENSION OF ‘HEROES RETURN’ SCHEME GOOD NEWS FOR ISLES VETERANS – CARMICHAEL

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael is encouraging Second World War veterans in the Northern Isles to make use of the BIG Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return programme, after it was announced that the deadline for applications has been extended until the end of January. 

    The fund was set up in 2009 ahead of the 65th Anniversary of VJ Day and offers grants ranging from £150 to £5,500 (depending on the numbers involved and the destination) to help veterans and the widows of veterans, along with a spouse or carer, to return to the places where they saw active service in the war. The decision to extend the deadline means that an estimated additional £1 million will be available to veterans and their families.  

    So far, more than 10,000 people have been awarded £7 million to return to places including Italy, France, Greece, Holland, Germany, the USA, the Far East, Australia and locations within the UK. 

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘The population of the Northern Isles expanded enormously during the war years, and we often welcome visitors from abroad who were based here at that time. I know that many of our own veterans would relish the chance to make a similar trip and revisit the scene of their own service. 

    ‘Travelling long distances can be a challenge for some older people. By helping to cover transport and other costs the Heroes Return programme has allowed thousands of veterans and their families to make journeys that would not otherwise have been possible. The extension of the scheme is a welcome move that offers local veterans a last chance to take advantage of this funding.

    ‘I would encourage all those in the Northern Isles who think they might be eligible to consider taking advantage of this scheme before it closes. Should people require further information or assistance in making an application I would of course be happy to do what I can to help.’

    ENDS.

    Notes to editors:

    Further details of the scheme are available online at http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/prog_heroes_return.
    Or by telephoning 0845 0000 121


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  146. CARMICHAEL BACKS CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO ‘MONOPOLY’ FUEL SUPPLIER

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael is backing calls for an investigation into the operations of fuel company DCC Energy following weekend reports that the company enjoys a virtual monopoly in many areas of the country.

    Press articles claimed that DCC own a string of subsidiary fuel companies and a number of price comparison websites. The Sunday Times claimed that the ‘best prices’ offered on one of their sites were up to 65% higher than those offered by genuine independent retailers. Critics of DCC have argued that their failure to disclose which suppliers they own mean that many consumers are not getting a fair deal.

    Mr Carmichael and Northern Isles MSPs Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur had already written to the Office of Fair Trading recently asking for an investigation into the liquid fuel market in Orkney and Shetland.  Their letter followed sharp increases in the cost of heating oil and automotive fuel in the Isles.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Weekend stories have caused a great deal of anxiety locally. It is essential that that these concerns should be properly and independently investigated. That can only be done by the OFT and these stories strengthen my view that a full investigation is long overdue. In the past, the OFT has come up with spurious reasons not to look into this issue. That is no longer good enough. 

    ‘During the recent period of cold weather, people with oil-fired heating systems were facing energy bills that had increased by up to 50% since September 2010. While the cost of kerosene has risen over this period I see no legitimate reason why consumers in the Northern Isles should face price hikes of this magnitude.

    ‘These revelations underline the importance of a full investigation of the liquid fuel market in Orkney and Shetland and I will be following up with the Office of Fair Trading to ensure that the points raised in the media over the weekend are taken fully on board.’

    ENDS.


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  147. CARMICHAEL CALLS FOR ROBUST ACTION AGAINST ICELAND OVER NEW MACKEREL QUOTA INCREASE

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has again called on EU fisheries commissioner to take robust action against Iceland after their Government announced that it would increase their mackerel quota for 2011 by more than 16,000 tonnes.

    The EU and Norway have been in dispute with Iceland and the Faroe Islands for some months after the two countries elected to massively increase the mackerel quota for their fleets.

    Mr Carmichael shares the view of Scottish fishermens’ groups, who argue that substantial increases in Scandinavian mackerel landings will undermine the sustainability of the fish stock.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Last year I argued that Iceland and the Faroes needed to know that their actions would not be without consequences. By increasing their quota for 2011, Iceland has again shown a total disregard for the long-term future of North Sea mackerel stocks.

    ‘With around one third of the UK mackerel industry based in Shetland, it is clear that the decision of Iceland and the Faroes to increase their quota unilaterally will impact disproportionately on the Northern Isles.

    ‘Ultimately, of course, reaching consensus with Iceland and the Faroes on this issue would be the best way to secure the long term future of the Scottish mackerel fleet. However, the current situation is clearly untenable and the EU must now act.’ 

    ENDS.


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  148. Carmichael and Scott Meet Coastguard Staff to Discuss Future of Shetland Station

    Shetland Parliamentarians Alistair Carmichael MP and Tavish Scott MSP today met with staff from Lerwick Coastguard station to discuss the future of emergency maritime rescue services in the Northern Isles. Also present was a senior manager from the MCA, who had travelled from Southampton for the meeting.  

    Mr Carmichael has been in close contact with Transport Ministers since the announcement of details of the government’s plans for the modernisation of the coastguard service. He met with the Secretary of State before Christmas to express his concern over the proposals.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘The case that was put forward by local coastguard staff for the retention of the Lerwick station was an impressive and compelling one. The points they made in relation to the issues of communication resilience which arise from operating in geographically remote communities like Shetland were particularly forceful.

    ‘I was slightly surprised that the staff could not be given more answers today by the senior MCA manager who had travelled from Southampton for the meeting. He has, however, undertaken to ensure that the questions posed by the local staff are answered and doubtless that information can be made public when the answers come.

    ‘It was fitting that the meeting be held on the day when a House of Commons Select Committee endorsed the government’s decision to allow continued exploration for oil and gas in the West of Shetland fields. The Energy and Climate Change Committee’s report made the point that every precaution needed to be taken to ensure that if the worst were to happen then damage to the environment could be mitigated as much as possible. I hope that this important document will provide extra context for the MCA’s consultation on the future of the coastguard service.’
     
    Mr Scott added:

    ‘The strength of opposition in Shetland to the threat to the Shetland Coastguard station is a fair reflection of the genuine concerns felt about the proposal to leave Scotland with just two coastguard stations, only one being full time. Concerns are being raised in Shetland by those who understand the vital role that the stations play and the importance of their local knowledge.

    ‘Scotland has over half the UK’s coastline and, in the Northern and Western Isles and Western Highlands, has the most complex coastline in the UK. The local knowledge of these areas held by the coastguards in Lerwick and in Stornoway must not be lost.’


    ENDS.


     


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  149. Motorcycle Test Changes Good News for isles Learners - Carmichael

    A change to motorcycle testing procedures that will see the practical test return to a single on-road event is good news for learners in Orkney and Shetland according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    Transport Minister Mike Penning announced the results of a review into the motorcycle test in a written statement to the House of Commons yesterday. The Government is aiming to implement the new test by the end of 2011.

    Mr Carmichael criticised the introduction of an off road component to the motorcycle test in 2009, arguing that this would make it more difficult for learner drivers living in more remote areas to take their tests.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Overall this announcement is good news for people wishing to learn to ride a motorcycle in the Northern Isles. After the introduction of an off road element to the test I argued that this change could cause severe logistical problems for people living in areas like ours. Although there is a clear need to maintain safety standards the move to simplify the test process is welcome.

    ‘Ministers now need to consider transitional support for more remote areas to ensure that learners in places such as the Northern Isles are not disadvantaged. I understand that the situation in Shetland is particularly acute and steps need to be taken to ensure that the backlog of those waiting to take their test can be cleared.’

    ENDS.

     


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  150. Northern Isles Parliamentarians Call for Fuel Market Investigation

    Northern Isles Parliamentarians Liam McArthur MSP, Tavish Scott MSP and Alistair Carmichael MP have today written to the Office of Fair Trading and requested a review of the operation of the liquid fuel market in Orkney and Shetland.

    Their letter follows recent sharp increases in the cost of petrol, and warnings that the retail price of heating fuel oil could rise by up to 70%.

    In their letter Mr McArthur, Mr Scott and Mr Carmichael expressed a view that the current price increases reflect longstanding problems with the fuel market in the Northern Isles. They are urging the Office of Fair Trading to examine this situation and secure a better deal for consumers in Orkney and Shetland.

    Commenting, Mr McArthur said:

    ‘The high cost of fuel places a real burden on Orkney residents and businesses. For most a car is not a luxury, it’s a necessity, so they have no choice but to pay up and buy the fuel they need.  With our long heating season Orkney suffers high levels of fuel poverty but the high cost of heating oil makes it even worse. The price differential over Scottish Mainland prices cannot be justified.’

    Mr Scott added:

    ‘Sullom Voe is in our midst. Yet we still face record fuel prices and the fact is that only one company brings Shetland’s fuel to the Islands from Grangemouth. The company holds a monopoly position and therefore can charge what it likes. So the international rise in crude oil prices and their impact on what we pay at the pump is worsened by a monopoly supplier. That must be investigated and quickly.’

    Mr Carmichael added:

    ‘People in the Northern Isles are already forced to pay well over the odds for their fuel, whether this is petrol or heating oil. The distribution arrangements for the heating oil market in particular are a cause of significant concern and greater scrutiny is required to secure a better deal for consumers in Orkney and Shetland. An OFT investigation would be an important first step in this respect.’

    ENDS.

     


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  151. Military Covenant Changes a Step in the Right Direction - Carmichael

    Changes to the Military Covenant announced last week that will require Ministers to report annually on the support offered to current service personnel and veterans are a welcome step in the right direction according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    The Armed Forces Bill was brought to the UK Parliament on Wednesday 8th December and will require the Defence Secretary to present an Armed Forces Covenant report to Parliament every year, setting out how the UK Government is supporting the Armed Forces. A report on the Military Covenant – the agreement between the nation and its military personnel – was published alongside the Bill, recommending ways in which the relationship could be improved.

    Key areas such as healthcare, housing and education are devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the UK Government will continue to work with the devolved administration in Edinburgh to deliver services – including those reserved to Westminster - to personnel and their families in the most effective way.

    The UK Government will accept two of these recommendations immediately – the Community Covenant and Chief of Defence Staff Commendations. The first, the Community Covenant, will involve regionally-based schemes to encourage local authorities, organisations and individuals to champion the links between the Armed Forces and their communities. The second, Chief of Defence Staff Commendations, will recognise the work of wider society to support past and present members of the Armed Forces and their families.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Last January, I was one of the sponsors of a ‘Veterans Welfare Bill’ at Parliament which, if implemented, would have required officials at the Ministry of Defence to report annually to Parliament on the care and support which was being given to veterans. The new Armed Forces Bill will oblige Ministers to come to the House of Commons and answer to MPs for any failings in this area.

    ‘This new Bill is an important piece of legislation that I know will help ensure that current and former service personnel in the Northern Isles receive all the support they need, whether this be with housing, healthcare or education. The measures included in the Bill will help to boost accountability and reflect the exceptional sacrifices that so many of our veterans have made on our behalf.

    ‘The statistics for homelessness and illnesses such as depression among ex-military personnel are sobering and this Bill, alongside improvements to the Military Covenant, demonstrates this Government’s commitment to supporting members of our Armed Forces, during and after their time of service.’

    ENDS.


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  152. Carmichael Encourages Local Schools to 'Make IT Happy'

    Isles MP Alistair Carmichael is encouraging staff and pupils at primary schools across Orkney and Shetland to enter a competition which is helping to promote the use of information technology in their local communities.

    Earlier this week MPs and e-skills UK launched the fifth annual ‘Make IT Happy’ competition, a UK-wide technology challenge for primary school students aged 9 to 11. The competition gives students a chance to work together to come up with creative technology projects which will have a positive impact on their local community.

    The competition is run by the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee (PITCOM) and e-skills UK, the Sector Skills Council for Business and Information Technology. Last year’s contest was backed by more than 80 MPs from across the UK. This year’s theme is ‘Pass IT On!’. Judges are looking for IT projects that have linked primary schools with other members of their community.

    £1,200 will be awarded to each of the regional competition finalists with the overall winning school taking home an additional cash prize of £4,000. Winners will also be invited to attend an awards ceremony to be held at the Houses of Parliament in London.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Many young people in the Northern Isles have grown up with technology, so they’re well placed to pass on their knowledge to help some of those who are not as confident in their online skills.

    ‘The competition is all about giving young people a chance to use their imagination, creativity and technology skills and show how IT can make a difference to the world around them.

