Ukraine, Good Food Nation, Broadband - eNews 20th March 2022

Ukraine remains at the forefront of the news and how Scotland can play its part in welcoming refugees was raised again in the Scottish Parliament this week. People are asking what they can do, desperate to offer compassion, shelter and support.  Shetland, as ever, is playing its part with offers of accommodation, and different fundraisers to aid the crisis. One appeal is through the pop-up shop in the Toll Clock Centre and when Alistair Carmichael and I called along on Friday volunteers there reported a steady stream of people supporting their efforts. They will be there for another week.

You can also donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) - Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal below. Money raised will support charities to provide shelter, food, water and medicine.

To donate:

Phone: 03706060900
SMS: Text SUPPORT to 70150 to donate £10 (You must be over 16)

It was a busy week for me in the Chamber, replying on behalf of the Scottish Liberal Democrats on a fishing statement, see my response here; responding to the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Strategic Framework, you can watch my speech here; and an active travel debate, my speech is available to watch here.

Many Covid-19 legal requirements will become guidance shortly. But Covid is still around, and we know the mitigations we can take to limit the spread: vaccines, hands, face, space, ventilation. I think it is also important to recognise that not everyone will be comfortable as we transition away from legal requirement to guidance, particularly people with underlying health conditions.

This week I also took the opportunity in questions to the Scottish Government to call once again for a commission on the safety of women and girls.  Scottish Liberal Democrats have been advocating for this for some time. My question can be seen here. I also asked about support for landowners, especially as lambing season draws nearer, and you can watch here. Following on from meeting with apprentices last week I raised the issue of limited housing options for rural, remote and island apprentices. My question can be viewed here.

This week the Rural Affairs Committee discussed the findings we had heard from outside organisations on the initial Good Food Nation Bill. Next week I will reply on behalf of the Scottish Liberal Democrats in a debate on the proposed bill, and along with other parties thoughts this will complete the ‘stage 1’ process. It has been interesting to hear a wide range of views from across Scotland about what a Good Food Nation could look like. I look forward to the work at ‘stage 2’ where amendments will be brought forward for discussion.

When the subsea cable to Whalsay is laid not every community there will get superfast broadband. The issue was recently brought to my attention by a resident, and comes when the Auditor General for Scotland provided an update on the Scottish Government’s R100 programme. SNP manifesto commitments for every home in Scotland to have access to superfast broadband by 2021 has slipped by six years. The practical delivery of broadband roll-out is devolved to the Scottish Government and the Auditor General’s report states the latest estimations for the North Lot competition will be in 2026/27.

This is a ridiculous situation. Despite putting in the subsea cable, the end result is that areas of Whalsay will be left without fibre broadband. We shouldn’t be surprised though, as there are other examples across Shetland from previous broadband contracts where communities experienced dividing lines. The timetable for every household to get superfast broadband seems to be getting further and further out of reach. Communities in Whalsay that miss out on connections are told they can apply for a voucher, which may not even provide the reliable fixed-line fibre connections that households need, or hope for a possible extension of the scheme in the future. The Scottish Government should have considered the difficulties the terrain of rural, remote and island areas would pose within the North Lot contract but it’s plain that lessons haven’t been learnt from previous contracts. Working from the centre out is an instinct and habit this government needs to shake off.

Other meetings I attended this week were the Cross Party Group (CPG) on Commercial Sexual Exploitation and the CPG on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.  I was also able to attend drop in sessions with STAF (Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum), the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and the TSI Scotland Network, a body of charities that support the third sector across Scotland. I was pleased to discuss the large contribution of voluntary and charitable work that Shetland delivers. This is a great opportunity for me to say thank you to the voluntary sector in Shetland for all its hard work.

Finally, my contact details are below should have an issue to raise with me:

E: [email protected]
T: 01595 690 044

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