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‘Total disgrace’ Sturgeon under pressure as Scottish islands fear being cut off

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With multiple islands communities relying heavily on ferry services to secure flows of supplies and transport to the mainland, political rivals have questioned Ms Sturgeon’s handling of the situation. Reports suggest the current situation leaves more isolated areas under “real threat” as ailing ferry services no longer guarantee “basic lifeline services”, according to one community group.

Taking the issue up on social media, MSP member for Scottish Borders Rachel Hamilton blames the SNP.

Writing on Twitter, the Scottish Conservative and self-proclaimed unionist said: “Influential community groups warn Scotland’s islands are under threat from the SNP failing ferry services.

“Under threat is serious.

“The SNP will blame anyone but themselves.

“What a total disgrace.”

The news was backed up by The Ferries Communities Board, a group addressing the logistical connections to Scottish islands.

Angus Campbell, chairman of the board, told The Times: “The recent extent and duration of mechanical failures on multiple vessels has led to massive disruption right across the network.”

He added: “Without a fit for purpose ferry service, all efforts to sustain and grow the population, encourage new business and provide equality of opportunity will be increasingly damaged — to the detriment of our islands and country.”

In what appears to be an ongoing issue at Ferguson Marine, a publicly owned shipyard, it emerged last week almost 1,000 cables may have to be ripped out and replaced on the Glen Sannox, commissioned for the Arran service, a vessel already four years late.

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Adding to the notion of rising costs and wasted money, the Scottish Conservatives added some worrying allegations to their Twitter feed.

It read: “The £200 million wasted by the SNP on ferries that don’t even float could have paid for 9,900 refuse workers.”

Already, Scottish waste workers have complained and threatened industrial action over poor working and pay conditions.

During the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, refuse workers sought a wage increase of 5.89 percent, on top of a £1,062 raise for all employees earning under £25,000.

In terms of the ongoing ferry situation, the recent plea by Ferries Communities Board said it was “essential” more effort was made to increase services to these communities.

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Transport Scotland stressed it acknowledges the need to reduce delays, explaining it had allocated £580million to address the issue.

Though the Ferries Communities Board has acknowledged the challenges posed by recent storms and the pandemic, it highlighted the true effects of the issues on locals.

The group added in a statement: “Unfortunately this is unlikely to be a one-off with such an ageing fleet in our challenging environment.

“This represents a real threat to our islands’ ability to retain and attract people, ensure services are sufficiently reliable and at prices that permit viable communities and thereby avoid depopulation.”

The group called for a number of changes to the way the situation is being dealt with.

It said: “The issue of historic lack of investment has been highlighted and recognised over many years.

“While some progress has recently been made in terms of identifying the first stage of a capital budget for vessels and infrastructure, including ordering two new vessels for Islay and the purchase of new tonnage for Mull, recent events have demonstrated the need to do more and to do it quicker.

“It is essential we step up the efforts to find and purchase new tonnage.

“This should include the sourcing of freight tonnage for appropriate routes thus alleviating pressure and freeing up conventional ferry space for passenger traffic.”

DO YOU LIVE ON A SCOTTISH ISLAND? HAVE YOU BEEN AFFECTED BY FERRY SHORTAGES? IS NICOLA STURGEON TO BLAME FOR THE CRISIS? ADD YOUR OPINION TO THE STORY BY CLICKING HERE AND JOINING THE DEBATE ON OUR COMMENTS SECTION. EVERY VOICE MATTERS!

Transport Scotland responded to this, noting the worry and highlighting the funding the government has committed to dealing with shortages.

A spokesman said: “Ministers recognise that a lack of confidence in ferry services can impact upon people’s decision on whether to live and work on the islands, and impacts upon the sustainability of the island communities themselves.

“These human impacts are at the heart of Scottish Ministers’ commitment to supporting lifeline services through continued investment in ferry services across Scotland.

“Ministers also fully recognise the need to address delays in investment in ferry infrastructure which is why they have committed to the £580 million in the Infrastructure Investment Plan.”

The SNP has been contacted by Express.co.uk for further comment.



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'Have to kick the pedal to the metal' Ex-Ukrainian leader slams Macron tank aide hesitancy

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Ex-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk sat down on LBC Radio to discuss NATO leaders. NATO has been allying themselves with Ukraine, sending help and weaponry and taking fleeing Ukrainian refugees. NATO members held a conference on the Russian invasion earlier this week to discuss more ways to help Ukraine.

Mr Yatsenyuk pushed for Macron to send over military tanks as promised, slamming him for dragging his feet, and claiming that the war in Ukraine affects the security of every European country.

Mr Yatsenyuk said: “That’s what Putin is closely watching, as for now, Putin didn’t expect this kind of unity and consolidated and concerted actions against the Russian federation.

“But you know, the time is running and we don’t have enough time to wait until some EU member states decide to supply more weapons to Ukraine.

“Or to impose tougher and stronger sanctions on the Russian Federation, so the EU has to be decisive and they have to speed up the process of new sanctions.

“And the shipment and delivery of weapons to Ukraine, because it’s not just about Ukraina and they realise it clearly, this is about the free world.

“And this is about the security of every single nation in the European Union, so the French have to kick the pedal to the metal.”

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky explained this week that he expected “serious steps” from Western-allied countries.