    ‘Make IT Happy is an ideal opportunity for our primary schools to showcase the important work they are doing in aid of a good cause.’   

    ENDS.


    Notes to Editors:

    For further information and details of how to enter, visit the website at http://makeithappy.cc4g.net/

    About PITCOM: The Parliamentary Information Technology Committee (PITCOM) provides a forum for MPs, Peers, senior civil servants, academics and ICT professionals to exchange information and opinions. It has evening meetings in a Committee Room of the House of Commons on the policy implications of new technologies, and holds receptions and an annual dinner in the House of Lords. The Committee also provides in-depth briefing papers for Members of Parliament.

    About e-skills UK: e-skills UK is the Sector Skills Council for Business and Information Technology, rated ‘outstanding’ in the relicensing of Sector Skills Councils in 2009. We work on behalf of employers to ensure the UK has the technology skills it needs to succeed in a global digital economy. Our work covers software, internet & web, IT services, telecommunications and business change.


     


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  153. Red Diesel Decision A Commonsense Approach to Wintry Weather - Carmichael

    The decision by HMRC to allow farmers to use red diesel in their tractors to grit and clear snow during the current snowy weather conditions has been described as a ‘welcome piece of commonsense’ by Isles MP Alistair Carmichael. 

    Under the normal rules only vehicles which are specifically designed to deal with frost, ice and snow, such as snow ploughs, can work on public roads while using red diesel.

    However, due to the snowy weather, HMRC has decided to allow tractors to use red diesel on public roads when they are clearing snow or grit or providing access to schools, hospitals, remote dwellings, or communities cut off by ice and snow.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘The latest dump of snow has caused disruption in many areas of Scotland. Roads in places such as Orkney and Shetland have become increasingly hazardous with the cold weather making even short journeys challenging.

    ‘Rules around the use of red diesel usually prevent farmers from using tractors and other machinery to clear the snow from roads and assist with gritting in more remote areas. The announcement that these rules have now been suspended reflects the scale of the difficulties the weather has caused and is a welcome piece of commonsense on the part of HMRC.

    ‘I would like to see some system put in place where a decision of this sort could be made more easily and routinely in future. I shall be discussing with Treasury Ministers how this might be done.’

    ENDS.

     


     


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  154. Broadband Announcement Good News for Isles - Carmichael

    The announcement of Government plans to roll out superfast broadband to every community in the UK by the end of the current Parliament is good news for the Northern Isles, according to Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael.

    Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt today confirmed that the Government is to provide up to £830 million of investment to support the development of ‘digital hubs’ with fibre optic internet connections in more rural areas.

    After the election, the coalition Government confirmed that they would work towards universal access to broadband with speeds of at least 2Mbps by 2015. Today’s announcement goes beyond this and could see households in the Northern Isles able to access internet speeds of 24 Mbps by the end of the current Parliament.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘The internet has come to play a vital role in our local and national economy but it is clear that people living in more remote areas such as the Northern Isles continue to be hit hard by poor access, slow connection speeds and outages in service.

    ‘Today’s announcement of £830 million in funding to support the rollout of superfast broadband in more difficult to reach areas is welcome news for Orkney and Shetland and will provide our local economy with a real boost in the longer term.

    ‘I have always maintained that it is vital that people living in more remote areas are not forgotten when new technologies are being rolled out in other parts of the country. This announcement underlines the commitment of the coalition government to delivering superfast broadband for everyone, not just those living in or around urban areas.’

    ENDS.
     


     


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  155. Scotland Bill Most Significant Constitutional Change Since Devolution - Carmichael

    Speaking after presenting the Scotland Bill at Parliament on St Andrew’s Day, Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has said that plans for the transfer of additional tax powers to Holyrood are the most significant Scottish constitutional reforms since the onset of devolution.

    Mr Carmichael presented the Bill in the House of Commons this afternoon. Measures included in the new legislation will see Holyrood take on significant financial responsibilities for the first time, including the power to vary income tax by up to 10 pence in the pound.

    Mr Carmichael was involved in the setting up of the Calman Commission on devolution in Scotland in his former capacity as Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland. The bulk of the recommendations from the Commission’s final report will be implemented after the Scotland Bill enters into law.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Devolution has been good for Scotland but as the final report of the Calman Commission recognised, there is a clear need to update the settlement to ensure that Scotland is better placed to meet the challenges we now face as a country. The Bill I presented to the House of Commons this afternoon is a vital part of this process of renewal.

    ‘Politics is a two-sided equation – how you raise money and how you spend it. Until now, debate in the Scottish Parliament has necessarily concentrated for the most part on how money is spent. The powers in the Bill that I have presented today, if passed, will change that for the better and ensure that discussions at Holyrood will be more rounded and substantial in future. This can only be good for democracy and will help the Scottish people hold their elected representatives to account.

    ‘It is only appropriate that a Bill which will give the Scottish Parliament significant control over our national finances for the first time should be brought before the House of Commons on Scotland’s national day.

    ‘The Scotland Bill represents the biggest single transfer of powers since the creation of the Scottish Parliament. I hope that the SNP in particular will recognise that this package represents a good deal for Scotland and work with the majority to deliver the changes we need.’  

    ENDS.  

     


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  156. Shipping Minister's Visit Will be Important Step in Tug Discussions - Carmichael

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed news that Mike Penning MP, the UK Minister for Shipping, is to visit the Northern Isles for discussions on planned changes to the system of emergency salvage tug cover in Orkney and Shetland.

    After the announcement that public funding for the tugs would be withdrawn from September 2011, Mr Carmichael met with both Mr Penning and Philip Hammond MP, the Secretary of State for Transport, to outline local concerns over the government’s plans.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Since the initial announcement of the government’s plans I have been working closely with the Department for Transport and stressed the importance of the emergency tug to the Northern Isles during my discussions with Ministers. We must not forget that these tugs were introduced as a result of the Donaldson report into the Braer disaster.

    ‘The proposal is, of course, a product of the very difficult financial situation that the government is facing, but it is nevertheless important to consider creative solutions that will allow for the retention of this vital service. I believe that cost effective alternatives are available and will continue to press the case for the Northern Isles.’

    ENDS. 


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  157. Fisheries Minister to Visit Shetland in New Year

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael today raised local fishing concerns during a meeting with fisheries minister Richard Benyon MP. Mr Carmichael was accompanied by representatives of Shetland fisheries group SHOAL. During the meeting, Mr Benyon confirmed that he is planning to visit Shetland in the new year.

    Today’s meeting coincided with the latest round of international talks aimed at breaking the impasse over the decision of Iceland and the Faroe Islands to increase their mackerel quota. The minister made clear to the Northern Isles delegation that the UK government is committed to resolving the dispute. Other issues discussed included the cod recovery plan and the crucial end of year talks at the EU.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Fishing is a vital part of our local economy and it is important that the needs of fishermen in the Northern Isles are taken on board during the policy making process. With DEFRA now putting together their final negotiating positions ahead of the vital end of year discussions in Brussels, the meeting today will have given ministers a timely reminder of some of the issues that matter to our local fleet.

    ‘The unilateral decision of Iceland and the Faroes to increase their mackerel quota has put the long-term future of this important fish stock at risk. As the latest round of international talks began, Mr Benyon stressed that the government will continue doing everything possible to resolve this dispute and protect the interests of the Scottish industry.

    ‘I am also pleased that the Mr Benyon was able to confirm that he will be visiting the Northern Isles in the new year to meet local fishermen for himself.’

    ENDS. 
     

     


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  158. Supply Base Announcement Good News for Orkney

    The announcement that marine firm Fendercare Maritime Solutions is to build a major supply base for the energy sector on the site of the former naval base at Lyness in Hoy is good news for Orkney according to Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.
     
    It is expected that the new multi-million pound facility will open in March 2011.
     
    Earlier this year, the Crown Estate granted seabed leases to allow for the development of wave and tidal power at 11 sites in the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters. The new base will provide local operational support for energy projects.
     
    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:
     
    ‘The energy industry is already an important part of our local economy and it has always been clear that both Orkney and Shetland have the natural resources to put us at the forefront of the growing renewables sector.
     
    ‘This announcement is good news for Orkney and is testament to the hard work that council officials are putting into developing the former naval base at Lyness.
     
    ‘This project is an example of the kind of broader investment that we must seek to attract if we are to maximise the benefits of the industry to our local communities. I am delighted that Fendercare have decided to locate their new facility in Orkney.

    ‘Coming at the same time as the announcement that Highlands and Islands Enterprise plans to establish a marine energy base in Hatston it is rapidly becoming clear that marine renewables are now a part of Orkney’s economy in a way that is permanent.’
     
    ENDS. 

     

     


     


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  159. EU Commission Should Deal With Old Animal Transport Problems Before Creating New Ones - Carmichael

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has today called on the EU Commission to ensure that member states are complying with existing  laws on animal transport before considering further regulations in this area.

    Mr Carmichael was speaking after representatives of the NFUS raised the issue during a conference in Brussels earlier today. It was announced recently that a report on how the existing animal transport legislation is being enforced will be published by the Commission next year. 

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Transport plays a vital role in our agricultural sector and I know that many farmers are concerned over the impact that additional animal movement regulations could have on their businesses.

    ‘Farmers all over Scotland have bent over backwards to comply with EU rules on the movement of animals and we should be proud of the high welfare standards our industry has achieved. However, until these standards are enforced across Europe our local producers could be at a real disadvantage.

    ‘The commission needs to ensure that those who are choosing to ignore the current animal transport rules are identified and forced to make the necessary changes.  If people are able to flout the law with impunity it makes no sense to increase the burden on those who are willing to comply.’ 

    ENDS.

     


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  160. Carmichael Warns Banks Over Cheque Withdrawal Plans

    Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has today urged UK banks to ensure that plans for the withdrawal of the cheque as a method of payment do not penalise older people and other vulnerable groups in Orkney and Shetland.

    The Payments Council, representing major high street banks, announced proposals last November to phase out the cheque by 2018. However, one third of the UK’s population still use this method of payment.  Campaigners have warned that plans to remove this option would disadvantage the elderly, housebound and disabled, as well as affecting the many businesses and charities that rely on cheques to conduct their business.

    Earlier this month, Liberal Democrat MP David Ward presented a Bill at Parliament which aimed to force banks to retain the cheque until suitable alternatives are identified.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘With over four million cheques written every day, it is clear that the cheque is still a highly popular and important way to pay, particularly for older people, small businesses and charities.

    ‘Banks need to be certain that any move to withdraw the cheque does not penalise people who have no choice but to use this particular method of payment. At the very least, they need to ensure that suitable alternatives to the cheque are identified and support is made available to those who may find this change difficult.

    ‘The banks have a responsibility to provide the best range of services possible for all their customers. I believe that withdrawing the cheque from circulation while it is still used so widely as a method of payment would be difficult to justify.’

    ENDS.

     


     


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  161. Carmichael Calls on Scottish Government to Support Green Deal for Isles

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has called on the Scottish Government to sign up to the ‘Green Deal’ programme announced by Energy Secretary Chris Huhne which is aiming to boost energy efficiency and cut household fuel bills.

    Under the Green Deal, the UK Government is providing funds to cover the upfront costs of energy efficiency work in private homes. The improvements will be paid for over time using the savings the household makes on heating bills as a result of the work. The UK Government is in negotiations with Scottish Government officials to extend the Green Deal across the UK

    Scottish Government figures from a 2008 report revealed that 40% of households in Orkney were in fuel poverty. In Shetland the figure was 33%, compared to a Scottish average of 25%. 

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Fuel poverty has been a national problem for many years but our local climate makes heating costs an issue of particular concern to people in the Northern Isles.

    ‘Improving insulation or undertaking other improvements can help keep bills down but in the past, high upfront costs put many people off from improving the energy efficiency of their homes. This scheme will remove these financial pressures.

    ‘The Green Deal is a great initiative that will help reduce energy bills and create thousands of jobs. People in Orkney and Shetland should be allowed to benefit from the same kind of support available to people in other areas of the UK and I hope that the Scottish Government will support the rollout of a Green Deal across Scotland.’ 

    ENDS.


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  162. Carmichael and McArthur Press Moore on Isles Fishing Concerns

    Northern Isles parliamentarians Alistair Carmichael MP and Liam McArthur MSP have today raised the concerns of local fishermen with Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore MP.

