Ferry freight disruption this week compounded already struggling capacity. I had hoped to raise the issue with the Deputy First Minister who stood in for the First Minister during this week’s First Minister’s Questions. Unfortunately, my question was not picked by the Presiding Officer during the short time that there is in that session for constituency questions. I have, however, written to the Managing Director of NorthLink and await his reply.
It was extremely disappointing that the planning of this week’s freight capacity fell short for Shetland exports. On top of freight constraints which is stifling business growth, and impacting time-sensitive seafood exports, constituents have been in touch because they are unable to book the passage they need. Businesses face delay, financial impacts and reputational damage, while families miss loved ones’ occasions or can’t get away during their annual leave period. These are lifeline services that are not living up to lifeline needs. Solutions to the problems have been floated, including additional daytime sailings, but none of them have set sail. It is well past time for serious action from the Scottish Government, and I will be raising these issues with the Transport Minister.
On Monday I attended a joint meeting with Aberdeen Airport and NHS Patient Travel to discuss ways to improve travel experiences for Shetland NHS patients. An update meeting will be held next month.
On Tuesday I chaired a meeting of the Cross Party Group on Nordic Countries where guest speaker Morten Duedahl from the Danish Board of District Heating. Lerwick has had Shetland Heat Energy & Power (SHEAP) since 1991 and I was pleased that Executive Director Derek Leask from SHEAP could also attend the presentation and express to the group the model Shetland has built, mentored by the Danish programme, which could be exported across Scotland.
I also took part in research on the participation of women in Parliament, which brings me neatly to reiterate my congratulations to Shetland Islands Council (SIC) new political leader, Emma Macdonald, and convener, Andrea Manson. This is the first time the positions of constituency MSP, leader, convener and chief executive of SIC have all been held by women. I look forward to working with Emma and Andrea on the many ongoing issues that Shetland’s new council has to tackle. As a former depute convener of the council at the start of the last council session, I have seen the importance and difference that hard-working councillors can make. We need more women in politics and, importantly, in influential positions to help make decision-making more representative of our communities, and this new council is leading the way on that front.
On Wednesday the Rural Affairs, Islands, Natural Environment Committee met to outline the work we would do in the coming weeks. This was followed by a meeting with the Lord High Commissioner to the Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Supreme Court Deputy President, the Right Honourable Lord Hodge.