Today the Scottish Liberal Democrats launch our New Hope for health. You can read more here. The Covid-19 pandemic has made all of us more aware of our health. In September I wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Health asking ‘“when Shetland will have a new-build hospital fit for the 21st century”’. Do you agree that Shetland needs a new purpose built modern hospital? Sign my petition here.
The First Minister’s weekly Covid-19 statement to the Scottish Parliament, which you can read here, suggested that the Scottish Government may extend their Covid ID card scheme to outlets such as cinemas. I questioned the Deputy First Minister in Covid portfolio sessions you can watch my question here. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton outlined that during the COP26 event daily lateral flow tests were used and attendees were three times less likely to test positive for Covid-19 than the general population. You can read advice about current information on Covid-19 in Shetland on my website.
During a session of the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment (RAINE) Committee, I asked panellists about the impact of Climate Change on the movement of fish stocks such as cod. Fishermen have raised concerns with me that North Sea cod is in abundance while data gathered by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) indicate fewer cod, and therefore point towards a lower Total Allowable Catch (TAC). Panellist, Dr Tara Marshall, Senior Lecturer in Fisheries Science at the University of Aberdeen, indicated that there are questions over research vessels adequately capturing data. Suggesting that there is progress in addressing this between Marine Scotland, the fishing industry and available scientists, Dr Marshall pointed to further inclusion of the industry as a positive way to address the issue. One thing is certain, we cannot wait years and have vessels forced back to shore facing bankruptcy before this is addressed. Shetland relies on the seas, and those working on and around it. I will continue to voice the concerns of industry. You can watch my question here.
I also questioned the Transport Minister on Wednesday on whether the Scottish Government’s would commit to extending free under-22s fares for buses to internal island ferries, which are relied upon in the same manner. The transport minister did not commit to the ask. From 31st January 2022 residents in Scotland aged between 5-21 years will be eligible for free bus travel. Shetland’s outgoing MSYP, Jonathan Dorrat, has campaigned to include inter-island ferries in the new free bus travel policy. The transport minister told me that this was a matter for local authorities to fund. The truth is if the Scottish Government wanted to do this for young islanders they would have committed to do so by now. The Scottish Government is leaving under-22s in island communities high and dry. While their Mainland counterparts could theoretically travel the length of Mainland Scotland for free by bus, a short trip from Yell to Unst will continue to cost under-22s. This is another example of the Scottish Government’s failure to understand island communities. Young islanders deserve greater respect from the SNP/Green Government.
On Wednesday I took part in an opposition day debate on roads. Places like Shetland are unlikely to ever have trains or trams. The weather and convenience of the car will always be relied upon for travel around our communities. I highlighted the need for greater infrastructure to help people transition to electric vehicles (EVs). More charge points and more rapid charge points will allow us to make the switch and radically reduce our carbon emissions.
Thursday was the opportunity to question the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands. Reports of HGV driver issues and stock shortages is concerning especially when Shetland is at the end of the supply chain. I asked the Cabinet Secretary if such issues will be the Grinch that steals islanders’ Christmas. I was assured that the Scottish Government would continue to work with suppliers so that islands will not suffer. You can watch my question here.
I also attended the Pancreatic Cancer Van, parked outside the Parliament, speaking to MSPs to help raise awareness of the symptoms. These include: losing weight (without trying), indigestion, tummy pain and mid back pain, all could be indicators of pancreatic cancer. You can find out more information at: panact.org/symptoms. I also attended the Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) Exhibition hosted in the Scottish Parliament this week. I am a lung health champion and it is so important that we tackle air quality and pollution to help ease suffering for those living with such conditions.
And finally, thank you to our MSYPs, Jonathan Dorrat and Leighton Anderson who will be standing down after representing Shetland for two years. I am sure you will join me in wishing them well for the future.