    Mr Carmichael and Mr McArthur were joined for a meeting at the Scotland Office by Bertie Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and Ian Gatt from the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association.

    Issues discussed included the continuing negotiations between the EU, Iceland and the Faroe Islands over mackerel quotas and the Government’s position ahead of the annual end of year fishing negotiations in Brussels. 

    Commenting, Mr McArthur said:

    ‘This was a useful and timely meeting and it is clear that the Scottish industry values the relationship it now has with the Scotland Office. Mr Moore’s willingness to engage on these issues is in sharp contrast to the disinterest shown by successive Scottish Secretaries under the previous UK Labour administration.

    ‘Finding a resolution to the ongoing dispute with Iceland and the Faroes over mackerel was high on the agenda. So too was the need to undo the damage caused to the Scottish King Scallop fleet by the recent decision to exclude Scottish vessels from Isle of Man waters.

    ‘Finally, we were able to raise concerns about the prospects for the EU Fisheries Council negotiations next month. The mood within the Scottish fleet is one of despondency with the threat of further cuts to quota and effort viewed with increasing dismay. Bertie Armstrong and Ian Gatt agreed to keep the Secretary of State updated on the industry’s priorities in the run up to these important negotiations. I hope this will help ensure that the best deal possible is secured in December.’

    Mr Carmichael added:

    ‘Fishing is a vital part of the Northern Isles economy, with thousands of people dependent on the industry in one way or another to support them and their families. The ongoing deadlock between the EU, Iceland and the Faroes over mackerel quotas could be hugely damaging and Liam and I stressed the importance of an early resolution during the meeting this afternoon.

    ‘Mr Moore was receptive to our concerns and will be taking them forward with officials at DEFRA. I also know that he will continue to work closely with the Scottish Government on these issues.’

    ENDS.

     


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  163. Post Office Announcement Good News for Isles - Carmichael

    The announcement of pilot schemes to assess the feasibility of using the Post Office to deliver additional Government services is a positive step that will help secure the future of the network in Orkney and Shetland, according to Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    Business Minister Ed Davey set out plans to make the Post Office the ‘Front Office for Government’ in a statement to the House of Commons earlier this week. As part of the Government’s proposals, RBS and Natwest customers will in future be able to access their current and business accounts over the counter at their local Post Office. This change means that 80% of UK current accounts will be accessible via the Post Office network.  

    The Minister’s statement followed the recent announcement that the Government will invest £1.34 bn to secure the future of the network over the next 5 years. This additional funding will allow for the refurbishment of branches, extensions to opening hours and help reduce queues.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘In areas such as the Northern Isles, the Post Office plays an essential role in helping local people remain in touch with the rest of the country. Ministers are aware of the importance of the network and the news that we are going to look at expanding the range of Government services available over the counter can only be good news for Orkney and Shetland. 

    ‘Also welcome is the fact that RBS and Natwest customers will in future be able to access their accounts over the counter. This will make the Post Office more convenient and an even stronger retail partner for Royal Mail.

     ‘The coalition has already brought to an end to Labour’s damaging programme of Post Office closures. This week’s announcement is further good news for both the future of the network and the many people who rely on the important services provided by their local Post Office.’ 

    ENDS.


     


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  164. Carmichael Expresses Concern Over Tug Plans

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has met with the UK Shipping Minister to register his concerns over planned changes to emergency salvage tug cover in the Northern Isles.

    The Northern Isles’ emergency tug was one of four introduced as a result of recommendations made in the Donaldson report into the 1993 Braer disaster. The other emergency towing vessels are based in the Western Isles, South West England and the Dover Straits.

    Under plans announced earlier this week, the MCGA will only continue to provide emergency cover until September 2011. Mr Carmichael has told the Minister he believes that Orkney and Shetland do not have the commercial alternatives to this service that are available in other parts of the country.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘This announcement came as something of a surprise. I have already met and discussed this with the Shipping Minister, and have registered my concerns over the proposed changes. Orkney and Shetland do not have the commercial alternatives that exist in other parts of the country. The situation here is different.

    ‘There would need to be a compelling reason for the tug to be withdrawn. We should not forget that the emergency cover was introduced after the publication of the Donaldson report into the Braer disaster.

    ‘With development of the West of Shetland gas and oil fields now underway, it is vital that we maintain the highest safety standards possible. Recent events in the Gulf of Mexico underline the importance of an emergency salvage facility.’

    ENDS.

     


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  165. Carmichael Welcomes Transmission Charge Cap Review Confirmation

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has today welcomed a commitment from officials at the Department for Energy and Climate Change that the needs of the Northern Isles will be considered as Ministers examine the case for a cap on transmission charges.

    Mr Carmichael has campaigned for the introduction of a cap on charges for many years, arguing that the current regime is blocking the development of the renewable energy industry in Orkney and Shetland. 

    At present, energy generators located further from major population centres are forced to pay more for use of the UK’s electricity and gas grid. Council officials in Orkney and Shetland had expressed concern after UK Energy Minister Charles Hendry announced that he was considering introducing a cap on these charges in the Western Isles.

    Mr Carmichael wrote to the Minister earlier this month and urged him to ensure that the needs of generators in the Northern Isles were not overlooked. He has now received assurances that this will not be the case and the situation in the Northern Isles would be considered before any cap on transmission charges is introduced.    

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Many firms operating in Orkney and Shetland were keen to get clarification that the Energy Minister’s comments on the possibility of the introducing a cap on transmission charges would benefit the Northern Isles as well as the Western Isles.

    ‘The current transmission charges regime is one of the most significant blocks to the development of the renewable energy industry in Orkney and Shetland.

    ‘A cap on charges is something that I believe would make real difference and I am pleased that the Department of Energy and Climate Change has now confirmed that the case for the Northern Isles will be properly considered.’ 

    ENDS.


     


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  166. Carmichael Calls for End to Nordic Mackerel Quota Uncertainty

    CARMICHAEL CALLS FOR END TO NORDIC MACKEREL QUOTA UNCERTAINTY


    Speaking ahead of the second round of negotiations on mackerel quotas between the EU, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has called on all parties to work together to secure a workable deal that protects the fishing industry in the Northern Isles.

    Politicians and industry representatives will meet in London later today for talks. Earlier this year, Iceland and the Faroes announced that they plan to increase substantially the amount of mackerel that they allow their fleets to land.

    Mr Carmichael has argued that this would damage the long-term sustainability of the fish stock and undermine the Scottish mackerel industry.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

     ‘Mackerel fishing contributes more than £100 million pounds to the UK economy every year. With a substantial part of the UK industry based in Shetland, it is clear that the decision of Iceland and the Faroes to increase their quota unilaterally will impact disproportionately on the Northern Isles.

    ‘Urgent action is needed to secure the long term sustainability of the mackerel stock and the economic future of the industry in the North of Scotland.

    ‘All sides seemed happy with the progress that was made during discussions earlier this month. What we need to see from these latest talks is a workable deal that will end the uncertainty and protect the interests of the Scottish fleet.’

    ENDS.

     


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  167. EC Drilling Decision a 'Welcome Blast of Commonsense' - Carmichael

    The initial response of the European Commission to last week’s EU vote on a moratorium on deep sea drilling is a ‘welcome blast of commonsense’ according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    Despite the European Parliament rejecting calls for the introduction of a blanket moratorium, it had been reported that the EU Energy Commissioner would propose a total ban on deepwater oil exploration.  Instead, he announced this week that national Governments will retain control over the approval process for new installations.

    During his recent visit to Shetland, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne MP reiterated the opposition of the coalition Government to a ban on drilling in the North Sea.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘In the week that the US Government lifted their ban on new deep sea drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, an EU moratorium would have been bad news for Scotland.
     
    ‘Of course we need to take steps to protect the natural environment around rigs – as well as the people working offshore – but a blanket ban would have been excessive and put thousands of jobs at risk.

    ‘This decision from the Energy Commissioner is a welcome blast of commonsense, and will allow us to look again at the rules to see where improvements can be made without threatening the future of a sector that is vital to our local economy.’

     


     


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  168. Fuel Price Announcement Great News for the Isles - Carmichael

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has hailed as great news for the isles the announcement by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, that the UK Treasury has taken the first steps towards cutting fuel prices in island communities.

    Speaking to the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference in Dunfermline Mr Alexander announced that the UK Treasury will be asking the EU for permission to cut fuel duty in the isles by 5p per litre in recognition of the high costs of petrol and diesel in the isles.

    Mr Carmichael said, “This is an issue that I have campaigned on since I was first elected to parliament and for some years before that.   I am delighted that the coalition government has been able to take action on it in less than six months since coming to power.  That is a mark of the importance that the coalition government attaches to this issue.

    “This is not the end of the story yet as the EU still has to give its formal approval for the measure but given that this is already done in other EU countries I have always believed that should be achievable.”

    “Of course I realise that even with this measure in place we shall still be paying more for our fuel than mainland communities as the price difference is currently between ten and fifteen pence per litre.   This demonstration of commitment by the government does now put real pressure on the wholesalers and distributors to cooperate with government and retailers in bringing about further reductions in the pump price.”  

    “After years of listening to preposterous claims by Treasury ministers putting obstacles in the way of this sort of action to hear a Liberal Democrat minister speaking today with an obvious understanding was a breath of fresh air.   Orkney and Shetland kept faith with Liberals and Liberal Democrats over many years in opposition.   We are now keeping faith with them and delivering in government what we promised in opposition.”


     


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  169. Carmichael Welcomes Energy Secretary to Shetland

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael will today welcome Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne to Shetland for a 2 day visit.

    During his stay, Mr Huhne will meet representatives of the pro and anti windfarm lobbies, visit students at Brae High School and travel offshore to a Total oil platform in the North Sea.

    Mr Huhne is the second Minister from the Department of Energy and Climate Change to visit the Northern Isles in recent weeks. Last week, Energy Minister Charles Hendry toured the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘The energy debate is increasingly at the heart of UK politics and the Northern Isles is at the heart of that debate. It is only right that Ministers should come here to see for themselves what is happening.

    ‘The energy industry has been of growing importance to our local economy for a number of years. The recent growth we have seen locally in the renewables sector and the development of the West of Shetland gas and oil fields make it clear that this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.

    ‘It is vital that the problems that affect us here are on the agenda in Whitehall. There is a great deal for the Secretary of State to see and learn in Shetland. This timely visit will give us the opportunity to raise some of the big issues facing the sector locally at the highest level.

    ‘I am also pleased that Chris has been able to find time to visit Brae High School. It is not often that students have the opportunity to meet with someone leading national policy debates on issues of this importance. I have always been impressed with the interest in current affairs and politics shown by our young people and I hope they will get something out of meeting a national political figure like Chris Huhne. I know from my casework that climate change is an issue that concerns many people in the Northern Isles and I am sure that the students will make the Secretary of State welcome.’


    ENDS.


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  170. Only Right That Scottish Ministers Should be at Top Table for Mackerel Talks

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has said it is ‘only right’ that Scottish Ministers should be involved in EU discussions on the decision of Iceland and the Faroe Islands to make significant increases to their mackerel quota

    Mr Carmichael was speaking after Scottish Rural Affairs Minister Richard Lochhead represented the UK in Brussels during a meeting of the EU Agrifish Council. This was the first occasion on which a Scottish Minister has led for the UK on fisheries issues at the EU. Following the meeting, the Council condemned the two Scandinavian states for their unilateral quota increases.

    UK fishermen have expressed concern that these quota increases could undermine the sustainability of a stock that was worth £135 million to the Scottish economy in 2009.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

     ‘After the election, the Prime Minister was clear that he wanted to work closely with the devolved administrations on the issues that affect people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The fact that we had a Scottish Government Minister leading the UK team in Brussels on something this important to our economy is unprecedented, and an example of the new respect agenda at work.

    ‘Scottish fishermen will bear the brunt of the impact of these unreasonable quota hikes and it is therefore only right that Scottish Ministers should be around the table during discussions at the EU.

     ‘This is not a party political issue and should not be treated as such. Iceland and the Faroes need to be aware that their decision to massively increase their mackerel quotas on a unilateral basis will not be without consequences. The sustainability of mackerel stocks is essential to the long term future of the fishing industry in many areas of Scotland and I am pleased that the EU has taken such a robust line.

