Shetland MSP, Beatrice Wishart is set to lead a debate in parliament highlighting ongoing concerns over plans to centralise air traffic control services across the Highlands and Islands.
Scottish Liberal Democrats have consistently made clear their opposition to proposals which would see air traffic controllers removed from airports across the region and replaced with a single, ‘remote’ tower based in Inverness.
The controversial plans were first brought forward by HIAL’s management over two years ago, since when serious questions have been raised about the cost, reliability and impact on local jobs. While it is widely accepted that modernisation of air traffic control infrastructure is needed across the region, HIAL’s own consultants acknowledged that the ‘remote tower’ model was the most ‘costly’ and ‘risky’ of the options available.
Shetland’s MSP has now lodged a motion in parliament that will see a debate on the issue take place later this month.
Northern Isles MSPs, Liam McArthur and Beatrice Wishart, have today (Thursday) criticised the government’s failure to meet their commitment to delivering superfast broadband to all premises in Orkney and Shetland by 2021.
Mr McArthur and Ms Wishart were responding to a statement in parliament by the Islands Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, on the roll out of the government’s R100 programme.
During the statement, Mr Wheelhouse announced that the majority of the R100 programme would be delivered in the South and Central Lots by 2023 but failed to provide any timescale for the North Lot.
The MSP for Shetland Beatrice Wishart took to the Scottish Parliament’s chamber to challenge the Scottish Government on what it is doing to address the increasing workloads of Shetland’s Additional Support Needs teachers.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart is encouraging over 55s in Shetland to respond to Age Scotland’s housing survey. The national charity for older people is seeking the views of older people about their housing needs and household energy usage to help shape future Scottish Government policy.
Scotland’s population is ageing at a faster rate than the rest of the UK and a quarter of Scotland’s population set to be over 65 by 2043. The Scottish Government has pledged to build 50,000 new homes by the end of this Parliament, and Age Scotland wants to ensure the government have as much information as possible about the housing needs of older people to ensure the right kinds of homes are being built.
It is hoped that the findings from this survey will help to shape the Scottish Government’s housing policy as it relates to older people, with a view to how to help people live well and independently in their own or new home for as long as possible.
Beatrice Wishart MSP today called on the Scottish Government to ensure that the National Islands Plan is backed up with adequate resources to meet the needs of island communities, having raised in Parliament the issue of road infrastructure in Shetland. Improving transport services is a strategic objective of the Proposed National Islands Plan.
Ms Wishart asked the Transport Secretary what support will come from the Plan to help fund rural road upgrades in Shetland as several roads have been identified as requiring upgrades.
The Minister replied that the transport connectivity is being addressed through the National Transport Strategy, currently at draft stage, but that it is up to local authorities to make any improvements.
Earlier today, Island Minister, Paul Wheelhouse appeared before the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s evidence session on the Plan. Mr Wheelhouse was questioned on the lack of detail in the plan and the lack of clarity on funding that will be available to fulfil the 13 strategic objectives.
Following the news that 139 applications for deferred entry Early Learning and Childcare funding have been rejected by local authorities this year, Scottish Liberal Democrats have called on the Scottish Government to reimburse parents who have been forced to self-fund an additional year of childcare because they exercised the right to defer their child starting primary school.
Following the campaign run by ‘Give them Time’, the Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd, made a commitment last month “to introduce legislation to entitle all children whose school start is deferred to access funded early learning and childcare in their deferred year”.
The figures published today, however, show that there are parents who have requested such funding for the current academic year and have been rejected.
With the Scottish Parliament having been in recess for a couple of weeks, I want to take the opportunity to highlight an important campaign that I am delighted to be supporting.
You may have read about Shaunee Jamieson’s story in the Shetland Times a few weeks ago. Shaunee is a mid-wife from Sandwick, now living in Aberdeen. She lived with chronic pain for years before being diagnosed and starting treatment for endometriosis. Shaunee has started a petition to the Scottish Government, with the help of Endometriosis UK, for menstrual wellbeing to be taught in all Scottish schools.
Commenting on the news that 22% (£38 million) of Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) was not spent in 2018/19, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP commented:
“The SNP Government spent years dismissing this successful Liberal Democrat initiative in England and Wales out of hand before then appropriating it. That has contributed to it not yet fulfilling its potential.
“Teachers need help, not instruction, on how to spend this extra money. It shouldn’t be used to patch-up gaps in the core teaching budget.
“The problem is that PEF still isn’t a permanent feature of Scottish education. Its year-to-year existence doesn’t offer teachers and schools the certainty they need to make investments for children for the long-term. Making it permanent would help ensure this funding is fully used.”
Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, and Shetland MSP, Beatrice Wishart, have published their submission to the Post Office consultation on proposed changes to the Lerwick branch. The letter outlines a range of constituent concerns relating to the proposed move to a retail partner site, and calls for a full and open consultation, with guarantees on the future quality of the service.
Commenting, Mr. Carmichael said:
“We’ve tried to give the benefit of the doubt to the Post Office, but it is clear that there are serious procedural flaws in the way that they have handled the proposal to close the Post Office and to relocate it to a shop. There is a deep and growing concern in the community about the impact of these proposed changes. People are understandably frustrated at what appears to be an attempt to impose an unwanted change on Lerwick.
“It is no good holding a consultation when at every step of the way you tell the public that the decision is already made and that it can’t be changed. Post Office leadership should remember that this is a publicly-owned service. It must be accountable to the community.”
Ms. Wishart said:
“The Post Office plans are a substantial change that will affect users across Shetland, not just in Lerwick. The current location has important benefits for customer privacy and access that must not be compromised.”
"The lack of proper consultation is not respectful to the staff involved or service users. The Post Office needs to pause to allow proper time for community scrutiny.”
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart today challenged Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse to deliver fair funding for Shetland’s ferry service to meet the needs of island communities. Ms Wishart was responding to a statement on the publication of the draft National Islands Plan which sets out the Government’s objectives for Scotland’s islands for the next five years.
Ms Wishart asked the Minister to commit to full and fair ferry funding in the upcoming budget for Shetland in light of the costs of running the service and the acknowledgement in the Plan that transport is crucial in allowing islanders to “enjoy fundamental human rights”.
The Minister replied that the government will work constructively with Shetland and Orkney Islands council on funding issues.