Mr Zelensky repeated the calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine to be imposed by NATO forces and complained that the Western allies had not yet provided Ukraine with sufficient planes, up to date modern anti-missile systems, tanks or anti-ship weapons.

Mr Zelensky added: “At these three summits we will see who is our friend, who is our partner and who sold us out and betrayed us.”

President Zelensky also expressed that he was grateful for the support Ukraine was continuing to receive from individual NATO member countries from around the world.

Mr Zelensky added: “But NATO has yet to show what the alliance can do to save people,” he said. “It feels like we’re in the grey zone between the West and Russia, but we’re protecting all our and your shared values.

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Mr Johnson added: “We’ve got to tighten the economic vice around Putin, sanctioning more people today, as we are, sanctioning the Wagner Group, looking at what we can do to stop Putin using his gold reserves, and also doing more to help the Ukrainians defend themselves.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has been playing an active role in trying to de-escalate the war with Russia by imposing tight sanctions on Russia to try and stop Putin’s warpath of destruction.

Ms Truss has warned that infighting between NATO countries at the moment could be highly detrimental for progress in ending the war.

Mr Truss said: “Russia’s targeting of critical national infrastructure is calculated and dangerous.

“It shows Putin is prepared to risk lives to sow division and confusion among allies.”



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Brexit news: What happens when Article 16 is triggered?

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After Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) was confirmed, the two parties have been attempting to renegotiate terms for a special Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland. Coined the Northern Ireland protocol it’s been a point of contention that’s led to threats from each side of triggering a mechanism called Article 16. But what is it?

What is Article 16?

The UK and EU agreed to the creation of the Northern Ireland protocol, in October 2019.

By allowing goods to flow freely between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland the deal removed the threat of a hard border.

But the arrangement has also resulted in what’s been labelled as an ‘Irish Sea border’.

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Goods that now arrive into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK are subjected to more stringent checks and controls.

In the scenario that either the UK or EU feel that the protocol is leading to significant issues or hampering their capacity to trade, then they have the option of activating Article 16.

The component sets out the process for taking unilateral “safeguard” measures, which in reality would amount to suspending parts of the deal.

Specifically, Article 16 says safeguard measures can be taken if the protocol is leading to serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties” that are liable to persist.

He said: “Triggering Article 16 now would severely disrupt the unity of the UK and EU response to the war in Ukraine.

“It is thus perhaps not surprising that key US figures chose this week to restate that any uncertainty around the stability of the Good Friday Agreement would hinder a future UK-US trade deal.”

In recent months talks between Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic have stalled, leading to calls from Brexiteers for the UK to act.

However, Professor Menon cautioned that triggering Article 16 won’t “rid” Britain of the protocol.

He added: “I think the British Government if it triggers Article 16 will do something relatively small and contained.

“And then there’s not a massive bust-up. You don’t end up getting rid of the protocol. You end up with months if not years of negotiations, mediation and arbitration.

“So, it’s a way of doing something but it’s not a way of solving anything. In a sense you’re still stuck with the protocol and you’re still negotiating about the future of the protocol.”

In essence, were Article 16 to be triggered it wouldn’t have a huge impact on the ground.

Many of the checks on goods flowing from Britain to Northern Ireland have already been unilaterally suspended.

Triggering the mechanism itself would only start a formal dispute process that requires both sides to go into talks to resolve.



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NATO slammed as former US Army chief exposes ‘two big issues’ in united Russia response

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US Army vice chief of staff general Jack Keane, sat down on LBC radio to talk about the NATO conference which took place earlier this week. Mr Keane discussed the possibility that Putin could deploy chemical biological weapons on the battlefield. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already used the highly condemned thermobaric weapons since the war started just over a month ago.

The US Army chief acknowledged there had been no public policy declaration on the consequences Putin would face if he was to take such a barbaric action.

Mr Keane said: “Listen I was very disappointed by the NATO summit.

“I totally applaud the fact that they’re going to increase by 40k troops in Eastern Europe.

“And they’re increasing sanctions and it seems like a sense of unity.

“But on two big issues, it’s got to be disappointing, there’s no NATO public policy declaration.

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Mr Keane added: “At the end of that summit to deal with this particular issue, chemical biological weapons and nuclear weapons which the Russians have been waving in front of our face now for almost 30 days.

“What we need is… Think policy statement, not something that’s left to a reporter to ask a question on.

“And then you get a statement that you just repeated, which leads to more confirmation than anything else.

“A much better statement, using my words… I don’t want to put words into other people’s mouths.

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“But with me, the use of any form of WMB would be unacceptable.

“We will not let it stand, it will result in decisive consequential actions and all options are on the table.

“Words to that effect, in a public policy statement, and we didn’t get it and it’s really unfortunate.

“And what it does it leaves in the minds of Putin and his  leaders just what would the reaction be, ambiguous like that and I think it’s very unfortunate.”

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Fear of the Russian military deploying chemical biological weapons has been heightened.

Ukrainian outlet InformNapalm has warned that: “Our conclusions may sound premature or too apocalyptic, but after the missile attacks and bombing of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, which the Russian army resorted to, we believe that it is necessary to make these data public and try to thwart any such intentions of Russia.”

And NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels on Thursday: “We’ve tried to be very clear about the gravity of the use of any such chemical weapons.

“These are agents that should never be employed and certainly not on the battlefield, as we are concerned Russia might.”



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