    ‘The universal opposition of the EU Fisheries Council to these quota increases will send a strong message ahead of talks next month.’

    ENDS.


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  171. Carmichael Welcomes Crown Estate U-Turn on Sale of Seabed

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed a policy U-turn by the Crown Estate commissioners that could open the way for the sale of reclaimed seabed to the Lerwick Port Authority.

    Following the intervention of Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, the Crown Estate yesterday confirmed that while they retain ‘a general disposition against the sale of the seabed’, proposals for individual sales of reclaimed land will be considered on a case by case basis. The refusal of the Crown Estate to consider the sale of the seabed in the past has meant that port authorities have been forced to pay substantial annual rents 

    Yesterdays’ announcement coincided with the visit of Mr Moore to Shetland. During his time in the Northern Isles, Mr Moore met officials from Lerwick Port Authority to discuss the difficulties they have experienced in their dealings with the Crown Estate.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘It is not right that port authorities like Lerwick should be expected to pay substantial annual rent on top of the significant investment they have made in developing the seabed for commercial use. This is money that should be retained in our local economy to support jobs and services. Since his appointment as Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore has taken an active interest in this issue.

    ‘The actions of the Crown Estate have a big impact on the economy of the Northern Isles and I am pleased that we are now finally in a position to help ensure that the commissioners work with local authorities instead of ignoring their concerns, as was too often the case in the past.

    ‘The Secretary of State for Scotland has a power to direct the Crown Estate commissioners. I hope that he will use that power, or at least the threat of it, to get across to the commissioners that they can no longer ride roughshod over the needs and wishes of island and coastal communities.

    ‘Using his power of direction should only be the start of this. Ultimately I would like to see control of the seabed removed from the Crown Estate and given to the communities who rely on it.’

    ENDS.


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  172. Carmichael Raises Shipping Concerns With Transport Minister

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael this week raised local concerns over planned changes to the rules governing ship to ship (STS) oil transfers with transport Minister Mike Penning.

    Regulations introduced under the last Government were seen by many people as unnecessarily punitive, and as increasing costs without improving environmental safeguards. It is also thought that unduly restrictive legislation would lead to ships choosing to make transfers outside of the 12 mile limit. After the election, the coalition announced that the implementation of the new rules would be delayed to allow for further consultation. 

    During the meeting yesterday, Mr Carmichael reiterated his commitment to marine conservation and stressed the growing importance of the shipping industry to Orkney and Shetland.  The Minister was receptive to the concerns raised and praised the work that has already been done in the Northern Isles to reduce the likelihood of accidental pollution at sea. 

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Events from the Braer disaster to the recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico underline the need for an effective and transparent system of regulation to protect our oceans. The potential for spillage during STS transfers is significant, with oil products being pumped at high pressure, and it is only right that the Government should take appropriate action to reduce the likelihood of accidental pollution from these activities.

    ‘However, it is important that any new legislation is balanced and proportionate. If regulations are overly harsh then ship owners may decide to avoid them simply by carrying out the procedure outside the 12 mile limit, making it more difficult to control operations and to scrutinise the actions of ships effectively. This would increase the risk of environmental damage and also take money out of our local economy. Our ports have a strong green record and it would be wrong to penalise them for the actions of others elsewhere in the country. 

    ‘During our meeting the Minister took on board the points I made and was clear in his view that new legislation – in whatever form it comes – will take account of both the environmental and economic interests of the Northern Isles.’

    ENDS.


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  173. Carmichael Urges Local Schools to Go Green

    Isles MP Alistair Carmichael is urging schools in Orkney and Shetland to show off their green credentials and enter a competition that could see them win solar panels worth up to £20,000.

    All schools in the UK are eligible to put themselves forward to British Gas’ £15 million solar panel giveaway. Schools will need to demonstrate they are amongst the most sustainable in the country before winning the panels, which could cut as much as 20% off a school’s annual electricity bill.

    Up to 750 schools will receive free solar panels, with around half of the prizes going to schools in low income areas. In addition to the solar panels, schools will also receive a free energy display meter.

    The competition is a part of British Gas’s Generation Green programme which rewards schools for green actions. Pupils earn “Green Leaves” for sustainable behaviour – supported through an online teaching hub - which can be redeemed against green prizes. Any winning “Solar Schools” will receive tailored lesson plans from the Generation Green online hub, allowing them to make the most of their new solar panels.

    Schools can join the competition by filling in the application form on http://www.generationgreen.co.uk/solarpanels/. The deadline for applications is 22 October, and winners will be announced in November.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘This contest is a great chance for our local schools to show off their green credentials, cut carbon and get young people involved in the fight against climate change. Schools which win the British Gas competition will be able to generate their own green power, which could help them save as much as 20% on their annual electricity bill.

    ‘I am urging all those who think that a school in their community would benefit from free solar panels to consider making a nomination.’

    ENDS.  


     


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  174. Carmichael Encourages Isles Veterans to Access 'Heroes Return' Fund

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael is encouraging Second World War veterans in the Northern Isles to make use of the BIG Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return programme before it closes at the end of the year.

    The fund was set up in 2009 ahead of the 65th Anniversary of VJ Day and offers grants ranging from £150 to £5,500 (depending on the numbers involved and the destination) to help veterans and the widows of veterans, along with a spouse or carer, to return to the places where they saw active service in the war.  So far, more than 10,000 people have been awarded £7 million to return to places including Italy, France, Greece, Holland, Germany, the USA, the Far East, Australia and locations within the UK.

    To receive funding through Heroes Return, trips must be taken by the end of December this year.  Those who have already taken trips during the period without being aware of the programme can also apply retrospectively for funding so long as they do so before 31st January 2011.

    Mr Carmichael has written to local veterans groups with details of how to apply for support, and is encouraging people who require additional information to contact his office. 

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘The population of the Northern Isles expanded enormously during the war years, and we often welcome visitors from abroad who were based here at that time. I know that many of our own veterans would relish the chance to make a similar trip and revisit the scene of their own service. 

    ‘Travelling long distances can be a challenge for some older people, particularly those who require additional support. By helping to cover transport and other costs the Heroes Return programme has allowed thousands of veterans and their families to make journeys that would not otherwise have been possible. I would encourage all those people in the Northern Isles who think they might be eligible to consider taking advantage of this scheme before the end of the year.

    ‘Should people require further information or assistance in making an application I would of course be happy to do what I can to help.’

    ENDS.

    Notes to editors:

    Further details of the scheme are available online at http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/prog_heroes_return.
    Or by telephoning 0845 0000 121


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  175. Carmichael Slams Iceland and Faroes Over Mackerel Quotas

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has today slammed Iceland and the Faroe Islands over their unilateral decision to increase mackerel landings, warning that this move could cause significant damage to the fishing industry in the Northern Isles. 

    Mr Carmichael was commenting as discussions on quota levels and the future of North Atlantic fisheries continued at a conference in the Faroes.
     
    Scottish pelagic skippers have already staged two successful blockades of Nordic mackerel landings at Peterhead. These actions followed the decision of the Faroe Islands and Iceland to increase their mackerel quotas for this year to 85,000 and 130,000 tonnes respectively.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘The decision of Iceland and the Faroe Islands to increase mackerel quotas so substantially can only have a detrimental impact on a stock that has been nurtured and developed carefully over many years. Fishermen in the Northern Isles now find themselves trapped between the CFP on one side and the greed and self-interest of the Nordic fleets on the other

    ‘I have discussed this issue with Richard Benyon, the UK fisheries Minister, on a number of occasions and I know that he shares my concerns. I have stressed how important it is that this situation is resolved urgently and will continue to work closely with officials at DEFRA.’ 

     

     

     


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  176. Software Donation Scheme Great Opportunity for Isles Charities - Carnichael

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael is encouraging people in Orkney and Shetland to recommend charities who they feel would benefit from Microsoft’s software donation programme.

    In an effort to strengthen and support the UK voluntary sector, Microsoft invests in several programmes designed to help voluntary and community organisations make the best use of their technology.

    A range of support is available including free upgrades for two years and access to e-learning resources.  Since the launch of this programme in 2006, Microsoft has supported over 4400 UK charities, donating software with a retail value of more than £30 million.

    Mr Carmichael commented:

    ‘Computers and software are an important part of the work of many charities in the Northern Isles, but I know that these technologies do not often come cheap. This scheme is a great opportunity for groups to receive free software and access resources that otherwise may have been too expensive. 

    ‘Five voluntary and community organisations in Orkney and Shetland have already received a donation and many more could benefit, as Microsoft do not limit the number of awards they hand out.

    ‘I would encourage all those who know of a charity who could benefit from this scheme to consider making a nomination.’ 

    People or groups interested in this scheme can visit www.ctxchange.org  or contact Mr Carmichael’s office for further information.

     

     


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  177. Carmichael Invites Young People to Take Part in 'Adopt an MP' Campaign

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael is inviting young people in the Northern Isles to participate in a new programme which is aiming to boost interest in politics and environmental issues. 

    The ‘Adopt an MP’ campaign is aiming to get at least one young person in every constituency in the UK to adopt their local MP and push climate change up the agenda.

    Every month the campaign sends their participants an action to be completed over a few weeks with enough time to write about it online. The UK Youth Climate Coalition, who have organized the campaign, hope their website will become a resource for local and national climate action.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Across the country young people are adopting their MPs to hold them accountable on environmental issues ranging from investment in green jobs to insulating local public buildings.

     ‘Whilst I fully support the campaign, and there are already over 375 young people who have adopted their MPs, unfortunately I’ve not been adopted yet! I would be happy to hear from young people in the Northern Isles who would like to join the campaign, so that we can talk about some of the issues that matter to them.’

    Jake Leeper, Adopt an MP campaign manager, added:

    ‘We can’t keep carrying on as we are, with a reliance on fossil fuels and where we are living in an environment that won’t provide us with a safe future.  I would encourage everyone to adopt their MP and hold them accountable to secure the green jobs and low-carbon services that we all deserve.’

    Further information on the Adopt an MP campaign is available online at www.adoptanmp.org.

     


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  178. Feed in Tariff Ruling Good News for Renewables in Northern Isles - Carmichael

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has hailed as good news the announcement that many people in Orkney and Shetland who had received grants towards the construction of renewable energy facilities will still be allowed to benefit from Feed in Tariffs (FITs).

    Under the FIT scheme, people generating their own electricity from renewable sources can export surplus power to the grid at favourable rates. A substantial number of local people and businesses have taken advantage of grants from Scottish Rural Development Programme and other sources without it being made clear that this could lead to them being paid less for the electricity they generate.

    Officials at the Department for Energy and Climate Change have now confirmed that projects receiving less than €200,000 of financial support over a three year period will be eligible for FITs.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘This clarification has been some time in coming but it will be welcome news for the many people in the Northern Isles who were unsure whether they would be allowed to benefit from Feed in Tariffs.

    ‘Government should be encouraging people in Orkney and Shetland and elsewhere to make the greatest possible use of our natural resources. Given the high start-up costs associated with some renewable projects it would have been unfair if those who had applied for funding from the SRDP and other sources should have been excluded from the FIT scheme. We have always spoken about getting the widest possible range of people involved in renewable energy. This was one of the most obvious ways of encouraging this.

    ‘I am keenly aware that early adopters – those who invested in renewable energy before July 2009 – are still waiting for news on whether they too will be able to access preferential tariff rates. I will continue to make the case for the extension of the scheme with Ministers in London.’

    ENDS.

    Notes to Editors:

    Further detail on state aid and eligibility for FITs is available online at

    http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/what_we_do/uk_supply/energy_mix/renewable/feedin_tariff/fits_grant/fits_grant.aspx.

     


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  179. Case for Islands Fuel Derogation 'Compelling' - Carmichael

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has reiterated the commitment of the Coalition Government to cutting fuel prices in rural areas after Treasury Minister Danny Alexander announced that he expected that pilot schemes to help reduce costs will be brought forward within months.

    Speaking during a media interview he expressed the view that the case for action was very strong in island communities, and other areas where prices are already high and public transport options limited.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘In more areas like the Northern Isles where private transport is a necessity, not a luxury, fuel is a significant outgoing and high prices make it that bit more difficult for many families to make ends meet. 

    ‘The commitment of the coalition Government to providing drivers in rural areas with relief from high fuel prices is clear. This is an issue that Labour ducked for years – the fact that senior Ministers now expect progress within months is welcome news indeed. 

