14 Apr 2010

Crofting campaign - Chuck the Charges

Highlands and Islands Labour has launched a campaign to try to stop the SNP
Government from imposing crippling new charges on crofters.
The Scottish Government is planning to charge crofters fees to
register their crofts on a compulsory new map based crofting
register, something many see no need to do as they are already
registered with the Crofters Commission. The costs could be as
much as £1,000 a crofter when all the different elements - a
fee to the Keeper of Registers, paying for a newspaper advert
for two weeks, hiring a surveyor to draw up a detailed map,
defending your register entry in the Land Court if your
declared boundaries are challenged – are included.
In addition, the new Crofting Commission is to be given powers
to charge crofters for regulatory applications that have
previously been free throughout crofting's history. The table
of possible charges has been set out in the financial memoranda
to the new bill. Some could amount to several thousand pounds.
The `Chuck the Charges' campaign is being spearheaded by
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Peter Peacock, together with
all the General Election Labour Candidates in the crofting
counties. In a simultaneous launch across the Highlands and
Islands, Labour politicians joined forces
to condemn the SNP's new charging regime.
Peter Peacock said: “Crofting has survived for nearly 150 years
with no charges and the first SNP government in that time now
wants to impose them. It is wrong in principle to charge
crofters for the `privilege' of being regulated when it is
Parliament's down the ages that have required this regulation,
which does not affect any other agricultural community.
Crofting is in a poor economic condition and crofters need
financial incentives to stay in crofting, not financial penalties.
“The SNP Government seems determined to impose charges which
have never been charged before and that will be damaging to the
crofting community. This is the latest in a line of attacks on
the interests of crofting. We urge people to sign up to an e
petition we are launching, to show how they feel about the new
He added: “We will fight these charges in Parliament. Remember
the SNP government abolished the Bull Hire scheme, but after a
show of strength by crofters they backed down and dropped the
policy. If that can be done once, we can try to do it again.”
Labour’s Orkney and Shetland prospective candidate Mark Cooper said,
“The SNP Government is opening the door to charge crofters for
services provided by the new Crofting Commission. These charges
could include not only charging for registration of the croft
but for various services that the current Crofters Commission
provides for free.
“In the current economic climate the last thing crofters need
is these excessive charges for unnecessary bureaucracy. It’s
time to back crofters, not charge them. Crofters should be free
to get on with what they do best – working our land and
maintaining it for future generations, not have to worry about
where to find money to go about their business.
"Crofting is vital to Orkney and Shetland and we want to send a
clear message to the Scottish Government - ‘Chuck the Charges’!
Mr Cooper added."The General Election offers the opportunity
for crofters across the islands to show their displeasure at
the SNP government's proposals - I hope they will take that
The `Chuck the Charges' e-petition can be accessed at www.chuckthecharges.org.uk

6 Apr 2010

Cooper welcomes Green Light for Gas and Wind Power

Mark Cooper, the Labour Candidate for the Northern Isles at the Westminster General Election, has welcomed the Chancellor’s proposal to give tax relief to allow the further exploration of the gas fields to the west of Shetland.

Commenting on it, he said “I welcome this proposal and it shows that the commitment of the Chancellor to help secure Britain’s energy future, I hope the proposal is passed when it is debated.”

Mr Cooper then reaffirmed his commitment to renewable energy in Shetland speaking out in favour of the Viking Wind Project.

He said, “I thought long and hard about the project and have come to the decision that this project helps to secure Shetland’s long term future.”

He added, “I recognise that the opponents of the scheme have valid concerns and would call on both sides to work together to address these concerns because we all have the common goal of wanting what it is best for Shetland and working together can achieve this.”

When Mr Cooper became the Labour candidate for the isles in the UK general election he commented that he would be focusing on young people, renewable energy and sustainability and he believes this project helps all of these categories.

Commenting on this Mr Cooper said, “The Viking wind project has the potential to provide employment, a future for young people and the sustainability of key services for the whole community. The potential returns for the Shetland Charitable Trust allow them to invest in helping vulnerable groups and others, which can only be welcomed in this tough economic climate.”

“It will also cement Shetland’s place as a UK leader in the field of renewable energy. The Viking project, coupled with the wave power research announced by Vattenfall and Pelamis Wave Power, could make Shetland a UK leader in the renewable energy field.”

“Also, while there is still oil left, Shetland has to find a viable and sustainable source of energy and employment to replace the oil when it runs out and I firmly believe that wind power is the answer because it is making the most of Shetland’s natural resources.”

Mark with Peter Peacock MSP

Mark with Peter Peacock MSP

2 Nov 2009

Mark Cooper : Most important issue is attracting young people

During his recent visit to Shetland as prospective Labour candidate, Mark Cooper said,

"We need to try to help young people find jobs in the islands so that the islands still benefit from their schools, for example.

"If they go to Aberdeen to study, they should be able to find a job at home instead of having to move away through no choice of their own," he said.

"The big concern I have is that everything will become more focused on the mainland, Lerwick and Scalloway, because since the RAF left Unst the population has gone down considerably.

"Because it’s expensive to get up there, people are not choosing to go up there so the people who are there are in danger of losing access to vital services.

"For example, as the school population goes down it becomes more expensive to run the school.

"The thing I do not want is for the children’s education to suffer because they are the future of this community.

"They should be given the same chance as any other children in the islands to reach their full potential."

Labour chooses candidate for the Northern Isles contest

Orkney and Shetland Labour parties have chosen their candidate to contest the Orkney and Shetland seat at the next Westminster election.
After hustings in each area, local members have voted in Mark Cooper to be their representative.
Mr. Cooper (24) has strong links with Shetland.
His birth was registered in Tingwall as his family was living in Scalloway at the time.
His parents have since returned to live in Yell, where his father, David Cooper, is a local minister and his mother Veronica teaches Music.
Speaking after his selection, Mr. Cooper said, "I am delighted to be given the chance to fight an election in an area which is so special to me.
"I look forward to meeting as many people as I can and discussing common issues that affect not just their family but mine as well, such as the cost of living on the islands and Energy Creation."
Chair of Shetland CLP Gordon Thomson commented that Mark was an excellent candidate and that they looked forward to the Westminster contest.
Orkney CLP chairman Jim Lawson said: "I am delighted we have been able to attract a candidate with strong local connections and who is so enthusiastic about representing Labour in Orkney and Shetland."
Mark has been a Labour party member since 2005 and is currently the East of Scotland representative on the Scottish Young Labour Campaign Committee, as well as Youth and Student officer in his local party.
He enjoys watching sport especially football and Rugby and is a keen Aberdeen supporter.
He also enjoys travelling and participating in pub quizzes.