P&O, Child Poverty, Fisheries - eNews 27th March 2022


This week we saw the outpouring of condemnation at P&O’s disgraceful sacking of 800 seafaring staff. My Northern Isles Scottish Liberal Democrat colleagues, Alistair Carmichael MP, Liam McArthur MSP, and I wrote to the Chief Executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping, Sarah Treseder, calling on the shipping industry body to stand up for the working conditions of UK seafarers. The Northern Isles have a long and proud history of service in the Merchant Navy, a legacy which continues to this day. Indeed Arthur Anderson, one of the co-founders of P&O, was a proud Shetlander and MP for Orkney and Shetland, and this legacy informs both our solidarity with seafarers throughout the United Kingdom, along with our concern that such abuses of pay and working conditions could be replicated more widely. For the many families impacted this will be a mighty blow and bosses should not be allowed to run roughshod over workers. Seafarers deserve the same respect, fair pay and fair treatment as other sectors. This cannot be allowed to become a blueprint for the industry and the UK Chamber of Shipping must call out these actions. The P&O boss now admits that the action was unlawful, which you can read about in this BBC article here.

As I mentioned last week, the Good Food Nation Bill completed ‘stage 1’ this week. I was preparing to outline to the Chamber the Scottish Liberal Democrats position as the bill moves into ‘stage 2’, but as the Deputy Convener of the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment (RAINE) Committee, I had to step in at short notice while the Convener is absent for the next few weeks and so responded on behalf of the committee instead. You can watch my speech from Tuesday here.

In the Convener’s absence I chaired this week’s RAINE meeting on Wednesday. A panel of witnesses from fisheries organisations along with an academic expert gave evidence on the draft Joint Fisheries Statement (JFS). The JFS sets out how the four UK administrations will achieve their objectives set out in the Fisheries Act 2020. Witnesses gave their views on how the ambition of the JSF needs to be strengthened and how to ensure it can meet objectives including on bycatch, climate change and an ecosystems approach. The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, then expressed her view that the document demonstrates positive alignment between the four administrations, while stating that it provides an overarching framework to be detailed out in further policies. As examples she cited the Scottish Government’s Future Catching Policy and policy on Remote Electronic Monitoring. These are currently under consultation, which you can contribute to here: Scotland's Future Catching Policy consultation - Scottish Government - Citizen Space and here: Enhancing sustainable fisheries management - Remote Electronic Monitoring - Scottish Government - Citizen Space (consult.gov.scot)

On Thursday afternoon the Scottish Government announced its new retail strategy which gave me the opportunity to highlight some of the problems faced by local shops in rural and islands areas. I particularly wanted to ensure that their voices are heard through the government’s new leadership groups and retail strategy. I was pleased that the Minister responded that the ‘breadth and diversity’ of the sector and geography would be represented. You can watch my question here.

I also responded to the Child Poverty statement in a speech on Thursday. You can watch my contribution here. Households are feeling their incomes squeezed even harder as prices escalate. Liberal Democrats have called on the Scottish Government to enact several measures to ease the pressure: reverse the £250m cut to councils, boost disability benefits and pay-up for fire alarms. We would also like to see the scrapping of the National insurance tax hike and cheaper broadband to be made available. There are organisations that can help individual households and if you have any concerns about your own circumstances or a neighbours, family or friends, you and they can get in contact with me, details below.

Finally this week I took part in the CPG on Women’s Health where there was a discussion on ‘miscarriage care’ with a special focus on Louise Caldwell’s campaign for dedicated facilities for women experiencing unexpected baby loss. I have been a supporter of Louise’s campaign and Scottish Liberal Democrats added dedicated facilities to our last manifesto.

I also attended a stall in Parliament hosted by Results UK discussing World TB day (24th March), and drop-in sessions with Energy Action Scotland and Smart Energy GB, along with a briefing with Openreach where I quizzed representatives about local broadband.

On Friday, after an unscheduled stop in Orkney on the flight home, I joined an online HIE briefing.  I also met with constituents and rounded off the week with the Cross Party Group on Poverty evidence session on stigma.

If you would like to get in touch or meet with me about any matter please contact:

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 01595 690 044

PS You can read my Shetland Times Column for this week here.


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