Wishart stresses the need for Jarlshof solution

Shetland MSP has Beatrice Wishart has today sought assurances from Tourism Secretary, Fergus Ewing, that visitor facilities at Jarlshof will be looked at with a manner of urgency ahead of the upcoming tourism season. Visitors to the Bronze Age site are currently using parking spaces and toilets at the nearby Sumburgh Hotel, which has become increasingly unsustainable for the business.

The Jarlshof site, managed by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has no onsite toilet or parking facilities, leaving visitors to use the services at the Sumburgh Hotel by agreement with the owner. Previous Freedom of Information requests show that in February 2018 HES acknowledged that there is “increasing visitor pressure” at Jarlshof “with current health & safety issues to address.” However in January 2019 the Scottish Government rejected a business case put forward by HES for the development. Over 100 cruise ships are due to visit Lerwick this year, carrying almost 100,000 passengers.

During the Tourism Question session today, Ms Wishart highlighted the need for a permanent solution and asked the Cabinet Secretary to look again at the business case for the works. The Cabinet Secretary noted that HES is “actively engaged” on the issues and offered further discussion on the matter.

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Wishart supports campaign to scrap 20 metre rule for Personal Independence Payments

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has shown her support for MS Society Scotland’s campaign to ensure that Scotland’s new social security does not fail people living with disabilities. MS Society Scotland were campaigning at Holyrood this week to urge the Scottish Government to scrap the “crude and cruel” ‘20-metre rule’.

The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) UK-wide system which people living in Scotland currently apply for is set to be devolved next year. The Scottish Government has pledged to end PIP when powers are transferred to Holyrood but is yet to confirm whether the 20-metre rule, which states that anyone who can walk this short distance is not entitled to the higher rate of mobility assistance, will remain a part of the devolved system. The 20m rule is a poor fit for conditions like MS where symptoms fluctuate.

Nicola Sturgeon was asked about the 20m rule at First Minister’s Question this week and answered that the Government is looking “looking very carefully and very seriously at that issue.”

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Wishart expresses frustration at 4G Infill programme failures

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has expressed her frustration at the failure of the Scottish Government’s 4G Infill programme to deliver mobile coverage for not-spots in Shetland after a progress update published today showed two of the three Shetland sites have been dropped.

The 4G Infill programme aims to deliver 4G infrastructure and services to areas of Scotland without any mobile coverage. Three sites in Shetland had been included for consideration in the programme: Reawick, Foula (Ham) and Bruray (Skerries). According to the Scottish Government, Ham and Bruray have been removed because “no mobile operators have committed to using them.”

Infrastructure is being built at the Reawick site (which seems to be erroneously listed as Selivoe) with services projected to be available “within the next year.”

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Northern Isles MSPs maintain pressure on delivery of fair ferry funding commitments

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.


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Northern Isles MSPs repeat calls for Scottish Government to honour fair ferry funding commitment

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.

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MSPs call out “centralisation by another name”

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.

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Wishart demands apology from the First Minister

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.

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Lib Dems respond to “troubling” dip in College qualification attainment

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.

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Wishart calls on Government to halt Air Traffic Control Centralisation

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.


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Wishart welcomes approval of new treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

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.

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