Wishart criticises lack of ambition for Shetland in Programme for Government

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has criticised the SNP government’s lack of ambition for Shetland in a debate on the Programme for Government.

In her speech Ms Wishart highlighted the government’s failure to address delays to the rollout of superfast broadband and the failure to act on its commitment to fair ferry funding. She said the high costs of travel for the isles are “the result of years and years of choices by a government that prefers to look elsewhere.”

Speaking in remotely in Parliament, Ms Wishart said:

“Basic asks, that Shetlanders have been calling for for years, went completely unacknowledged once again.

“A Scotland wide tech revolution is exciting and could be transformational but there was no acknowledgement that the R100 programme is two years behind, and that rollout in the highlands and islands is on the brink. The people in Foula and Skerries would be delighted to have a boost to their digital capability - they don’t even get a basic broadband service never mind superfast.

“I note the headline ‘supporting local economies’ but there was no sign of funding for the replacement of the 34-year old Good Shepherd, the ferry that serves the community of Fair Isle and its economy. A ‘green recovery’ was another headline, but there was no acceptance of the financial and environmental sense behind exploring fixed links in Shetland.

“After last summer’s by-election, I thought those on the SNP benches would be well acquainted with the sky-high cost of travel to the islands – as their election return made clear, it is not cheap. So it was discouraging, but not surprising, to then see the islands batted around once again over fair funding for the internal ferry service in this year’s budget negotiations. The Programme doesn’t take that any further forward.

“For visitors looking for a holiday, paying eye watering sums is difficult enough – and that is no help to the islands’ tourism industry. But for islanders who need to travel to the mainland to access the basic services that others take for granted, it is not just difficult – it is stifling. So these costs are not just part and parcel of living in the islands. They are the result of years and years of choices by a government that prefers to look elsewhere.”

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