Northern Isles MSPs, Liam McArthur and Beatrice Wishart, met today (Tuesday) with the newly appointed Scottish Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, to reinforce the need for the government to honour its commitment to fair funding for internal ferry services in Orkney and Shetland.
The commitment was secured during negotiations with Ms Forbes’ predecessor, Derek Mackay in the context of the 2018 budget, when Mr McArthur and Tavish Scott agreed to support the budget in return for government acceptance of the principle of fair ferry funding. However, the budget published a fortnight ago fell £5million short of what Councils in Orkney and Shetland have calculated is needed to run their lifeline ferry services.
During the meeting, Mr McArthur and Ms Wishart pointed out to the Minister that it is not credible for the government to accept the principle of fair ferry funding but then short change the local authorities and insist that the shortfall be re-negotiated each year.
Northern Isles MSPs, Liam McArthur MSP and Beatrice Wishart MSP have repeated their calls for the Scottish Government to honour its commitment to fair funding for internal ferry services.
In a letter to Minister for Public Finance, Kate Forbes, the MSPs drew attention to the acceptance by former Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, of the principle of fair ferry funding during budget negotiations in 2018. They also quoted Mr Mackay’s earlier assurance that “the provision of transport services should not place a disproportionate financial burden on any council, particularly with reference to revenue support for ferry services”.
The letter follows a meeting between Ms Forbes and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie when he echoed the call, pointing out that the budget published last week fell £5m short of what the Councils in Orkney and Shetland have calculated is required for the running of these lifeline services.
Beatrice Wishart MSP and Liam McArthur MSP, who represent Shetland and Orkney respectively, have called for reconsideration of reported cuts to the budget for Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
This follows the news that HIE will have their funding cut from almost £72 million in 2018/19 to just under £59 million under the proposed budget.
Shetland’s MSP Beatrice Wishart has demanded an apology from the First Minister for the delayed Fatal Accident Inquiry into the helicopter crash near Sumburgh airport seven years ago.
Four offshore workers were killed when a Super Puma helicopter crashed on its approach to Sumburgh airport in Shetland in August 2013. An accident report was completed in 2016, but a Fatal Accident Inquiry is yet to be concluded.
Last week, at the preliminary hearing of the Inquiry Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle said that seven years was “too long”, and that the wait was “something to be deplored”.
The First Minister responded by saying that was not for her to direct the Lord Advocate on the conduct of these inquiries.
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has voiced concern about the “troubling” dip in college qualification attainment, as new data released today revealed that the number of full-time college students successfully completing their course decreased in 2018-19 and attainment targets were missed.
The percentage of students successfully achieving a recognised qualification in 2018/19 did not meet Scottish Funding Council Targets. The further education target of 73.2% success was only met by one college, and the higher education target of 74.4% success was again, only met by one college.
Today, Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart led a debate in the Scottish Parliament on HIAL’s plan to introduce remote towers and centralisation of air traffic control to Inverness. Ms Wishart used her speech to call on the Islands Minister to halt the controversial project which has raised concerns across the Highlands and Islands.
Ms Wishart told Parliament that HIAL is “pushing on” with the plans despite “genuine concerns” that have been raised by stakeholders, including Air Traffic Controllers, about safety and resilience of remote towers and the lack of consultation.
Ms Wishart highlighted Liberal Democrat research showing that there were 79 incidents involving degradation of air traffic control communication between 2013 and 2018, raising concerns about the suitability of cost of introducing remote towers to the Highlands and Islands. Ms Wishart also highlighted a survey from Prospect Union which found that 94% of its members oppose the remote towers plan and that 82% would be more likely to seek to leave HIAL if it was implemented and the lack of meaningful consultation with staff thus far.
Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson, reiterated the need for modernisation of air traffic control services ahead of new air space regulations and encouraged HIAL to continue to engage with stakeholders as the project develops.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has welcomed news the Ocrelizumab has been approved by the Scottish Medicines Consortium for use in NHS Scotland.
Ocrelizumab is used to reduce and slow the symptoms of adults with early primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS). It is the first disease modifying treatment for PPMS to be made available on the NHS in Scotland.
Ms Wishart has welcomed the decision as an important step which offers hope for individuals affected by PPMS and their families.
MS is a life-long condition in which the immune system attacks the brain or spinal cord causing symptoms such as fatigue, weakness and visual and memory problems. Shetland has a higher rate of people living with multiple sclerosis than in Scotland and the rest of the UK.
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.