    ‘While I would not seek to pre-empt any announcement from the Treasury, as Danny suggested in his interview yesterday there is a compelling case for island communities to be allowed to benefit from the fuel duty derogation pilot schemes.’ 

     


     


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  180. Companies Must Come Clean on Broadband Speeds - Carmichael

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael is backing calls for a review of the way in which broadband services are advertised after a new report from Ofcom revealed that up to 97% of internet users in some areas do not receive the services they are being sold.

    Ofcom’s investigation found that across the UK as a whole, the gap between the claims made for broadband and the speeds that are being delivered is growing.

    Statistics also showed that the average broadband speed available in many rural areas declined as a result of more people signing up for internet services.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘The fact that average broadband speeds in rural areas actually declined over the last year shows just how much work there is to do to if we are to close the digital divide between urban and more rural areas.

    ‘Many people in Orkney and Shetland find it impossible to access the internet at all when at home – those that can should not have to deal with exaggerated claims from suppliers. This report makes clear that in many cases, the services that people are actually able to receive bear little resemblance to the packages which they signed up for.

    ‘Providers need to stop treating their customers with such disdain come clean on the internet speeds they are able to deliver.’

     


     


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  181. Equitable Life Bill Important Step Towards Justice - Carmichael

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has described the introduction of a Parliamentary Bill on Equitable Life as an important step towards justice for people in the Northern Isles who lost out when the company collapsed.


    Speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon, Treasury Minister Mark Hoban confirmed that he expected that policy holders would begin to receive payments for losses incurred as a result of Governmental maladministration in 2011.


    The introduction of a fair, transparent and independent compensation scheme for Equitable Life policy holders was a key Liberal Democrat pledge before the election. A commitment to bringing forward a Bill on this issue in this legislative session was included in the Queen’s speech. 


    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:


    ‘With today’s announcement the coalition Government has done more for Equitable Life victims in 10 weeks than Labour did in 10 years. We are committed to ensuring that those who saw their pensions and life savings hit hard get the compensation they deserve.


    ‘In his statement the Minister made clear that the implementation of recommendations from the Ombudsman’s report on Equitable life is a priority for the Treasury and they will work closely with victims groups to ensure that people are happy with the design of the final compensation scheme.’


     


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  182. £46 bn Bank Lending Squeeze Offers Clear Indication of Challenge Facing Small Businesses - Carmichael

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has raised local concerns over access to finance for small businesses with Business Secretary Vince Cable after new figures revealed that UK banks withdrew £46 bn in lending to companies over the last year.

    The Treasury will this week launch a consultation on business finance that will assess a range of measures designed to fund smaller firms. The options to be considered include new lending targets for the nationalised banks.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said: 

    ‘Small and medium-sized firms are the backbone of our local economy but it is clear that since the economic downturn began, local companies have been finding it more and more difficult to secure finance on reasonable terms. This squeeze on business has put more jobs at risk and undermined the fragile economic recovery.

    ‘These latest figures underline the scale of the challenge facing both businesses and politicians as we work to cut the deficit and get the economy back on track.

    ‘It is the private sector that will drive the economic recovery and it is vital that we do everything we can to create a climate in which businesses are able to prosper. This is why the recent emergency budget included reductions in business tax rates for small firms and increased the threshold for national insurance contributions, making it easier for companies to take people on and create the jobs that are needed so desperately.

    ‘I have let Vince Cable know just how difficult some companies in the Northern Isles are finding it to make ends meet. He shares my commitment to ensuring that local small businesses are able to access the support they need. Clearly there is more work that needs to be done on this but the new consultation on business finance is a step in the right direction.’  
     


     

     


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  183. Officials Must Be Flexible in Application of Sheep Tagging Rules - Carmichael

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has called on EU officials to allow for flexibility in livestock tagging rules after it emerged that delays in sourcing electronic tags could hit autumn sales in Shetland.

    It has been reported that some suppliers are warning farmers and crofters that they may have to wait for up to 7 weeks to receive their tags. Under controversial EU rules introduced at the beginning of 2010, all sheep born since January must be fitted with an electronic identity tag (EID).

    It is also feared that this delay could create problems for farmers wanting to participate in agricultural shows.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Many of us who opposed the move to electronic sheep tagging did so because we believed the system that had been proposed was unworkable. It now begins to look like we were right.

    ‘This is exactly the kind of situation that demonstrates why we need to see flexibility within the system until a review of the way these rules have been implemented and enforced is complete.

    ‘Local farmers have done everything they possibly could have done to comply with the new rules. They must not be penalised as a result of a problem they had no hand in creating.’


     


     


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  184. Carmichael Concerned Over New Isles Child Maintenance Figures

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has expressed concern after new figures revealed that absent parents in Orkney and Shetland owe their former partners and children almost £2.2 million in unpaid child maintenance.

    The statistics also showed that nationally, £3,761 million was owed in child maintenance arrears as of March 2010.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Ultimately, responsibility for paying child maintenance lies with non-resident parents but it is clear that in many cases the way the system is administered at present is making it difficult for families in the Northern Isles. I know from my surgeries that failure to collect this money can cause enormous hardship and frustration for many families.

    ‘Although every individual case is different, overall these figures make for grim reading.  The simple fact is that children in Orkney and Shetland alone are missing out on almost £2.2 million that they are entitled to – money that should be going towards housing, clothing and other essentials.

    ‘It is important that families receive the money they are owed when they need it. This should not be too much to ask.’


     


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  185. Crown Estate Reform Plans Must Benefit Island Communities - Carmichael

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has today urged the Crown Estate Commissioners to ensure that island and coastal communities can benefit from any changes to the way they manage their marine portfolio benefit.

    Mr Carmichael was speaking after the Chief Executive of the Crown Estate revealed that discussions with Treasury officials on the possible amendment of the legislation governing the body are underway. 

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Too often in the past, the Crown Estate’s actions have reflected the priorities of officials in London rather than the needs of those at the receiving end of these decisions.

    ‘Reforms to the current rules governing the administration of the Crown Estate must not be just to the advantage of the Commissioners. Coastal and island communities should be given the opportunity to participate in the talks that are now underway and register their views before any changes are introduced.

    ‘In areas such as Orkney and Shetland the way that the Crown Estate define and manage the seabed has a large impact on businesses and the local economy. Steps need to be taken to ensure that more of the income generated from the estate’s marine holdings is reinvested in island communities and not diverted into other areas.’

     


     


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  186. Euro Farming Report Important Step in Reform Process - Carmichael

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael today welcomed the approval of a report on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) at the European Parliament, describing it as an important step towards the reform of EU farming legislation.

    The report was drafted by Scottish Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon, a former President of the NFUS. His work will inform the position of the European Parliament on reforms to the CAP during discussions with the EU Commission and agriculture Ministers. This is the first time that MEPs have been given a formal role in the agricultural reform process.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘The challenges facing the Scottish agricultural sector are significant and it is vital that the views and needs of our local farmers are taken into account by officials in Brussels during discussions on the future of the CAP.

    ‘As the former President of the NFUS, George has a real understanding of the needs of the industry and I know that he spoke to hundreds of producers around the country before completing his report. It can only be positive for Scottish farmers to have such a knowledgeable and well informed voice putting their case in Brussels.

    ‘The forthcoming round of agricultural reforms must not only address existing problems, but also ensure that we are able to meet the challenges of the future. This report and today’s vote are important steps towards improving the current system and securing the future of the sector in Scotland.’

     

     

     


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  187. Lessons Must be Learnt From Tagging Rules Debacle - Carmichael

    Commenting after learning that the head of the EU health and consumer commission John Dalli is to visit Scotland to discuss the problems caused by controversial rules which force farmers to electronically tag (EID) their sheep, Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said:

    ‘I have always maintained that the new EID rules placed an unnecessary financial burden on our sheep farmers without delivering the improvement in traceability that was required.

    ‘Bureaucrats in Brussels disregarded the concerns of local farmers before the law was changed. I am pleased that the Mr Dalli will now have the opportunity to see the problems that these regulations have caused in Scotland for himself.

    ‘It should be remembered that we have found ourselves in this position because Ministers in Edinburgh and Brussels took their eye off the ball and by the time they woke up to the implications of what was happening it was too late.

    ‘I would hope that lessons about proper engagement with the EU commission will be learnt as a result of this, and that if we can repair the damage caused by this ill-considered scheme then DEFRA and Scottish Government Ministers will be more careful in future.’ 

     

     


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  188. Review of Mistreatment Claims Demonstrates New Commitment to Human Rights - Carmichael

    The announcement today of the terms of an inquiry into the alleged complicity of British intelligence in the mistreatment of prisoners underlines the commitment of the coalition Government to human rights, according to Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.   
     

    The Liberal Democrats first called for a public inquiry on this issue in 2009, after it emerged that the Police had been asked to investigate whether MI5 and MI6 had been involved indirectly in acts of torture. Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed last month that the Government would order an independent review of these allegations. 
     

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:
     

    ‘Today’s announcement is an important step and long overdue. My colleagues and I pressed the last Government for a judicial review of these shocking allegations for months but Ministers simply refused to listen.    
     

    ‘This is an issue that Labour tried repeatedly to brush under the carpet and I am pleased that we are finally in a position where the facts behind suggestions of UK complicity in the mistreatment of detainees can be established.
     

    ‘Involvement in torture goes against our values as a country and our responsibilities as a member of the international community. This inquiry underlines the commitment of the coalition to restoring human rights and civil liberties at the heart of Government in the UK.’
     

     

     


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  189. Carmichael Calls on Orkney and Shetland to Share Switchover Experiences

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael is calling on people in the Northern Isles to come forward and share their experiences of the digital switchover process.

    The switchover was completed in the Northern Isles recently, with all now transmitters broadcasting a digital signal. Mr Carmichael worked closely with officials at Digital UK throughout the switchover period.

    Mr Carmichael worked with officials at Digital UK throughout the switchover period.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Digital UK worked hard with local groups during the switchover process to ensure that people in Orkney and Shetland were able to access the advice and support they needed. I think they deserve credit for that.

    ‘Overall the switchover process seems to have been relatively problem-free in the Northern Isles. However, I am encouraging all of those that experienced difficulties to come forward and share their experiences. It is important that any problems are recognised and lessons learnt.

    ‘Although Digital UK have now withdrawn from Orkney and Shetland, I would emphasize that help is still available for anyone having problems. I remain in close contact with officials and will continue to work to ensure that any remaining issues are addressed as a matter of urgency.’

     

     


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  190. Equitable Life Compensation Scheme a 'Massive Relief' For Those Who Lost Savings - Carmichael

    Government plans to compensate policy holders who lost their savings as a result of the collapse of Equitable Life will come as a massive relief to those affected by the failure of the company, according to Isles MP Alistair Carmichael. 


    In 2008, the Parliamentary Ombudsman published a report into the failure of Equitable Life which identified ‘serial regulatory failures’ which constituted maladministration on the part of the Government.


    Mr Carmichael had pursued this issue over many years with Labour Ministers and was a vocal critic of their failure to compensate those who had been affected.


    The recent Queen’s speech included a commitment from the coalition Government to make fair and transparent compensation payments to Equitable Life policy holders.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Labour’s failure to accept responsibility for their role in the collapse of Equitable Life was shameful. I am pleased that now, finally, there is the prospect of those people in Orkney and Shetland who were affected receiving compensation for their losses.

    ‘I know that this announcement will come as a massive relief to those people whose pension funds were wiped out when the company went under. My only regret is that this has come too late for the thousands of older people across the country who died before they saw justice done.
     
    ‘After a decade of denial and obstruction on the part of the last Government, the willingness of the coalition to deal with issues such as Equitable Life while taking the actions needed to get the economy back on track is refreshing.’

     

     


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  191. Holiday Let Tax Repeal Will Boost Isles Tourist Industry - Carmichael

    The abandonment of Labour tax plans that would have hit the tourism industry in Orkney and Shetland will come as a welcome boost to local self-catering accommodation operators according to Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

    In the budget yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the scrapping of an increase in the tax payable on furnished holiday lettings (FHLs) first suggested in 2009. Industry experts had warned that the tax hike could have led to more than 4,500 job losses across the UK.

