Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has sought an update from the Scottish Government on when an Islands Growth Deal will be brought forward to help boost the economies of Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles.
Ms Wishart was responding to a statement on the latest employment figures which show Scotland’s unemployment rate rose to 4.3% between March and May and that 736,500 workers have been furloughed.
Addressing the Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop, Ms Wishart said “In Shetland a significant number of jobs have been lost in the oil and gas and hospitality sectors. The impact of the pandemic means an Islands Growth Deal is more important than ever. When does the Scottish Government expect progress to be made with the UK Government to bring a deal forward?”
In response, Hyslop told Ms Wishart “message received and understood” and committed to raising the matter tomorrow at a meeting with the UK Government.
Commenting, Ms Wishart said:
“I’m grateful to the Cabinet Secretary for her commitment to raise the need for progress in bringing forward an Islands Growth Deal with the UK Government tomorrow. The three island local authorities have been working on plans for years so I hope that matters can progress quickly.
“The deal was needed even before Covid-19 struck to ensure sustainability of our island groups and so they can thrive well into the future. While this could be the stimulus our economy needs after Covid-19, I am clear that islanders must not be short-changed and growth deal funding, that other areas of the country have benefited from in recent years, should not be a replacement for the funding needed to deal with the immediate costs of coronavirus.
“Recent announcements of redundancies in the North Mainland of Shetland are very worrying for the community. With so many others furloughed or unable to access any government support, there is need for urgent action to secure jobs and livelihoods. The case for an Islands Deal is stronger than ever to enable Shetland to respond, recover and future-proof our economy and delivery of services.”