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.

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