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.
I was disappointed that the Scottish Government didn’t take this opportunity to help address fuel poverty and ferry emissions in the isles. Most people, businesses and organisations recognise the seriousness of the climate emergency and want to play their part. But often the best means to reduce emissions, such as retrofitting a home, are simply too expensive to take on without financial support. You can watch me move the motion here.
On Tuesday evening I held a members’ debate, gaining support from speakers of every political party in the Scottish Parliament, in which I raised the issue of unexploded ordnance (UXOs) in Scotland’s waters and a preference for clearance by less harmful methods such ‘low order’ detonations. ‘High order’ detonations are frequently used to blow up the weapons on the seabed sending out a loud noise which can be damaging to the auditory systems of marine life including whales and cetaceans. This can have serious impacts on the communication and feeding of these social and intelligent creatures.
500,000 unexploded weapons from the World Wars are estimated to litter areas including those designated for offshore wind farms. Before construction, areas must be surveyed and any UXO removed with divers placing ‘high order’ counter charges for the clearance. As well as the impact on marine mammals, human life is also put in harm’s way as fishing vessels can trawl up unexploded weapons.
The Scottish Government is a signatory, along with other UK regulators, to a non-binding Joint Position Statement, regarding clearance methods. You can watch my speech here and read more in my Shetland Times Column this week here.
On Wednesday George Eustace, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, gave evidence to the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee on the impact of EU exit on rural affairs and islands. Following the Government’s announcement of plans to legislate to override elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol, I drew the Secretary of State’s attention to concerns raised by Salmon Scotland that this move risks immediate trade disruptions, and I asked him what the UK Government will do to ensure there are no interruptions to fresh food exports.