    Before the general election, Mr Carmichael surveyed people in the Northern Isles who would have been affected by the tax increase. Responses revealed that significantly more than half of those self-catering accommodation businesses who employ staff were planning to reconsider their position in light of the additional costs.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘At the end of the last Parliament, I worked with colleagues to ensure that Labour could not force through this tax increase before the general election. In areas such as the Northern Isles where tourism is an important part of the local economy, it is clear that Labour’s planned tax hike would have hit hard and put additional pressure on jobs.

    ‘Almost 75% of those who responded to my survey on this issue before the election thought that the tax rise would have a significant and negative impact on their business. The decision to scrap the FHL tax rules will provide the tourism industry in the Northern Isles with a real lift.

    ‘The fact that the coalition Government has kept Labour’s tax increase off the agenda despite the difficult economic circumstance underlines our commitment to boosting growth. This budget was always going to be challenging but despite the difficult circumstances it was important that we took the actions required to get the economy back on its feet.

    ‘It is the private sector that will play the key role in securing the economic recovery and the measures announced yesterday will make it easier for businesses to create the jobs the UK needs.’

     


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  192. Commitment of Coalition to Fuel Review a Positive Change - Carmichael

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael today welcomed the pledge of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to come forward with proposals to address the high cost of fuel in the Northern Isles. 

     During the budget statement this afternoon, the Chancellor reiterated the commitment of the coalition Government to reducing the fuel burden on people living in more remote rural areas. 

    Commenting after the budget statement, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘The willingness of the coalition to take this issue seriously is welcome. I shall be working with Liberal Democrat colleagues to assist Treasury officials in preparation of the case. While the last Government refused even to recognise that this was an issue, the new Government understands the problems caused by high fuel costs and are looking at how these can be best addressed. 

    ‘Overall this budget has been a very difficult one. We have known for months that the country’s finances were in a dreadful mess. It was only after we had gone into to Government that we learnt just how bad things were. The Labour party in their last weeks had entered into commitments left right and centre and there was no money to pay for them. There are difficult and painful measures for everyone. I do not pretend otherwise.

    ‘As the Chancellor told the house, however, the overall package is such that those who have most, pay most, and those who have least, pay least. In that regard, I am particularly pleased with the decision to link the state pension to average earnings and to raise the income tax threshold to £7400. I know that there will be further increases to come in later budgets and these will help those who are on the lowest incomes.

     ‘This is a budget not just for one year, but which sets the course for the whole Parliament. By the end of it, our economy should be fit face its challenges and borrowing will again be at a manageable level. Many of the announcements today are difficult but they are necessary. We made these decisions because we simply had to.’   


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  193. Search and Rescue Services Remain a Priority - Carmichael

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael today confirmed that protecting search and rescue helicopter services remain a priority for the coalition Government after the announcement of the suspension of a 25 year privatisation deal yesterday.

    Danny Alexander MP, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, announced the suspension of a £7 bn plan for the privatisation of the UK’s search and rescue helicopter service as part of measures to reduce the deficit.

    The Ministers also announced an urgent review into the future of search and rescue services across the UK.

    Commenting Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘It must be remembered that the contract entered into by the Labour Government was suspect, and at one stage left people in the Northern Isles without essential back up search and rescue cover.

    ‘In light of this, it is only right that the proposals put forward before the election should be examined carefully before a decision is taken on the best way to proceed.

    ‘Public safety will always be the first priority but it is far from clear that the proposals put forward by the last Government offered either adequate helicopter provision or value for money.

    ‘The search and rescue teams working in the Northern Isles do a fantastic job in the most challenging of circumstances. It is imperative that they are offered all the support they need and the review that is now underway will help determine how we can improve services across the UK.’ 


     


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  194. Search and Rescue Services Remain a Priority - Carmichael

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael today confirmed that protecting search and rescue helicopter services remain a priority for the coalition Government after the announcement of the suspension of a 25 year privatisation deal yesterday.

    Danny Alexander MP, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, announced the suspension of a £7 bn plan for the privatisation of the UK’s search and rescue helicopter service as part of measures to reduce the deficit.

    The Ministers also announced an urgent review into the future of search and rescue services across the UK.

    Commenting Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘It must be remembered that the contract entered into by the Labour Government was suspect, and at one stage left people in the Northern Isles without essential back up search and rescue cover.

    ‘In light of this, it is only right that the proposals put forward before the election should be examined carefully before a decision is taken on the best way to proceed.

    ‘Public safety will always be the first priority but it is far from clear that the proposals put forward by the last Government offered either adequate helicopter provision or value for money.

    ‘The search and rescue teams working in the Northern Isles do a fantastic job in the most challenging of circumstances. It is imperative that they are offered all the support they need and the review that is now underway will help determine how we can improve services across the UK.’ 

    ENDS.


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  195. Visit of Scottish Secretary to Holyrood a Positive Step - Carmichael

    Today’s visit of the Scottish Secretary to Holyrood is a positive step that is long overdue, according to Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael.

    Michael Moore MP will meet with MSPs this afternoon to discuss some of the challenges facing families and businesses in Scotland.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Under Labour, Ministers at Holyrood were often seen as a problem, not part of the solution. This was clearly wrong.

    ‘Decisions taken in London have a significant impact on Scotland and it is only right that MSPs be treated with the respect and courtesy they deserve.

    ‘Under the respect agenda already we have seen a new and more inclusive approach on issues such as representation for Scotland during EU discussions on fisheries. The fact that the Scottish Secretary is to address MSPs at Holyrood for the first time is another positive step that is long overdue.

    ‘This move illustrates the commitment of the coalition to working closely with our partners in the devolved administrations as we begin to clear up the mess left behind by the last Government.’

     


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  196. Carmichael Pushes for Greater Recognition for Isles Carers

    Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael is calling for the contribution of the many carers in Orkney and Shetland to be recognised by the local community and society at large after learning that more than three-quarters of people looking after an ill, frail or disabled loved one do not have a life outside of their caring role.

    The statistics, part of new research issued to launch Carers Week (14-20 June), also highlights that 75% of carers say they have lost touch with family and friends, while 4 out of 5 are worse off financially because of their caring role.

    Mr Carmichael is a longstanding supporter of carers’ rights and in the past has backed a number of Parliamentary motions which called on the Government to boost access to health and support services. This year he is supporting Carers Week’s ‘A life of my own’ campaign, which calls for carers to receive greater recognition for their work.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Some of the things that we take for granted are luxuries for the many people in Orkney and Shetland that give their time selflessly to look after somebody close to them. Carers deserve to be recognised for the priceless contribution they make to their loved ones, to our local community and to society at large.

    ‘I am supporting Carers Week and want to express my respect and gratitude to all our carers. I want to ensure that those who feel isolated or lonely because of caring, learn about the services and support out there to help them.’

    Many celebrity carers have also lent their support and voice to Carers Week, including renowned actor of stage and screen, Sir David Jason, who has personal experience of being a carer.  He said:

    ‘A lot of people, including myself, have had to look after someone at a time of illness or infirmity.  However, the people who really deserve our support and encouragement are those carers, young and old, who are in this situation day in day out, caring for someone who truly depends on them. With little respite, this must surely be a very demanding lifestyle and I acknowledge the sacrifices they make and the limitations which are placed upon them. Thank goodness they care.’

    For more information about local events and activities taking place as part of Carers Week, visit www.carersweek.org or call 0845 241 2582.


     


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  197. View from the House - Gulf of Mexico Disaster Brings Back Memories of the Braer

    The pictures coming from the Gulf of Mexico showing the aftermath of the BP rig Deep Horizon oil spill have not been off our television screens for long over the last few weeks and I am sure that for many local people it will have brought back memories of the grounding of  The Braer.

     I am no expert but I do feel some sympathy for the engineers and technicians who have been trying to come up with some inventive and creative solutions to an enormous and devastating problem.   I have less sympathy for the company’s Chief Executive and his wish to “get his life back”.   As the surviving relative of one of those who died on the rig told Congress, his voice cracking with emotion, he wished he could have his brother back.

    When I was first elected in 2001 there were still some outstanding compensation cases from the Braer and in particular those whose asbestos roofs had been damaged were coming to terms with the loss of their claim in the Court of Session.  It still rankles with me as an outstanding injustice.   They were victims of a system where a compensation fund financed by the oil industry had reached its limit so no more claims could be paid voluntarily.   It was and remains a deficient system in my view.   Once you put a price on safety or the environment then someone somewhere will calculate that that is a price worth paying. 

    I remember the then shipping minister telling me during a visit to Shetland that the value of the compensation fund having been raised it was unthinkable that it would be fully used in the future in the way that it was for the Braer claim.   A few months later another oil tanker went down and that new limit was exceeded again.   I suspect that if the oil pollution compensation fund is involved in the Gulf of Mexico disaster then it again will be exceeded.  It is undoubtedly the case that when it comes to oil spills, prevention is better than cure.

    Meanwhile closer to home I had a great morning last week with the pupils of Cullivoe Primary hearing about their school election which ran parallel with the recent general election.  Most schools do exercises of this sort but the Cullivoe Primary one had seen the pupils go the whole nine yards with not just campaigns for each of the parties but a polling station with polling cards the works.   Their television debate was just awesome!  

    I eventually left the school with one of their election posters bearing the slogan “A vote for Nick Clegg is a vote for a smile” and a feeling of optimism for the future of politics.   The engagement of young people in the recent election campaign was one of the most positive things I have have experienced for some years.   If the pupils of Cullivoe Primary are anything to go by then there should be more of the same to come.


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  198. Carmichael - Motorcycle Testing Review a Welcome Blast of Commonsense

    The announcement of a review of the motorcycle test and test centres in the UK is a welcome blast of commonsense according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.


    A number of test centres across the Highlands and Islands were closed after the introduction of a new two-stage motorcycle test in April 2009. Motorcyclists had complained that this meant learner riders were forced to travel long distances to take their tests.


    Transport Minister Mike Penning announced the review of motorcycle testing and training earlier this week.


    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:


    ‘The decision to close test centres across the Highlands and Islands had a significant knock on effect on driving schools in many areas, costing jobs and making it more difficult for people in the Isles to take their motorcycle tests – ironic for a measure that was supposed to improve road safety. It is something that caused a lot of difficulties for local driving instructors.


    ‘This review is a welcome blast of commonsense and will come as a relief to the many learner riders forced at present to travel long distances in order to take their tests.


    ‘I would encourage any of my constituents who were affected by the new rules to consider making a submission to the Department for Transport before the consultation period closes at the end of July.’


    People wishing to contact Ministers on this matter can email their views to RUSD4consultation@dft.gsi.gov.uk. The consultation period will conclude on 31 July.


     


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  199. Broadband Announcement is Good News for Northern Isles - Carmichael

    Commenting today, Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said that new measures to boost access to high speed broadband in rural areas are good news for Orkney and Shetland.

    The measures announced by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP aim to bring super-fast broadband to rural areas to prevent a new digital divide between urban and rural communities. As part of the these plans, the Government will open up existing infrastructure to reduce the costs of laying new fibre to stimulate investment in next generation networks.

    The money needed to support the roll-out of superfast broadband will come from the cancellation the Independently Funded News Consortia (IFNC) pilot projects for regional TV. However, the Government has also commissioned a review of local TV services to report in the autumn.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Access to digital services is a critical issue for many people in the Northern Isles. Improving broadband services is crucial for jobs and services in areas like Orkney and Shetland.

    ‘This announcement is good news for the Northern Isles and highlights the coalition Government’s commitment to ensuring that people all over the country are able to benefit from the spread of digital technology, not just those living in urban areas.’ 

     

    Further information on yesterday’s announcement by the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP, can be found at http://www.culture.gov.uk/news/news_stories/7134.aspx

     

     


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  200. Carmichael Secures Pledge of Visit from Energy Secretary

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has secured a pledge to visit the Northern Isles from Chris Huhne MP, the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

    Mr Carmichael and Mr Huhne met this morning to discuss a range of issues relating to the energy industry in the Northern Isles. Items on the agenda included grid strengthening and transmission charges.

    During the meeting, Mr Huhne recognised the importance of the energy sector to Orkney and Shetland and stressed his desire to work closely with Mr Carmichael going forward.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    'Though Chris has been a friend and colleague of mine for many years, this was our first official meeting since he took up his new role.

