4 September 2020

It goes without saying that the last twelve months have not unfolded as predicted. Equally, it was no surprise that Covid-19, and recovery from it, was the main feature in the Programme for Government which was delivered in Holyrood on Tuesday. This set out the legislative programme and bills to be introduced in the parliamentary session ahead of next May’s elections.

Two bills I particularly welcome. The first gives additional protections, in a Domestic Abuse Bill, to those most at risk of domestic abuse, with the ability to ban suspected perpetrators from their homes. It will reinforce zero tolerance of what is a scourge on our society not just here in Shetland but across all of Scotland.

The second is the UNCRC (Incorporation) Bill. The rights of children, young people and their families should be built into all aspects of public life in Scotland and enshrined in law.

On ferries there was more kicking the can down the road. Instead of a commitment to deliver full and fair funding for our ferries, the government is to “produce and maintain a long-term plan and investment programme”. Funding is need now for our ferry services and especially for a long-awaited replacement ferry for Fair Isle.

After a very quiet summer, it was good to see some intense activity in Lerwick Harbour at the weekend. The arrival of the Ninian platform on the world’s largest construction vessel, Pioneering Spirit, and it’s transfer to the Dales Voe quayside for decommissioning is very welcome.

The film footage of the huge vessel coming in the north harbour made for great viewing via social media and demonstrates that Lerwick Port Authority is well placed to bring many more decommissioning projects to Shetland.

A recent briefing from Oil & Gas UK (OGUK) highlighted how much more, given the right support, Shetland could be contributing to many different aspects of decommissioning projects, not just quayside activity. Incidentally, one of OGUK’s personnel delivering the briefing is a Shetlander. It’s a small world.

The need for re-training and upskilling to meet the needs of the future is more important than ever, especially on our road to economic recovery after Covid-19. It is a key part of discussions of the Shetland Business Resilience Forum. There are business and employment opportunities available in the isles. I hope opportunities continue to grow.

The UK Government ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme came to an end earlier this week and by all accounts it has been as great a success here as on the Mainland. Even though they will not be reimbursed by government, some businesses are carrying on the scheme, where 50% of your meal is discounted up to a maximum of £10 per person

While questions were raised about how people on low incomes could afford to eat out, this kickstart might just have prevented job losses. The same might not be said when the furlough scheme comes to an end next month. Government must do all it can to prevent a tidal wave of job losses.

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