Letter from Edinburgh

Bressay is having a lively debate. No, not fixed links. We will be pushing up daisies before that one re-emerges. No, not the splendid new lambing park that’s been created at the back of Fullaburn. That park is currently masquerading as a football field on which the might of the Bressay Parish Cup Team will strut their stuff. Grass seed is to be applied next week and, with the prevailing weather wet and mild, it shouldn’t be long before a fine green sward is available. There is a view that the laying down of grass seed will determine 40 days and nights of drought. But this falls into the category of wishful thinking in a Shetland summer and was uttered by someone with acres of wet grass “curing” into hay. However I can exclusively reveal to readers of the Times that various local crofters believe that it would make a fine place to lamb a few ewes or keep the tups out of mischief. No, it’s a far bigger issue than both of these.

The Gardening Club has split the vegetable and flower shows. Last Sunday, amid some magnificent home bakes and tea, the flowers were on show. The vegetables follow at the end of the month. A number of practitioners well versed in the dark arts of tattie growing are delighted about the split. As vegetables will now be seen in their proper light and certainly without the unnecessary and distracting influence of pansies, geraniums and roses. The logic is entirely fair – the best of the blooms are nearly past by the end of August yet many vegetables have yet to fully grow a month earlier. So those indomitable and brave folk who put forward their produce for show will have to judge before next summer whether the new format works.

It was fine to see various folks home for summer holidays at the hall. I learned much about the current challenges of teaching in the central belt. Many new teachers joining the profession are struggling to get jobs as teacher training numbers went up as school rolls fell and the inevitable changes to schools happened. One of the significant issues is encouraging senior staff to take on the enormous responsibility of being a head teacher. Nationally there aren’t enough coming forward for these positions, and that filters back through the teaching grades to those young graduates seeking entry level positions in primary and secondary education. So there’s a challenge for the education minister – encourage the best and brightest to lead schools.

I also learnt about the challenges of out of hours medical cover across the Highlands and Islands. This is a significant challenge at home too. One of the medical unions encourages MSPs to spend time with a GP practice and so pick up the issues that are confronting primary care. So many thanks to all those at the Brae Health Centre who put up with my questions recently. There’s nothing like some hours with real people doing very real jobs to put politics in some perspective. That’s what’s great about the summer holidays!

Tavish Scott MSP


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