    ‘His willingness to listen to the concerns I raised was a refreshing change from the attitude of the last Government to the needs of people in Orkney and Shetland. It was clear that he shares my commitment to supporting the energy industry in the Northern Isles.

    ‘I will continue to work closely with Chris and his department and look forward to welcoming him to the Northern Isles in the near future.

    ‘With the coalition Government committed to boosting renewable power and development of the west of Shetland gas fields now underway, the changes we are seeing in the UK energy industry are a fantastic opportunity for Orkney and Shetland. The Northern Isles will be at the heart of this vital sector for many years to come.’


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  201. View from Westminster - State Opening of Parliament

    The State Opening of Parliament is always one of the ceremonial extravaganzas of the parliamentary year and this year’s was no exception.   What I had not appreciated, however, was that my recent appointment as government deputy chief whip would give me a role in it.

    For reasons that may have made sense at some stage in history government whips are also given titles in the royal household.   I am, therefore, not just Liberal Democrat Chief Whip and Government Deputy Chief Whip but also Comptroller of Her Majesty’s Household.   It was a detail the full significance of which I had not fully appreciated when I took the telephone calls from Nick Clegg and David Cameron asking me to do the job.

    Last Thursday, however, the reality of it started to dawn when, after a quick trip to Moss Bros for a morning suit,  I had to make my way to Buckingham Palace to be presented with my wand of office by the Queen.  The wand of office looks much like a snooker cue except it does not thicken at one end.   Its original function I could only guess but it is now to be with me when carrying out my duties as a member of the royal household.

    These duties apparently are to include assisting the Queen at garden parties (apparently not, as I had originally feared, to make the sandwiches) and on Tuesday involved being part of the procession at the State Opening.  So bright and early on Tuesday morning again in morning suit (this time with a top hat for good measure) along with two colleagues from the government whips office I made my way to Buckingham Palace.  

    Tradition demands that a hostage from the palace of Westminster should be held at Buckingham Palace while the Queen is in Parliament.   This is a very genteel form of hostage taking and involves the “hostage” drinking a cup of coffee with another senior member of the Royal Household while watching the ceremonial on television.   The hostage, as it turned out, has it easy.   The other government whip and myself then were driven back to the Palace of Westminster in an open top horse-drawn carriage in a procession headed by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh with us in carriage number four.

    After nine years in parliament I have become accustomed to being in the public eye.   It goes with the territory.   Being driven down The Mall in a carriage, dressed in a morning suit and wearing a top hat takes that to a new level.  To say that I felt conspicuous is something of an understatement.   I can only imagine what the tourists lining the procession thought I was there for.   The irony that this is a situation in which I found myself as a consequence of my part in what we are calling the “new politics” is probably so obvious as not to require stating.

    Did I enjoy it?   I can’t truthfully say that I relaxed enough for that but it was certainly an experience to remember and one about which to tell the grandchildren.   If dressing up in morning suit and top hat, being driven in a carriage while carrying a stick is what is needed to bring change to our country then I guess it is a price worth paying.   Time will tell.

     


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  202. Carmichael - Queens Speech Offers a Positive Agenda for Change

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed the announcement of the coalition Government’s legislative programme in the Queen’s speech.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘There is an enormous amount in this Queen’s speech which people will recognise as coming from the Liberal Democrat election manifesto. The commitment to fair taxes and restoring the link between the state pension and average earnings are some of the most obvious examples of this.

    ‘The pledge that caught my attention, however, was the one to compensate fairly victims of the Equitable Life collapse. This is something which the previous Labour Government had resisted despite numerous reports highlighting their role, and the justice of the victims’ case. I am delighted that these people are at last going to get fair treatment.

    ‘Locally, the commitment to high speed broadband rollout in rural areas is something  that could make an enormous difference to people and businesses in the Northern Isles. I hope that we shall see early action on this commitment and shall be pressing colleagues in Government to ensure that the needs of the Northern Isles are understood and satisfied.’  

    ENDS.

    Notes:

    A large number of Liberal Democrat policies were announced in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, including the party’s major priorities: fair taxes, a fair start for children, a green and sustainable economy, and a comprehensive clean up of politics.

    The policies include:

     

    o          Making the tax and benefits system fairer and simpler, including a significant increase in the personal allowance and an ambition to increase it to £10,000

    o          Restoring the earnings link to pensions

    o          Greater freedoms for teachers over the curriculum

    o          Measures to improve energy efficiency in homes and businesses

    o          Support for low carbon energy production

    o          Financial services regulation to learn the lessons of the financial crisis

    o          Fixed term parliaments of five years

    o          A referendum on the Alternative Vote

    o          The right to sack MPs guilty of serious misconduct

    o          Reform of party funding

    o          Moving towards a wholly or partly elected House of Lords, elected by proportional representation

    o          A Bill to restore freedoms and civil liberties, through the abolition of Identity Cards and repeal of unnecessary laws

    o          Giving greater powers to councils and giving neighbourhoods and communities more control over planning and housing decisions

    o          Ending child detention

    o          Fair compensation for Equitable Life victims

    o          Enabling the creation of a national high speed rail network

    o          The modernisation of the Royal Mail

    o          Flexible working and promotion of equal pay

    o          Strengthening the voices of patients and the role of doctors in the NHS

    o          A commission on long-term reform of social care

    o          Cutting Quangos and government bureaucracy

    o          Implementing the recommendations of the Calman Commission

    o          A referendum on further powers for the Welsh Assembly

     

     


     


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  203. Carmichael Highlights Local Concerns Over RBS Bank Lending

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael today raised local concerns over the failure of RBS to lend to small businesses in Orkney and Shetland during a debate in the House of Commons.

    Mr Carmichael is a member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, which this week published a report into the banking sector in Scotland that criticised RBS for failing to provide small businesses with essential finance on reasonable terms.

    Speaking during the debate, Mr Carmichael asked:

    ‘Does he [the Minister] agree with me that the way in which this has been possible is in fact the result of a policy undertaken by RBS in particular that removes all decision making from the local branch, from the point of contact that RBS customers like myself have always enjoyed and takes it away to decision makers further down the line who can come up with reasons for refusals that frankly just hold no water.

    Commenting afterwards, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Despite the binding lending targets introduced as a condition of state support for the banks, businesses all over the country are finding it more and more difficult to secure access to essential finance on reasonable terms.

    ‘Removing control over the decision making process from local staff has made it far easier for banks to refuse loan applications and amend credit agreements irrespective of the financial circumstances of the companies in question.

    ‘The spendthrift approach that RBS is now taking in their dealings with small and medium-sized businesses would be far more convincing had they not just spent well over £1 bn on this years bonus payments.

    ‘The failure of the banks to lend could put what fragile economic recovery we have seen at risk. Ministers must act to ensure that small businesses are not hung out to dry by their banks.’


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  204. Carmichael Seeks Local Stories on Banking Experiences

    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael is asking people in the Northern Isles to tell him their recent experiences with the banking sector after the publication of a report critical of the failure of the banks to reach binding lending targets.

    Mr Carmichael is a member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, which yesterday published a report into the experience of small and medium businesses with the banking sector since the onset of the financial crisis. 

    The report from the crossbench group of MPs found that banks were failing to meet their lending obligations to small and medium sized business. The Committee also criticised the banks for placing pressure on staff to sell unsuitable financial products to personal banking customers.

    Mr Carmichael is calling for individuals and businesses that have had difficulties with their banks to consider sharing their experiences with him, in confidence.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘The evidence that the Committee heard in Westminster while we conducted our investigation into the banks was disturbing, if not wholly surprising.

    ‘It is clear that businesses and families all over Scotland have been let down by the banks. Already I have heard from several companies in the Northern Isles who have had lending facilities withdrawn or revised unfavourably without negotiation.

    ‘This is an issue which needs to be addressed by the Government nationally, but it would be helpful to know just how many people have been affected locally by the withdrawal or amendment of essential lines of credit.

    ‘I would encourage anyone who feels they have been treated badly by their banks to consider getting in touch. All personal details will of course be treated in the strictest confidence.’

     

     

     


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  205. Carmichael Joins Westminster Charity Mile


    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael joined more than 30 MPs and Members of the House of Lords to complete a Westminster Mile for Sport Relief on Wednesday 10th March.

    More than 30 Parliamentarians, including Minister for Sport Gerry Sutcliffe, swapped their suits for shorts, trainers and Sport Relief Socks to test their sporting prowess in St James’s Park.  They were joined by former British and Irish Lions rugby player Kyran Bracken who helped spur them on to the finishing line. 

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘Since Sport Relief began in 2002 it has raised millions of pounds for good causes around the world. MPs are more familiar with running for election than running for charity but I was delighted to be able to play my small part in this year’s campaign.

    ‘Running a mile for Sport Relief is a quick and easy way to make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable people in the UK and across the developing world.

    ‘In almost 9 years as a member of Parliament this is only the second time that I have taken part in an event that requires exposure of my knees. I am not one of nature’s athletes. If I can do it and put my dignity on the line then so can anybody else.

    Kyran Bracken added:

    ‘It’s been brilliant to see our politicians sweating it out for Sport Relief, so I’d encourage everyone to follow their lead and sign up to do their own Mile now at sportrelief.com.’

    Alistair with British Lions star Kyran Bracken


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  206. Carmichael - Energy Tariff Changes a Win for Fairness

    News that the six largest energy suppliers in the UK have abandoned rules that forced some customers in the Northern Isles to pay more for their power has been hailed as a campaign success by Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael.

    Scottish and Southern Energy and British Gas recently became the last suppliers to announce they were removing their prepay meter premiums. Some customers paid over £100 a year extra.

    The energy giants’ decision to axe their controversial prepay meter fees followed
    a long-running campaign by the National Housing Federation. It means that all of the big six firms now charge prepay customers the same tariffs as those paying via quarterly bills.

    It is estimated that the move will save the six million prepay customers in the UK a total of £150m a year.


    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:


    ‘Fuel poverty is a problem that has affected a growing number of people across the Northern Isles in recent years. This is a great win for fairness and social justice and it means that almost six million people in the UK will find it easier to pay for their energy and heat their homes.


    ‘This change of heart from energy companies is to be welcomed, although it has not come before time. This move will put money back into the pockets of some of those families in Orkney and Shetland that need it most.’


    National Housing Federation Chief Executive David Orr added:


    ‘We're delighted that all of the big six energy suppliers have equalised permanently the tariffs it charges to prepayment meter users with those charged to customers on quarterly bills.


    ‘We are grateful to Alistair Carmichael MP who has been calling for an end to this injustice. His campaigning has helped ensure that prepay energy customers don't pay a penny more than those who pay via a quarterly bill. This success will save some of his constituents over £100 a year.’


    ENDS.

     


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  207. Carmichael - Isles Now at the Heart of the UK Energy Sector

    Orkney and Shetland are now at the heart of the UK energy sector, according to Isles MP Alistair Carmichael. Speaking after the visit of Scottish Minister David Mundell to Shetland for the launch ceremony of Total’s new Laggan-Tormore gas processing plant, Mr Carmichael said the new project will create jobs and boost the local economy.

    During his visit, Mr Mundell participated in the groundbreaking ceremony before meeting representatives from Viking Energy and Shetland Island Council to discuss transmission charges and renewable energy in the Northern Isles.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    ‘The fact that David Mundell has chosen to visit Shetland as one of his first official engagements underlines the strategic importance of the energy sector to the Scottish economy. This new gas plant is another step forward for the energy industry in the Northern Isles, opening up new fields for exploration, creating jobs and boosting our local economy. 

    ‘With this project now underway and recent progress in the development of marine renewables in the Pentland Firth, the Northern Isles are now at the heart of the UK energy sector.

    ‘I am also delighted that David was able to make time to meet with Viking and SIC and listen to their concerns. Transmission charging is an issue that has been raised with me time and again since I was first elected and a review of the current system is required urgently.’

     


     


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  208. View from Westminster - Coalition Deal Good News for Isles

    You might expect this column to be all about the national politics of the last few days but let me first do the important stuff.   I want to thank local people for doing me the honour of re-electing me as their member of parliament.   The result that was declared on the platform in the Picky Centre last Friday morning was one which gladdened and humbled me in equal measure.   I have always sought to put the interests of local people and communities first and shall continue to do so.  

