Commission could help rural issues
A commission may be set up to consider how to tackle issues that impact on rural communities.
However, the Scottish government will only establish its Rural Connectivity Commission in the event of a yes vote on 18th September.
The government says the body will seek a better deal for far-flung areas, while also ensuring “clarity” for industry and “stability” for investors.
It has pledged to take ownership of the Royal Mail north of the border, maintaining the universal service obligation for mail delivery.
Key among its targets will be:
• Improved digital connectivity, including mobile telecoms and broadband;
• Fairer parcel and delivery charges, with regulation for mail in Scotland coming to the Scottish parliament;
• A better deal on fuel prices and energy bills. The SNP-led administration says it will examine the benefits of introducing a fuel duty regulator mechanism to stabilise prices for businesses and consumers, and how this could be made to work alongside its Scottish Energy Fund;
• Improved transport links throughout the country;
• Achieving the “true potential” of rural renewables, together with a fairer transmission charging regime.
The paper is being published to coincide with a meeting of the Scottish cabinet in Wick.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Our rural communities make a very valuable contribution to Scotland’s economy and have huge potential to develop even further.
“Too often people who live outside urban areas poorly served by the market and the UK government when it comes to services vital in the 21st century.
“With independence, we will have the powers to regulate these crucial services and to remove barriers which are holding back rural areas from achieving their full potential.”
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott dismissed the pledge as a “blatant bribe”, however.
He said: “Instead of promises based on independence, why don’t SNP ministers use the powers they have – and have had for seven years – to do things which help island areas.
“I’m afraid everything the SNP announce, and no doubt [Kenny] MacAskill [Justice Secretary] will do the same in the town hall in Lerwick tomorrow night, is a blatant electoral bribe to seek to convince people to vote for independence. People in Shetland are far too canny for that kind of thing.”
Mr Scott highlighted the digital forum run by the Lib Dem politicians in Orkney and Shetland, insisting it had “brought together” the organisations responsible for broadband connections, and the roll-out of both the UK and Scottish government programmes to invest in broadband.
“We want to continue that work as it is valued by many local organisations,” he added.