eNews 23rd May 2022

During a debate on Tuesday about proposals that will see six islands, including Yell, supported to become fully carbon neutral by 2040, I moved an amendment by Liam McArthur which called for ferry replacements and measures to tackle fuel poverty through targeted support to retrofit homes in island communities, which suffer from the highest levels of fuel poverty in the country. The amendment also called on the Northern Isles' internal ferries to be included in the Islands Connectivity Plan which is set to replace the National Ferries Plan. It was voted down by the Scottish Government.

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eNews 15th May 2022

My week focused heavily on the Good Food Nation Bill which progressed to Stage 2 this week. I had put amendments before the Rural Affairs and Natural Environment (RAINE) Committee to strengthen the bill, aiming for it to acknowledge a ‘Right to Food’, to help address prescriptive rules on school hostel meals and to support a framework to oversee the new measures the bill would put in place. Unfortunately of the 19 amendments I put forward all were voted down by the SNP and Green members of the Committee. I fear that we will not be able to adequately scrutinise legislation during this term of the Parliament if the Government Whip is strictly adhered to by nationalist coalition members.

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eNews 8th May 2022

I was pleased to be at Lerwick Town Hall on Friday for the local election count and I want to congratulate those councillors who have been elected for the new term of Shetland Islands Council. Putting yourself forward for election at any level of government is not an easy thing to do, there are winners and losers but each individual deserves our thanks for participating in the democratic process. I wish the new council well and look forward to working together on the many issues that Shetland faces. I also want to reiterate my thanks to the outgoing members of the council for their hard work and endeavours on behalf of the people of Shetland.

My parliamentary week included preparing for Stage 2 of the Good Food Nation Bill. MSPs are putting in amendments to the original bill and the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment (RAINE) Committee will be discussing this in greater detail next week. This week during the RAINE Committee the Cabinet Secretary for the Islands took questions regarding the National Islands Plan. I took the opportunity to ask why Shetland’s lifeline internal ferry services were excluded from the Scottish Government's Islands Connectivity Plan. The plan is due to be the successor to the Ferries Plan and has been delayed due to Covid-19 disruption. A Scottish Government official told me that they were working with Transport Scotland to consult with communities and that the body is giving regard to aviation, fixed links and onward travel from islands. I was also assured a full response to my question, after consultation with Transport Scotland colleagues, would be provided in writing to the committee. I look forward to reading the full response from the Islands Secretary and Transport Scotland. You can watch my question here.

Following the fixed links community event, ‘Tunnel Vision’, Alistair Carmichael MP and I hosted in February, I also raised the benefits of tunnels for island communities with the Islands Secretary during the committee session. Better transport links can help stem depopulation. Our speaker from the Faroe Islands demonstrated this at our event. But tunnels are not all about depopulation as they can help spread economic opportunities, provide greater healthcare access and develop cultural experiences. While tunnels could be transformative for Shetland, the varying needs, aspirations and challenges for each island community is important in this infrastructure debate, which is why we are considering next steps. I am of the view that we can learn from the experiences of other places and that tunnels in Shetland would bring wider significant benefit to Scotland. The Scottish Government should therefore provide resource for tunnel feasibility studies. You can watch my exchange with the Cabinet Secretary here. You can find a link to the recorded Tunnel Vision event here.

I also managed to attend an event hosted by the Scottish Youth Parliament, meeting the groups Chair and Vice Chair. We had a positive conversation about the needs of young people in the Highlands and Islands. I am very encouraged by the how engaged some young people are in politics and I hope that this will continue throughout their lives.

I also attended several local events and as always if there is any matter you would like to raise with me please get in touch:

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 01595 690 044

PS You can read my Shetland Times column for this week here.


eNews 2nd May 2022 - WASPI, MS, GFN

As you can see from the title of this email, this week was another packed with acronyms:

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Cost of living, Scottish Fishermen's Federation and Digital Voice - eNews 3rd April

Our calendars may now say that it is April but we have had all seasons in one week! I had thought not to bring my winter coat to Edinburgh earlier this week, but I am glad I did. Edinburgh was bitterly cold and witnessed a few snow flurries but nothing like Shetland’s experience.

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P&O, Child Poverty, Fisheries - eNews 27th March 2022

This week we saw the outpouring of condemnation at P&O’s disgraceful sacking of 800 seafaring staff. My Northern Isles Scottish Liberal Democrat colleagues, Alistair Carmichael MP, Liam McArthur MSP, and I wrote to the Chief Executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping, Sarah Treseder, calling on the shipping industry body to stand up for the working conditions of UK seafarers. The Northern Isles have a long and proud history of service in the Merchant Navy, a legacy which continues to this day. Indeed Arthur Anderson, one of the co-founders of P&O, was a proud Shetlander and MP for Orkney and Shetland, and this legacy informs both our solidarity with seafarers throughout the United Kingdom, along with our concern that such abuses of pay and working conditions could be replicated more widely. For the many families impacted this will be a mighty blow and bosses should not be allowed to run roughshod over workers. Seafarers deserve the same respect, fair pay and fair treatment as other sectors. This cannot be allowed to become a blueprint for the industry and the UK Chamber of Shipping must call out these actions. The P&O boss now admits that the action was unlawful, which you can read about in this BBC article here.

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Ukraine, Good Food Nation, Broadband - eNews 20th March 2022

Ukraine remains at the forefront of the news and how Scotland can play its part in welcoming refugees was raised again in the Scottish Parliament this week. People are asking what they can do, desperate to offer compassion, shelter and support.  Shetland, as ever, is playing its part with offers of accommodation, and different fundraisers to aid the crisis. One appeal is through the pop-up shop in the Toll Clock Centre and when Alistair Carmichael and I called along on Friday volunteers there reported a steady stream of people supporting their efforts. They will be there for another week.

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International Women’s Day, Crown Estate Scotland and heating oil cap - eNews 14th March 2022

Last Tuesday was International Women’s Day and I took the opportunity to speak in a second debate in two weeks about issues facing women and girls. Last week I focused on the situations in Ukraine and Afghanistan and the impact on women. We stand in solidarity with Ukraine and against the illegal invasion by Russia.

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Ukraine, latchkey dogs and International Women’s Day - eNews 6th March 2022

We’ve all been watching the images from Ukraine with a feeling of dread and helplessness in the face of Russian aggression. We had thought such conflicts were consigned to the history books. On Tuesday I attended a rally against the Russian invasion outside the National Gallery in Edinburgh with my party leader Alex Cole-Hamilton. Shetland has united in solidarity with Ukraine. People have not been slow in backing international aid projects before, especially those where children are involved and as the humanitarian crisis unfolds in Ukraine, with people fleeing to neighbouring countries, the spirit of generosity in Shetland once again shines. Kate Niescuir and others across Shetland have been smashing fundraising expectations as Shetlanders give almost £9,000 for those suffering in Ukraine within days. The link to Kate’s crowdfunding site can be found here.

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Ukraine, Covid-19 Medical, Cannabis - eNews 28th February 2022

I begin with the stark and sombre news from Ukraine and the actions of President Putin. I stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, spoke in a debate on behalf of my party on Thursday. The ‘Solidarity with Ukraine’ motion was unanimously supported by the Scottish Parliament. You can watch Alex’ speech here.

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