    It is something of a cliché that a week is a long time in politics but the last seven days has felt more like a year.   Normally the week following an election is the time that politicians take the phone off the hook and recharge their batteries.  No such luxury this time.    I had no sooner cleared the Picky Centre and the count than I was in to the studio to speak to radio Scotland about the implications of the result and so it has continued.  

     I had to head to London on the first flight on Saturday morning, still suffering from severe sleep deprivation and went straight in to a fairly intense and serious meeting of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party.    These are usually pretty bland affairs but on this occasion I had to fight my way through the throng of cameras and journalists to get in to the building.    That was how it was to remain until I left the parliamentary party meeting that agreed the coalition agreement after midnight on Tuesday night or, more accurately, Wednesday morning. 

    There are a few things that require to be explained about the process that has brought us to this point.   A number of people have asked why we have constructed a coalition with the Conservatives and not the Labour Party, as had previously been the case in the Scottish Parliament.   There are a number of reasons for that. Firstly, the arithmetic simply did not stack up.   Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs together did not form a majority in the House of Commons and would have been reliant on support on a case by case basis from the nationalists and Northern Ireland MPs.   It would have been enormously difficult to get a programme through allowing for even small rebellions from both Labour and Liberal Democrat back benchers. More importantly even than that, however, the fact is that it takes two to make a deal and the Labour Party was not interested in making one work.   I worked round the clock over the weekend to get formal discussions with the Labour Party.   When they happened I wondered why I had bothered.   I suspect that the Labour Party by that time had already started to look inwards towards its own leadership election.   One of the ways in which the candidates in that election will define themselves now, I suspect, will be their hostility towards the Liberal Democrats!    

    The coalition agreement with the conservatives, therefore, is not a case of Liberal Democrats choosing the Conservatives over the Labour Party.   Rather it is a case of constructing a government which will be strong enough to oversee the reconstruction of our economy in a way that is fair and sustainable.   We have done that with the only party that was prepared to do so seriously. 

    The coalition agreement will be published shortly.   There is much in it that you will recognise as being the same material about which I spoke during the election campaign – fair taxes, money for marine renewables, political reform.   If there is a single issue that shows how Liberal Democrats have influenced the tone of government  then it is the commitment to end the detention of children in Immigration Removal Centres like Dungavel in Lanarkshire.   That is something which has appalled many people in Scotland for years and for which the Labour Government has made excuses.

     I believe this deal is good for the Northern Isles and Scotland and I am proud of the achievement of my party colleagues in achieving it.   Judge the agreement by what is in it – not the parties that have agreed it.


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  209. Enery Tariff Changes Farcical

    CARMICHAEL RULES ON ENERGY TARIFF CHANGES ‘FARCICAL’


    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael is calling on Ministers to protect consumers in Scotland by changing the rules surrounding energy tariff price increases.

    Since 2006, energy providers have had 65 working days to inform their customers of a price rise after it has taken place – over 6 times longer than the previous time limit. In contrast, consumers only have 20 days to switch their supplier after they have been informed of any changes that will increase their energy bills.

    Research conducted by the consumer rights group Which? has shown that 98% of people would like to be informed of price changes before they happen.

    Mr Carmichael is supporting the a Liberal Democrat Parliamentary motion calling on the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to require Ofgem, the energy regulator, to change the conditions of suppliers’ licenses to force them to publicise price increases before they are introduced.

    Commenting Mr Carmichael said –

    “The balance in the present arrangements favour the supplier rather than the consumer. That is wrong and has to change. For us in the isle this is particularly important. For many local people the cost of staying warm in winter is one of their major expenses. Savings can be made by switching suppliers can be significant. The rates should be designed to encourage this.”
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  210. Up Helly Aa

    View From Westminster - Up Helly Aa


    So Lerwick’s Up Helly Aa has been and gone for another year. Congratulations to Jarl Simpson and his family and squad on a first rate spectacle – especially that bill head and these banners! When I was in the Jarl Squad in 2007 I was amazed by the amount of work that went in to making the whole show look so effortless but these took things to another level.

    I eventually left the Clickimin Centre at 3.30am on Wednesday morning after the Jarl Squad had visited and a few more willows had been stripped and Boston Two-Steps had been danced. The reason for the unsociably early departure was that I was then to be on the plane to Orkney at 7.40am. I did not therefore have much more than two hours sleep before getting up to head off to Sumburgh.

    I was not therefore perhaps in the best of humours when I attended the Airport Users’ Consultative Committee to discuss with Highland and Islands Airports’ Chief Executive, Inglis Lyon the question of the proposed car park charges at Kirkwall Airport. There was not sadly much in the meeting which would improve my mood. The proposals are currently for Kirkwall but, they claim, they will be coming to Shetland and the Western Isles next.

    HIAL has a gap to plug in its budget and cart parking charges are going to be one of the plugs. It will take, they reckon, about £100,000 a year out of Orkney. The alternative would be to increase landing charges for Loganair and others using the airport which would then doubtless be passed on in increased ticket costs.

    I can not pretend to agree with the way that HIAL are dealing with this and as consultations go this has the look of one that is a consultation about HOW it is going to happen and not IF. I do, however, have a measure of sympathy for the position that the company finds itself in and I fear that they will not be the last public sector organisation to find themselves in this sort of fix.

    As Inglis Lyon told us last week, HIAL have had their budget slashed by the Scottish Government. It is the SNP Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson, who has given them the green light to go ahead with imposing a charging system here.

    So why is Mr Stewart so keen? He too has holes to fill in his budget. I could list the unaffordable gimmicks. The Road Equivalent Tariff “pilot” scheme in the Western Isles is one that springs readily to mind. These decisions were doubtless very popular with those who benefited from them but the real cost is only now becoming apparent.

    The idea is not a new one. They tried to get it past Tavish when he was Transport Minister in the last government. He had a better understanding of the realities of island life than Mr Stevenson and sent the HIAL board off with a flea in their collective ear. This time, I fear, we must rely on our own efforts rather than understanding from the minister.


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  211. Feed-In Tariffs Plan Lacks Ambition

    CARMICHAEL – ‘GOVERNMENT PLANS FOR FEED-IN TARIFFS LACKS AMBITION’


    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has criticised the government for its lack of ambition after the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) this week announced it plans for the feed-in tariffs from domestic renewable energy sources.

    Commenting Mr Carmichael said –

    “Ministers yesterday unveiled their long awaited policy which had they been more ambitious could have contributed to cutting UK emissions and boosted the domestic renewables energy market. Instead the government maintained its aim of only 2% of our energy to be met from micro-generation by 2020. This ‘aim’ leaves the UK lagging far behind the rest of Europe with the Netherlands producing 40% of its electricity demand from decentralised energy. If this government is serious about small scale, community led energy production which would help families save money and cut carbon emission then it needs to offer greater cash back rates to counter installation costs.

    A number of local people have already expressed their disappointment with me about the government’s low ambitions and I have today written to the Energy Secretary Ed Miliband MP asking him to review and upgrade the government targets.”

    Additionally, Mr Carmichael has signed parliamentary motion (EDM 276) ‘Feed In-Tariffs and Renewable Energy’ which states

    – ‘is concerned that tariffs proposed by the Government’s Clean Energy Cash back Scheme will mean decentralised renewable electricity is anticipated to contribute just two per cent. of the UK’s electricity by 2020, considers this to be wholly inadequate level of ambition; supports calls for a suitably ambitious tariff which delivers a higher return on investment; and calls of the government to revise the proposed tariffs substantially to increase the level of ambition of the scheme and offer communities, households and businesses a significant role in driving UK renewable energy deployment’.



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  212. Beat Cancer Campaign

    CARMICHAEL COMMITS TO BEATING CANCER CAMPAIGN


    Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has backed efforts to beat cancer at a major Cancer Research UK event in Parliament. Alistair Carmichael recently pledged his support to Cancer Research UK’s new ‘Commit To Beat Cancer’ campaign, which calls on the next Government to make the UK’s cancer outcomes among the best in Europe in the next ten years.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said –

    “One in three people can expect a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. Outcomes for people with cancer are improving but there is much work still to do. I am pleased to offer my full support to Cancer Research UK’s campaign to make the UK’s cancer outcomes among the best in Europe. This would have a significant, positive impact on people across Orkney and Shetland and I will continue to support measures that will help us to reach this goal.”

    Aisling Burnand, Executive Director at Cancer Research UK said –

    “We are very grateful to Mr Carmichael for supporting our campaign and we are delighted that over 400 prospective parliamentary candidates have signed our Cancer Commitment so far.

    “It is crucial that MPs continue to support measures to improve the UK’s cancer outcomes. Ten-year survival rates have doubled over the last thirty years and our work has been at the heart of that progress. Our five year survival rates, however, still lag behind the best performing countries in Europe (such as Sweden, Norway and Finland).

    “There are challenges ahead, and it is vital that action is taken to detect cancer earlier, provide world class treatment, prevent more cancers, tackle cancer inequalities and protect the UK’s research base. We must maintain momentum and the Commit to Beat Cancer campaign reflects our supporters’ desire to keep up the political pressure.”
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  213. Haiti and Chilcot Inquiry

    View From Westminster - Haiti and Chilcot Inquiry


    Politics at Westminster has been a rather febrile business since the new year but all the political sound and fury was put into some sort of perspective last week when the news hit our televisions and radios of the earthquake that had hit Haiti.

    Gordon Brown started Prime Minster’s Questions by referring to it this week and what followed was a rather subdued affair. Human tragedy on this scale is something that even the House of Commons in its present state would struggle to make the subject of partisan politics.

    You would have had to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the stories that have emerged from that island since. Time and again I have just stopped whatever I was doing to watch slack-jawed the latest report.

    This week the Today Programme carried one of the most moving news reports that I have heard for a long time on a radio programme. It came from a hospital where a mother was interviewed beside the bed of her youngest and only surviving child. Her three other children had been killed in the quake and, said the doctor, this one too would die unless he could get proper treatment for the injuries to his legs. It did not need any pictures to bring home the heart break of that poor woman.

    An earthquake is, of course, a natural disaster. Nothing could be done to stop it. The fact that Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the western world is something that is also disastrous but this time it is a disaster that is man-made. Even before this happened Haiti was a country that had enormous problems and internal strife. The infrastructure was teetering and now it has collapsed both physically and metaphorically. It is a country that is going to need our help long after the current mess has been cleaned up.

    Meanwhile back in London the Chilcot Inquiry has been continuing its work looking at the run to the war in Iraq, its conduct and its aftermath. It is compelling stuff offering, as it does, an insight into the workings of government at the time. It would appear that there is now something of a changing position as to the reasons for going to war. I hope, however, that the inquiry will be able to move on eventually from the reasons for war to what happened once it had started. We know that there were no weapons of mass destruction and I do not know many people who still believe that the government really believed there were any when they sent in the troops.

    There still remain big unexplored questions about what we did with our troops once we had sent them in – the equipment we gave them and what we expected of them. 178 British troops lost their lives in Iraq. For their families the loss is as much a disaster as the losses of families in Haiti. There are lessons to be learned from them both.
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  214. Stop Fuel Duty Excuses

    CARMICHAEL – ‘GOVERNMENT MUST STOP FUEL DUTY EXCUSES AND OFFER HELP TO ISLAND RESIDENTS’


    Orkney and Shetland MP and Liberal Democrat Scotland Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael will this week question HM Treasury on their unwillingness to trial a fuel duty rebate system in the Northern Isles. Mr Carmichael will be pressing Treasury ministers to offer credible reasons why a fuel duty derogation such as that used in Europe cannot be piloted across Orkney and Shetland.

    Mr Carmichael has secured a 90 minute parliamentary debate on ‘Fuel duty on petrol prices in remote and peripheral areas’ on the morning of Wednesday 10 February 2010.

    Commenting Mr Carmichael said –

    “Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon recently highlighted the number and range of different schemes there are across the European Union where national government’s help communities such as ours in relation to high fuel costs. Our government in London if brought face to face with these schemes have got tell us where they are not prepared to do for us what other EU countries do for their remote communities.”

    Mr Carmichael has since his election in 2001 been lobbying both the Scotland Office and the Treasury to on their refusal to implement fairer fuel prices for island residents. In August 2009 Mr Carmichael met with Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy MP in Orkney to discuss the high cost of fuel which continues to punish families and businesses across the Northern Isles.
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